§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ House in Committee, accordingly.
§ Upon the 1st Clause being read,
My Lords, before I proceed to move the Amendment of which I have taken the liberty of giving notice, permit me to say, that, mindful of having trespassed upon your Lordships' patience at a great length upon a former occasion in discussing the principle of this measure, I shall now content myself with making a very few observations. Before entering into the subject of the Amendment, allow me also to apologise to two noble Lords for first engaging the attention of the Committee, inasmuch as they placed notices of two amendments on the Paper before I gave notice of mine. I do not, however, think that, strictly speaking, I am anticipating the amendments of those noble Lords, because they are in substance and principle the same as those which I intend proposing. I am not sure that the noble Earl who 688 gave notice of the first amendment is now in his place; but I can assure him if he is, that I have no wish to take the argument, with respect to the principle of it, out of his hands, knowing as I do that his ability and experience are so much superior to my own for expounding that principle, and for making an impression upon your Lordships' minds. The only reason why I included in the Amendment of which I have given notice, the subject of the noble Earl's amendment was, that it tends to reject certain parts only of the repealing clauses in the Bill, whereas I intended to propose to reject them all. My Lords, it is my opinion that the different Acts mentioned in the clause which Her Majesty's Government propose to repeal, all rest upon different grounds, and ought to be separately considered; and, as I before observed, I do not wish to interfere with the noble Earl's proposition, although I have included the subject of his notice in my own Amendment. I also beg to offer my excuses to my noble Friend on the cross benches (Lord Wharncliffe) for referring, in my propositions for amending this Bill, to the question of reciprocity, on which subject he has given notice of his intention to propose an amendment nearly to the same effect as my own. My noble Friend proposes to introduce, as a condition precedent to the passing of this Bill, that the principle of reciprocity shall be admitted by foreign Powers before they become entitled to the benefit of the relaxation which it contains. I understand that my noble Friend has the same object in view in his Amendment that I have in mine. My noble Friend intends to supply, for the positive enactment in the first clause of the Bill, and for the conditional enactment in a subsequent clause of it, whereby Her Majesty is authorised to impose certain retaliatory prohibitions or restrictions on all foreign Powers not affording advantage to British vessels corresponding to that which we afford to theirs—a provision whereby there shall be an assurance given to the British Government that the principle of reciprocity shall be fully and fairly carried out before any foreign Power shall receive any benefit from the relaxations of this Act. I understand that to be the provision of the noble Earl's Amendment.
I will read the Amendment. It provides— 689That it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, at some time before the period appointed for the commencement of this Act, by any Order or Orders in Council, to declare whether there are any, and, if any, what foreign countries wherein it may appear to the satisfaction of Her Majesty in Council that British vessels are or will be thereafter subject to any prohibitions, or restrictions as to the voyages in which they may engage, or as to the articles which they may import into, or export from, such country; or wherein British ships are, or will be, either directly or indirectly subject to any duties or charges of any sort or kind whatsoever from which the national vessels of such country are exempt, or wherein any duties are, or will be, imposed upon articles imported or exported in British ships which are not equally imposed upon the like articles imported or exported in national vessels, or wherein any preference whatever is, or will be, shown either directly or indirectly to national vessels over British vessels, or to articles imported or exported in national vessels over the like articles imported or exported in British vessels, or wherein British trade and navigation is not, or will not be, placed by such country upon as advantageous a footing as the trade and navigation of the most favoured nation; and then, and in such case, any such of the aforesaid Acts declared by this Act to be repealed, or any such parts thereof as Her Majesty in Council may deem expedient, and as may be specified in any such Order in Council, shall remain and be of full force and effect as regards such countries, any such repeal as aforesaid notwithstanding, until Her Majesty in Council shall think fit in like manner to declare such Acts, or part of Acts, to be absolutely repealed in respect of such countries.Now, the meaning of this provision clearly is, that until Her Majesty shall be fully satisfied that foreign countries will grant full reciprocity to the ships and commerce of this country, Her Majesty shall have no power to abrogate or to repeal the navigation laws, so far as they affected the ships and commerce of those countries. My Lords, I am very much mistaken if the principle upon which I proceed is not entirely the same as the noble Lord's. The Amendment which I have now the honour to propose has for its object to call upon your Lordships to declare, at an early stage of the discussion, whether, in all cases where the ships of foreign countries are now subject to the same disadvantages, in regard to British commerce, as lie upon the ships of this country in regard to foreign navigation—whether the clauses of the statutes imposing such a restriction on foreign shipping shall be repealed, or whether they shall remain in full force and effect as regards all such countries, while you enable Her Majesty in Council, whenever She shall think fit, in those cases where She shall be satisfied that a foreign country will act fully on the principles of 690 reciprocity, to grant a relaxation of the particular existing restrictions. I do not propose to offer reciprocity to each and to every country on the globe, but I propose to enable Her Majesty, with certain modifications and restrictions, to enter into an engagement with foreign Powers to admit their shipping to an equal footing with the shipping of this country. I grant that the distinction between the Bill proposed by the Government and the Amendment which I have the honour to submit, does not so much, I think, depend on the principle as the modus operandi—not so much in point of principle as in point of degree; for they propose, in the first place, to repeal the existing laws with regard to navigation, and to re-enact them in those cases where other countries are not prepared to adopt the principle of reciprocity. I propose, on the other hand, to retain the existing laws for the encouragement of British navigation and commerce, but to enable Her Majesty, in certain eases, to make relaxations where otherwise the restrictive power of the law would have remained in force. With regard to the modifications proposed on both hands to be made in the existing law by this Bill, although there is a difference of opinion between myself and Her Majesty's Government, it is a difference not of principle, but of degree. I say it is a difference of degree and not of principle, because Her Majesty's Government declare their object to be the amendment of the law relating to British shipping and commerce; and your Lordships, the other night, by the decision you came to, although by a small majority, consented further to enter upon the consideration of the object, and the discussion of the means by which it is proposed to be effected. With Her Majesty's Government I admit the propriety of an amendment of the laws for the encouragement of British navigation and commerce, and come now to consider how far modifications may be introduced, and the stringent prohibitory clauses may be relaxed in favour of foreign countries. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government do not propose to do away altogether with the navigation laws; for though a small portion, still a certain portion of them they propose to re-enact, after having repealed the whole. I disagree with them on that, and I disagree with them on principle. I do not think, my Lords, the advantages that can be derived from the amendment of these laws, or the disad- 691 vantages that can arise from retaining them, are in either case so considerable as to justify the assent which your Lordships have given to the second reading of this Bill. The question then before you is this—will you proceed to repeal, and then to re-enact, a small portion, but though a small portion, yet a portion of those laws which is the most burdensome to the British shipowner, and the least advantageous to British commerce? And while you leave the British shipowner by this Act subject to most of the restrictions to which he is at present subject, will you at the same time expose him to competition with every maritime country in every quarter of the globe? There is a great distinction between the measure by which Her Majesty's Government now propose a relaxation in the laws relating to British shipping—there is a broad distinction between the line pursued by Her Majesty's Government, and that which guided the statesmanlike course of Mr. Huskisson. Mr. Huskisson proposed, and wisely proposed, to enter into treaty with foreign countries, by which, in the direct trade with this country, the advantages given to the shipping of those countries should be equivalent to the advantages which they conferred on the shipping of this country. But this principle Mr. Huskisson applied to the direct trade alone between country and country; and you are entering for the first time, my Lords, upon an experiment more extensive than was ever recommended by that statesman. You are entering into competition with the world—not only with this country and that country, but with each and every country in every quarter of the globe. And I stated to your Lordships the other evening, when the Bill was under discussion, that so far from securing this country against danger, you were doing the very thing which Mr. Huskisson said it was the object of the navigation laws to prevent—namely, the throwing open the trade of this country to any foreign country who might be superior to yourselves in the cheapness of building or of sailing their ships, where there could accrue no advantage to commerce equivalent to the evil which you do to the shipping interests of this country in their trade with every quarter of the world. That was the evil which Mr. Huskisson foresaw, and which he endeavoured to prevent, whether in our trade with foreign countries, or, more important still, in our trade with the colonies. These two branches of 692 our trade have remained hitherto untouched, and I have no desire, my Lords, to meddle with them now; but you are proposing at once by this Bill, without the possibility of recalling your steps—you are proposing to abrogate these two restrictions, and, by the hazardous experiment which you are asked to make, to plunge at once into an evil which is irrevocable. I am now prepared, my Lords, to tell you, that this is a subject of such a character that you ought to deal with it cautiously—that you ought to surrender no more than is required by the commercial interests of this country—that you ought to take no steps but such as, if the result should require it, you may be able to retrace—and that in all your concessions these ought never to exceed those which are demanded at your hands. I tell you that, while on the one hand, all naval men, all connected with shipping, agree in condemning the measure which you have introduced, and say you ought not to make the change you propose, you are acting, on the other, against the convictions of the country. Proceeding against the convictions of the country, despising the warning of all naval men, and despising the apprehensions of all classes in the country, you are acting only on the strength of your convictions of the propriety of the course which you are now about to pursue. A far wiser and a more usual course for the Government to have pursued, would be to proceed step by step in their relaxations, as the country was satisfied that the amendments which they were effecting would be for the advantage of the interests of this country. But no, you propose at once, without entering into any treaties, or making any agreements, to give up the whole of what you have hitherto secured with such jealousy and care, and to take your chance whether foreign Powers may meet you on the same principles or not. When I say you are acting against the opinion of the naval and commercial men of the country, I do not except the commercial body, from whom emanated the petition presented by the noble Marquess opposite (Marquess of Lansdowne)—I mean the merchants of Liverpool—for although I do not mean to impugn the respectability of some of the names appended to it, I am yet aware that after lying for some time in the Royal Exchange at Liverpool, and although an active canvass had been got up respecting it, it received no more than 143 signatures. I, however, was called upon to present to 693 your Lordships a petition from Liverpool signed by 47,000 of the inhabitants, on which the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) commented at the time in language which I can assure him excited in that town no small degree of surprise and indignation. But, whatever may be thought of the classes by whom these petitions were signed, your Lordships ought to be aware that, in the same Exchange Rooms, and by the same body, from whom emanated the petition with 143 signatures for the repeal of the navigation laws—the petition which I was called upon to present to you against this Bill, was signed by 1,470 of the 2,000 members of that Exchange—a proportion of the commercial men adverse to the repeal of these laws, not as three to one, but as eleven to one. With the admission on all hands, that this measure is uncalled for by any necessity—that no case has been made out for the sweeping changes proposed by Her Majesty's Government—I say the safer course for them to have pursued, even if the Government is resolved ultimately to propose such sweeping alterations, would be to contemplate less sweeping changes than those which they now propose to effect. At the same time, it is not my intention, upon the present occasion, to dispute the affirmation of the principle involved in the decision of your Lordships the other night; we bow, the minority, though very nearly the majority—we bow to the opinion constitutionally expressed by the majority of your Lordships. We enter, then, upon the discussion of these laws, for the purpose of ascertaining the grievances towards which you can apply a practical remedy, and the extent to which you are prepared to carry the alterations in these laws. We admit, moreover, that it is our bounden duty to set commerce free from all unnecessary restrictions, and to be restrained from this course only by higher considerations, namely, a due regard to the still more important interests of the country than those connected with our shipping and navigation. The question, therefore, which I desire to draw your Lordships' attention to, and that which in the first instance I will ask you to go along with me in the expression of your opinion, is, whether you will accept the proposition of the noble Marquess, and at once consent to repeal those laws altogether, and take your chance as to what portion of them you will re-enact; or whether you will, as I propose to effect by my 694 Amendment, maintain the principle of these laws, but empower the Crown, upon the footing of reciprocity, to confer upon foreign Powers certain privileges which are otherwise inconsistent with our law? Now, my Lords, that is the subject of my first Amendment. But, as I am now addressing you, it may, perhaps, save further time and trouble if I take this opportunity of stating what in substance are the practical changes which I propose to introduce into the navigation laws, as compared with those advocated by Her Majesty's Government. It is true that the Government calls this Bill one for the amendment of the laws in force for the encouragement of British shipping and navigation. Now, the principal Act directly tending to the encouragement of British shipping is the Act of the 8th and 9th of Vict., c. 88; and the first clause of the Bill for the amendment of the law for the encouragement of British shipping is one to repeal that Act altogether. I, then, confine myself more strictly within the terms of the title of the Bill, and the objects which it professes to have in view. I propose to amend the laws, and also to relax certain restrictions in it, but certainly not to abrogate it altogether. The noble Marquess charged me the other day with having unduly and unnecessarily delayed giving notice of the specific Amendments which I declared it was my intention to propose—I do not think that I am justly liable to censure on this ground; for if the Government have taken a period of two years to consider the specific enactments they intended to propose—if, after having held various communications with foreign Powers during that period, they come down this year with a Bill considerably altered from that they proposed last year—if, upon the verbal assurances and expectations held out by Ministers of Foreign Powers, they are prepared to propose large and extreme sweeping concessions, and to place in such imminent danger the interests connected with British shipping, on the faith of foreign Governments confirming the verbal engagements of their Ministers—if, again, at the last moment, and without even going into Committee in the other House, they find it necessary to withdraw a large portion of those concessions they were prepared to make, and to except from the Bill the whole of the coasting trade; and this after it had passed through a second reading, and after the Government had declared their determination to abide by the 695 measure as it originally stood—if the Government have thought it necessary to take such a course, it can hardly he charged against me that I have occupied the space of eight days after the Bill had been read a second time in this House, for the purpose of discussing with practical men what amendments it would be safely open for us to propose. So far from being liable to any charge on the ground of delay, I feel at this moment some want of confidence in not having had sufficient time to consult the opinions of all the mercantile body upon this subject. I cannot speak with confidence on all the details; I know that some differences of opinion as to some of these exist amongst this body. Some may think that I have gone too far, others that I have not gone far enough; and I regret that time has not been given for more fully ascertaining the wishes of the great body of the mercantile men of the country. I have reason, however, to believe, from the communications I have received, that, in the main, the modifications which I moan to propose are generally approved of. These modifications, while on the one hand they will meet many of the complaints that have been urged against these laws, will not, on the other, tend to affect injuriously the interests of the shipping and navigation of the country. Your Lordships are aware that the existing laws draw a distinction between articles the produce of Europe, and the produce of the three other quarters of the world in regard to navigation. I propose in the Amendments I will submit, to adhere to the same mode of proceeding, and to draw a corresponding distinction. But, both with regard to articles of Europe, and the produce of Asia, Africa, and America, I propose to introduce such modifications of the existing law as may be advantageous to commerce, and not be of injury to it. The reason of these distinctions is plain and obvious. It has been always the policy of our Government to secure to this country free communication, not only between British port and port, but also to obtain the great advantage of protection from distant ports exclusively to British vessels in the conveyance of articles of great bulk and of great value, whereby a large amount of shipping and a great number of seamen are employed. In regard to Europe, the voyages, speaking generally, are of loss duration, and the law is less stringent, than in respect to the trade carried on with more distant countries. As I propose to 696 relax the one, so I propose to relax the stringency of the other. In regard to Europe, as the law stands, no goods enumerated as the produce of Europe can be imported except in British ships, or in ships of the country of which the articles are the produce, or in ships of that country from which the articles were directly imported. The Amendment I propose to introduce in regard to goods the produce of Europe is of considerable importance, inasmuch as it would open largely—some might think too largely—the indirect trade with European countries. A great stress has been laid by the Government on the complaints of Prussia (and it is the same as to other countries), that whereas she has granted to us the privilege of importing from other countries into her ports the produce of other countries, we have withheld from her a similar privilege. We were further told that a treaty which is advantageous to us would be put an end to, and in such case it would be impossible for us to treat with her on the principle of reciprocity. Now, instead of proposing to abrogate the navigation laws and their restrictions altogether, or to place this country in the situation of taking the offensive and invidious course of retaliating by re-enactments, I think the more straightforward, equitable, and, I must say, statesmanlike course, is to say that Her Majesty shall be empowered, if she think fit, to enter into reciprocal engagements with other countries for the importation of European goods, provided we obtain from other countries an equitable and sufficient equivalent for British shipping. And that is the Amendment which I propose to introduce. I lay considerable stress upon the fact of the Order in Council being from time to time revocable. I do not say that it will be necessary to make this concession to every country in Europe that may appear to offer us advantages in this respect. It may be that you will find the practical operation of this so-called reciprocity may have the effect of driving you out of the European trade, by the superior advantages of the ships of other countries. It would, therefore, be obviously dangerous to enter into reciprocal engagements with every Power. I hold it to be highly important that the Crown should have the power to put an end to the Order in Council, when it may be found that the engagements we have entered into by it threatened the commercial intercourse, and that we were likely by them to yield the naval supre- 697 macy of our maritime power. Well, then, in regard to Asia, Africa, and America, it is highly important in the main to adhere to those laws which have secured to us that most valuable advantage—namely, the "long voyage" trade for the carrying of bulky articles of commerce, employing a large amount of our shipping, and a large number of our seamen. I do not propose to depart from that principle, except by introducing such modifications as, while they will uphold the main principle of the law, will, at the same time, remove the objections to the practical operation of the present law. By this law no goods can he imported from Asia, Africa, or America, except in British ships, or in ships of that country from which the produce comes, "and" from which the goods were imported: with regard to Europe, the word was "or" from which the goods were imported. And since, as regards Asia and Africa, the countries in those quarters have very little shipping of their own, the practical effect of the law is that the shipping trade is in our own hands almost as exclusively as that of our own colonies. Now, the Government is about to surrender the whole of these advantages, without having secured anything like an equivalent. Let us take the united States. They are our moat formidable rivals in the direct trade at Liverpool; they double us in tonnage, and now the Government by this measure proposes to give them the advantages which, up to this time, are exclusively monopolised by ourselves, and they invite them to competition with us in those three quarters of the globe. I ought to state that no ship, not even a British ship, can import any of these articles enumerated, the produce of Asia, Africa, or America, from certain ports in Europe; and the object of this was not unimportant to shipowners in general—it was to maintain a protective trade from the places of production to this country, the place of consumption; and also to secure to us the establishment of that great warehousing system which we have found to be so important to our commerce. I freely admit that this principle may be pushed too far—I admit that there are articles in respect to which it is unnecessary to maintain these restrictions—for instance, the case instanced by the Government, namely, that of cochineal from the Canary Islands. I am free to admit that the case of cochineal is a hardship and a grievance; for whereas it is produced principally in the Canary Islands, which are within the 698 limits of Africa, and with which we have very little traffic, it is impossible to import that article, except direct from the Canary Islands, with which we have no trade, and that article would not be sufficient to make a whole cargo. But if it be imported into Spain or any other country in Europe, it is not competent for us to import it into this country, even in British vessels. Now, I admit that that is a restriction, so far as it goes, which does not assist the interests of our navigation in any way. What, however, I suggest to meet the exigences of all such cases is, while I maintain the principle I will allow exceptions. The principle that was applied to Europe in respect to the "enumerated articles" I would apply also to the long-voyage trade. I propose that there should be an enumeration of those bulky and valuable articles in respect to which restrictions are still to be maintained, and it is still important to uphold our rights; but in regard to other articles I propose the same relaxations, as are now permitted, in regard to the European trade, admitting their importation in British ships, or in ships of the countries in which they are produced, and giving Her Majesty power to allow them to be brought in vessels of third countries with which we shall obtain concessions of reciprocity. This is rather a complicated subject. These modifications are founded upon the principle of maintaining that which was important to our navigation, and doing away with that which is inconsistent with the interests of our commerce. I now wish to call your Lordships' attention to a very remarkable paper that has been laid on the table this morning, upon the Motion of a noble Lord, and which I have hastily examined. It contains a list of the vessels and coasters, belonging to all nations, trading inwards and outwards at the port of Liverpool during the year 1848, specifying the nations to which these vessels belonged, the countries from which they came, and the produce in which they traded. The whole amount of tonnage entered inwards was 1,320,746 tons, exclusive of steamers and vessels in ballast. Now, what proportion of these was British shipping alone? Why nearly 800,000 tons. The remaining 500,000 and odd tons were foreign vessels, from all nations. But what is remarkable is this, that no less than 173,000 tons was the amount of shipping that was then engaged in trade with our colonies, of which we have now the exclusive enjoyment, but which by the Bill pro- 699 posed by the Government we are called upon to surrender: of the remainder, a very large portion is shipping engaged in trade with those countries which have no shipping of their own. Your navigation laws have hitherto protected you against the ships of any other country; these laws you are called upon to repeal, although they give you as exclusive privileges in the trade of the world as you possess in respect to your own colonies. I beg now to call your Lordships' attention to the proportions of shipping entering the port of Liverpool, in 1848, belonging to each country with which we have carried on a direct trade upon the principle of strict and absolute reciprocity. From Sweden and Norway there was not a ton of British shipping in 1848; there was about 2,200 tons of their own shipping. From Denmark there were 245 tons of British shipping, and 5,571 tons of Danish shipping. From Prusssia 6,000 tons of British shipping, and 16,000 tons of Prussian shipping. From Holland 1,300 tons of British shipping, and 7,600 tons of Dutch. From Belgium, 2,300 tons of British shipping, and 6,798 of Belgian. You are about to extend the principle to the whole of the world. There was no doubt that the amount of British shipping from the united States was very considerable. In the past year the amount of British shipping that had entered the port of Liverpool from the United States was 209,000 tons; but as against that 209,000 tons what was the amount of the American shipping that entered the port? Of American vessels there came not less than 641, as against 301 British vessels, and against the 209,000 tons, the tonnage of the American vessels was 452,000 tons. Now, my Lords, that may be a gratifying result, as regards the amount of British shipping; but I venture to state that as the Americans are our direct and actual rivals, that if we permit open competition with them, we must be prepared to see them obtain a large proportion of the trade which we now enjoy in every part of the world. If, under the present arrangement, they obtain double, or more than double, the amount of the direct trade between Liverpool and the United States, I ask you what security you will have that in any part of the world, and in any sea, in the carrying trade, the Americans shall not be able to obtain a preponderance, and largely increase their existing trade? And in the event of any rupture between this 700 country and the United States—which God grant may be far distant!—rely upon it that the rivalry of the United States will be carried to a much greater extent. Remember that in the direct home trade the Americans have already beaten you. You are now about to throw open to them the trade of your great Eastern empire—the trade of China—the trade of the Brazils—the trade of Cuba—the trade of your North American colonies—and the trade of your West Indian and Australian colonies. And you are about, no demand being made upon you—no reason being shown—no State necessity being urged—the mercantile and shipping interest, on the contrary, imploring you to desist, and the naval supremacy of the country being endangered—you are about to throw open the commerce of the whole world to those your most formidable rivals. At least, my Lords, I should say you ought to proceed with caution—at least you ought to proceed upon the principle of reciprocity, and limit the concessions strictly to those countries which would enter into those terms of mutual reciprocity—but here there is no reciprocity whatever. The Americans have nothing whatever to give you in return. Why, my Lords, there are 170,000 tons of shipping from the port of Liverpool alone engaged in the colonial trade, and you are offering to throw that open to the United States, without any corresponding advantage whatever being granted to you. I do not speak as to the political consequences which may follow from a close commercial intercourse between the United States and some of your colonies; I am speaking now, not of its effect, even upon your commerce, but upon your shipping, and the consequences which must naturally and necessarily follow, that if the Americans have been able, under the present circumstances, to get the better of you in your direct trade, you may be certain they will then get the better of you in your indirect trade; and should they take into their heads to abuse the privilege you are about to concede to them, they will become your most formidable rivals in your own colonies. I have now stated to you, my Lords, the whole of the Amendments upon these two clauses which I am about to lay before your Lordships. I shall not enter into the question (because it is a separate one, and I do not wish to weary your Lordships) of the relaxations which it is my intention to propose in a subsequent stage of the Bill, more particu- 701 larly with regard to that colony which was referred to the other night. But I think it right to say that, assuming what I have taken the liberty of stating to your Lord-ships has been understood, I propose, on the one hand, to retain the great principles of the navigation laws—and these I take to be, in the first place, the maintaining exclusively the shipping trade of our colonies with the mother country; in the next place, to maintain, so far as we can advantageously, the long-voyage trade as regards those countries which have no shipping of their own, and which are, therefore, most valuable to the British shipping interest. I propose to maintain, as an object of paramount importance, that which you propose to do away with by this Bill—namely, the confining British registry to British-built ships; and to maintain unimpaired the great shipping interest of this country, which, if you sacrifice, with the view of conferring a small and unimportant benefit on the shipowners, you will find that in endeavouring to relieve them you will have inflicted irreparable injury upon the mercantile and commercial classes; upon men that in the hour of danger have hitherto enabled you to maintain the naval and maritime supremacy of this country. My Lords, I propose on the other hand to retain inviolate the main essential principles of the navigation laws; but I propose at the same time to give, in some cases absolutely, and in some permissively, power to Her Majesty in Council, when she shall be so advised, to permit relaxations to be made in favour of those countries which are willing to enter into reciprocal arrangements with us for the mutual advantage of both; in those cases in which the concessions may be made with advantage to commerce, and without materially injuring our maritime superiority. My Lords, I protest against the principle adopted in the Bill of retaliating upon a country which does not respond to your propositions. In the next place, it does not make it imperative on you to make exceptions in favour of those who do not meet your views. Instead of taking a course than which surely nothing can be more offensive, of granting a general concession, and then in the case of some particular country turning round, and saying "because you have not done something which we wished you, we will take a step in a hostile sense as a measure of retaliation for an act of apparent hostility on your part," surely, my Lords, the better course would be to say, "our navi- 702 gation laws lay down certain principles, but Parliament has authorised us to modify them in favour of such countries as enter into amicable relations of commerce with us. Enter into these relations, and we will grant freely these concessions; abstain from them, and you will not be entitled to these concessions which we are authorised to make to your shipping." My Lords, I need hardly urge the importance, if we are conceding anything to foreign countries, who must be more or less our commercial rivals—I need hardly urge the policy and justice of securing some reciprocal advantages. I have heard it said, that such a course is not worthy of a magnanimous nation. I think a nation has no business to be generous, no business to be magnanimous in such matters. On the contrary, in all commercial business I should carry out the commercial principle of giving nothing for nothing. We owe nothing to other countries, and I see no reason why we should sacrifice our own shipping and commerce in order to maintain a character for generosity and for liberality. With these observations, having stated the object with which I propose this Amendment to your Lordships—having now proposed the insertion of those words which, without committing any of your Lordships to the details, will bring to issue this question, I now leave the matter for your Lordships' decision. I do not, in the first instance, propose to omit anything, but merely to introduce certain words, namely—In ease it shall be made to appear to Her Majesty that any foreign country is willing to concede to the ships of this country the like privileges and advantages as are enjoyed by or intended to be conferred on the ships of such foreign country, or advantages equivalent thereto, then and in such case it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, from time to time, by any Order or Orders in Council, to be published and revocable as hereinafter mentioned, to authorise and declare as follows: that it is to say, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty to authorise and declare"—and so on, as would follow, I do not wish to bind your Lordships to any specific modifications, but I ask you to affirm or deny the modus operandi of this Bill. Will you proceed by repealing first and retracting afterwards, or will you proceed upon the opposite, and as it seems to me safer, course of authorising Her Majesty in certain cases to make concessions in favour of those countries who are willing to enter into reciprocal treaties? That is the principle to which in the first place I wish to call your Lordships' attention. 703 The alterations I propose are not so large as they are made to appear by necessity of great technical and verbal alterations in the framework of the Bill. The question your Lordships have now first to decide is, will you at once commence by repealing those navigation laws which have been long recognised and maintained as the source of the maritime supremacy and the naval strength of the country, and in favour of which your mercantile and shipping interests are earnestly and anxiously praying your Lordships; or will you meet that principal inconvenience that has been urged against these laws by simply vesting in Her Majesty a dispensing power in those cases which may seem to Her Privy Council advisable, in favour of those countries which are willing to confer upon us the same advantages we offer to them?
Then it was moved—To insert in Clause 1, line 6, after the Word 'That' the following Words; viz., 'in case it shall be made to appear to Her Majesty that any Foreign Country is willing to concede the Ships of this Country the like Privileges and Advantages as are enjoyed by or intended to be conferred on the Ships of such Foreign Country, or Advantages equivalent thereto, then and in such Case it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, from Time to Time, by any Order or Orders in Council to be published and revocable as hereinafter mentioned, to authorise and declare as follows.
§ EARL GREY
said, it would be convenient if, before he proceeded, the noble Lord would further explain the exact nature of the Amendment he now proposed. The few words which the noble Lord now proposed to insert, were probably intended to be substituted for the repealing part of the clause. As he had understood the noble Lord, he said he objected to the repeal, and would only make certain modifications; but then he proposed the insertion of these words, which, as he (Earl Grey) understood them, would not make sense unless something was added to them. The noble Lord proposed to omit the words by which the existing Act was repealed; but did he mean, in the event of his Amendment being adopted, to allow the remainder of Clause 1, as it now stood, to continue in the Bill? Then, with respect to another of the Amendments of the noble Lord, there was at present a very material blank to be filled up with enumerated articles. He wished to know what would be the amount of those enumerated articles? Until the enumerated articles were specified, it would be impossible to know whether this particular Amendment would constitute a 704 great alteration of the Bill, or amount to nothing at all.
said, that the noble Earl would see by his notice of Amendment that he proposed to omit the repealing part of the clause. If the words he now proposed, agreeing to the mode of legislation, were inserted, he would then propose that their Lordships should consider the clause; and when they came to the words of the clause which repealed the existing enactments, it would then become his duty, or that of some other noble Lord, to object to the repeal of those Acts which were proposed to be repealed by that clause. But, in the first instance, the most convenient course, to save the time of the House, appeared to him to be to propose the insertion of the words he had read, for the sake of the assertion of the main question, whether their Lordships would adopt the principle of the Bill, or that proposed by the Amendment. But he did not pledge any noble Lord, by the adoption of this preliminary form, to the adoption of any particular Amendment to be afterwards proposed. With respect to the second question as to the blank, his answer was, that when they came to that part of the clause, he should be prepared to lay a list of articles on the table. He had already stated that his object was to maintain the existing law with respect to the more bulky articles, but not to enumerate those minor articles which were now prohibited, without producing much advantage to our shipping. He did not see the necessity for enumerating particular articles, or laying every detail upon the table before their Lordships had come to the question whether they would extend to Asia, Africa, and America the same principle which prevailed in Europe.
§ EARL GREY
then proceeded to address the Committee on the Amendment. On Friday last, the House was informed by the noble Lord that the alterations in the Bill which he contemplated were alterations of principle—that his view and that of the Government on this subject were so wide apart that he could not conceal from the House that he proposed moving Amendments which went to the very principle of 705 the Bill. The noble Lord had had three days calmly to deliberate over the matter, and he now informed their Lordships that the question he submitted to them was not one of principle, but of degree; and that it was only the modus operandi that their Lordships had to consider. Nevertheless it appeared to him (Earl Grey) that the noble Lord's first view of his own Amendments was the correct one; that the question was one of principle, and that as such their Lordships were called on to decide it. The noble Lord had further informed the House that the question now was not whether anything was to be omitted, but whether something should not he inserted. Now, he maintained that according to all Parliamentary usage, when a Bill was he-fore the House, and an Amendment was proposed to introduce words utterly inconsistent with the wording of the Bill as it stood, the practice and form of the Amendment was to move to omit the words in the Bill for the purpose of inserting others. This course, however, the noble Lord would not take, although the insertion of the noble Lord's Amendment would not make grammar with the rest of the clause as it stood; and therefore if the Amendment were carried, the existing words in the clause must be omitted. The noble Lord proposed, in the first instance, only to insert certain words, and to wait for the enacting part of the Amendment till their Lordships came to the proper part of the clause. But the noble Lord admitted that, as it stood, his Amendment would not make sense or grammar with the other part of the clause; and that, if it were carried, that other part must be omitted. Why did the noble Lord deviate from the usual Parliamentary form? The reason was exceedingly simple. The noble Lord thought it would be a close division, and that there might he three or four noble Lords who would think before they struck out at one blow the whole principle of a measure which had already been agreed on at the second reading, and he therefore proposed something different, so that the division would be taken upon the mere question of the insertion or omission of these words. But the House was not to be so deceived, for the question, on the noble Lord's own showing, was the substitution of one mode of proceeding for another. It was to omit the clause proposed by the Government, with the view of introducing a different clause, which the noble Lord submitted to the House. The fair and 706 direct mode of doing this would be to move to omit all the words after the word "That," for the purpose of inserting these other words. Having cleared off this mere matter of form, and showed that it was substantially a question of omission, they were to consider whether the repealing part of the clause was to stand or not. He would now proceed to compare the two modes of proceeding which were before their Lordships. The noble Lord urged them not to proceed hastily or rashly, and not to sweep away the whole of the navigation laws, and then wait for the results that were to follow. But if the views of the noble Lord were to be adopted—if it were admitted the Amendment which he proposed was all the change that ought to be effected in the law—still, even in that case, the reasonable course of proceeding would be to begin by repealing the law as it now stood. Among the objections which had been urged against the law as it now stood was this, that it was so extremely complicated that merchants could not properly understand to what provisions they were subject. It was clear, therefore, that if they left the existing law in force as it stood, and then repealed or modified certain of its provisions, the complexity would be greatly increased. So much was this the case, that, in the practice of modern legislation, whenever an amendment was about to be made in an existing law, although slight and inconsiderable, the most convenient practical course had been found to be to sweep away all the restrictions which existed, and then to re-enact one single law, retaining the restrictions which were required. In proof of this he would refer to what had been done with respect to that Act, the 8th and 9th Victoria, which the noble Lord professed his intention to amend. What was the history of that Act? In that year certain changes—he might almost call them infinitesimal, for they were hardly worth speaking of—were proposed in the custom laws. Still, as changes were to be made, it was found to be most convenient to begin by sweeping away the law as it stood, and then to re-enact its former provisions. The noble Lord now proposed a different course—to leave the existing law in force, and then to introduce certain amendments and modifications. Was there no reason for that? There was an excellent one; and he would tell their Lordships what it was. In he-ginning with the repeal of the existing restrictions, and then re-enacting those which 707 he thought it would be desirable to retain, the noble Lord would have been driven to the necessity of defending in detail all those restrictions which he was desirous of maintaining; he would have been driven out of those generalities in which on the present evening, and on a former night, he had taken refuge with such skill and success. He knew how very different a thing it was to urge the House not to touch that venerable system which for two hundred years had been the palladium of our commercial system and our maritime power, and to come down into details, and, meeting his opponents at close quarters over that table, to discuss one by one in what respect these restrictions were advantageous to us, and in what respect they were injurious. The noble Lord shrank from close quarters. He knew very well that if he brought their Lordships to look at the subject in detail, and to consider, item by item, and clause by clause, all those restrictions by which the commerce of this country had been fettered and incumbered, it would be shown that those restrictions were utterly untenable, and that the arguments by which they were supported could not be maintained. This was palpably the reason, and the only reason, for the course the noble Lord had thought it right to adopt. He (Earl Grey) was sorry the noble Lord had thought fit so to adopt it, because it compelled him, after having trespassed the other evening at considerable length upon their Lordships' time, instead of confining his attention to the restrictions which the noble Lord proposed to retain, to go a little over former ground by considering the restrictions which would be kept up if the repealing part of the clause were omitted, and the noble Lord's Amendments acquiesced in. The noble Lord began by referring to that part of the navigation law which placed a restriction on the importation of certain enumerated articles into this country from Europe, except in British ships, or ships of the countries of which such articles were the produce, or of the countries whence imported; but it was convenient for the noble Lord to pass very generally over that subject and avoid details. If the noble Lord had proceeded by repealing and afterwards by re-enacting, he would then have been compelled to explain on what principle the existing system of enumerated articles was founded. The noble Lord would have been called on to explain why it was that while corn could only be imported from Europe 708 into this country in either a British or privileged ship, yet when the corn was converted into flour, it could come here in any ship—why wool should be placed among the enumerated articles, and subject to the same restrictions as to importation as corn, and yet when woven and manufactured it might be brought in by any ship. AH these anomalies the noble Lord would have been called on to explain, had he not conveniently avoided the necessity by his course of proceeding. But with respect to these enumerated articles, the noble Lord did to a great extent give up the existing law; for he said that, with respect to all countries granting reciprocity, he would dispense with the prohibition as to importation of enumerated articles. [Here Lord STANLEY made some observation.] He understood the noble Lord not to make this concession generally, but only to propose to enable the Crown in certain cases to dispense with the prohibition in repect to the ships of nations acting on the same principle towards this country. He certainly did not think the present a convenient opportunity to discuss the whole question of reciprocity. He thought the principle an extremely bad one; but, if it were to be admitted, he thought the mode proposed by the noble Lord on the cross-benches was a better way of dealing with the question than that proposed by the noble Lord opposite; and while he believed that principle not much applicable to the question of the navigation laws, he also considered it very little applicable to the question with respect to the privilege of introducing enumerated articles. By the existing law enumerated articles could not be imported from any European port in any British ships, or any ships of the country of which the goods were the produce, &c., and consequently with regard to the latter ships the British shipping had no monopoly. There was no protection whatever, and our ships met on equal terms those of other nations; and the law operated disadvantageously in a way he would proceed to advert to. It was argued that the object of the law was to encourage our-mercantile marine. Now, timber, pitch, flax, and hemp, were the great articles used in shipbuilding. In the import of these articles in the regular trade, British ships had no advantage—there was free competition; yet, if at the particular moment when the British merchant wished to import them, there happened not to be at the foreign port the requisite privileged 709 ship available, the British shipbuilder was deprived of the advantages of these articles, though there might be at the time another ship not privileged in the port. But the noble Lord proposed to retain this restriction with the view of punishing other nations which did not give to this country certain privileges; but he (Earl Grey) saw no advantage to the shipowner here, or disadvantage to the foreigner, by pursuing such a system. Either it was desirable to open the trade further, or it was not. If it were desirable, open it; if not, keep up the restrictions. But there was no ground for saying, if restrictions were admitted to be bad, that they should, nevertheless, not be repealed, unless foreign countries would also repeal their restrictions. It was desirable that France, for example, should get rid of such a system as it applied to them; but what was desirable to us was, that our own merchants should be relieved from the restrictions which, in certain instances, pressed very severely upon them. The next provision of the law related to the home trade; and the noble Lord stated fairly, he meant to maintain the law as it stood as regarded the power of importing the produce of Asia, Africa, and America from the ports of Europe. The noble Lord meant to keep the restriction as applicable to all material articles, removing it only with respect to such articles as were unimportant. The noble Lord's reason for this provision was remarkable, for he said his object was to maintain the advantage we possessed in our great warehousing system and indirect trade. But the noble Lord did not attempt to answer the arguments urged the other night with great force by the noble Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and by the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests, showing that the existing law, so far from tending to maintain this indirect trade and warehousing system, was quite certain to deprive this country of the advantages of them. This country now carried on a most useful trade by bringing produce here, such as sugar, tobacco, and coffee, from Asia, Africa, and America, which produce was placed in warehouse, and afterwards sent to every European market, as the demand for it arose. By the existing law, this country could send those articles to Russia, Hamburgh, and different European ports; but if the present law should be maintained as it now stood, Russia had passed a law by which, at the expiration 710 of the existing treaty, those articles could no longer be sent to Russia. The same thing would happen with respect to the Hanse Towns, Northern and Southern Germany, for distinct notice had been given that if this country continued its restrictions, those nations would impose similar restrictions on British shipping; and, therefore, in 1853, supposing the existing navigation law to be maintained in all its stringency, the lucrative trade of bringing sugar from the Brazils and Cuba, and sending it to Russia, Trieste, &c., and that system which converted Europe into a single commercial market, would be destroyed, to the great loss of this commercial country, and to the injury of the whole civilised world. Foreign nations, by simply approaching to us in the restrictions which we imposed, would render the continuance of our pro-sent system impracticable, without absolute ruin. All the great European countries, instead of importing articles from the port of the country where they were produced, or from English ports, according to their wants, would be compelled, in self-defence, to have all of these articles imported directly from the countries where they were produced. By such a course many of our commercial markets would be destroyed. This great commercial country would be the chief sufferer by the general adoption of such a system, although all the other countries in the world would be injured, so far as a portion of general trade would be destroyed. The noble Lord did not scruple to avow that we should be jealous of the proceedings of other countries, and, above all, of the United States, and that we should only consider our own interests. Even in these matters of trade, he (Earl Grey) did not like to hear these maxims; for he thought that the effects of a narrow principle of selfishness, whether in nations or individuals, were likely at last to recoil upon the party actuated by such a feeling. Other nations were very liberal in all these matters, allowing this country to participate most fairly in the indirect trade, and to warehouse goods for their consumption; but if we, not being satisfied with a share of these benefits, wished to make laws to engross the whole to ourselves, it then was not a matter of speculation, but of certainty, that they would follow our example, and we, like the Dog and the Shadow, not being content with that we possessed, but desirous of engrossing all, would lose that 711 of which we now had the benefit. If they persisted in legislating in this spirit, they would only injure their own trade throughout the world; and by leading to the general adoption of such a system, instead of obtaining any advantages, they would suffer severely. The noble Lord had told them, and he (Earl Grey) was not surprised to hear him say so, that he should avoid explanation on the third Amendment, which related to the colonial trade.
§ EARL GREY
would, however, show that they had come to that topic; for it must be considered with the other parts of the question. It was very necessary that their Lordships should know the bearing of this part of the question, and that it should not be kept in the back ground so as to induce the House not to adopt this Bill for the change of these laws. It would be his duty to show what was the effect of the present laws on the colonies; and, also, what would be the effect of the Amendment of the noble Lord on the colonies. Before, however, he did so, he would refer to a point in connexion with the indirect trade of the country, which he had forgotten to allude to, but which, he thought, was of the greatest importance with respect to the consideration of this question. The noble Lord said, that the effect of this indirect trade was a matter of importance, and he agreed with him in that opinion. The noble Lord complained that by the operation of this Bill they would open the trade of the world to their most dangerous rivals, the Americans, and he called upon the House to attend to the fact of the successful competition of the ships of the United States with those of British shipowners at Liverpool. The noble Lord had told them, that the Americans were the most dangerous rivals of this country; and, he add-ed, if ever this country and the united States should be engaged in war, it would be one of the most severe and dangerous struggles that ever occurred between nations, for the success with which they competed with us all over the world showed them to be most formidable rivals. The noble Lord referred to the trade between the United States and Liverpool, with the view of showing what disadvantages we laboured under in our trade with the United States. Now, if he (Earl Grey) wished to show that the existing laws were not beneficial to our commercial navy, but were most injurious to it, and were only of 712 advantage to those who were rivals or opponents to us, he would refer to this case, as illustrated in a return which he had laid on the table that morning. Their Lordships must recollect, that on the second reading of the present Bill, their attention had been called, by himself and his noble friends around him, to the evils which the existing law imposed on our trade with the United States. The American law was, that there should be the same restrictions in the ports of that country on foreign ships as were imposed on American ships in the ports of that foreign nation. The effect of this law at present was that American ships were debarred from bringing any portion of produce of other countries from the ports of the United States to this country; and English ships were prevented taking to the United States any articles not the produce of this kingdom. So far as the direct trade to this country from America was concerned, the matter was of little or no importance, for the general trade to this country was composed of heavy articles, the produce of the United States, from New York or New Orleans, such, for instance, as corn or butter; therefore the restriction was not felt by them. But the trade back was very different. The trade from this country to the United States was chiefly in manufactured goods, with additions of articles not the produce of this country. It was of great importance, in sending out cargoes to the United States, that they should be properly assorted, so that it was necessary, with large quantities of Manchester and other manufactures, to send some packages of French or Swiss goods, to make up the cargo. Under the present law this could not be done by an English ship, but a ship of the United States could carry these articles. It was essential that they should look to the trade there and back, as it was most important that the double voyage should be successful. The consequence of the present state of things was, that English ships were exposed to very great evils from which the American ships were free. The return on the table of the House to which he had before adverted, showed this, and that the freight of goods hence from America, in an English ship, must depend upon the nature of the voyage outward. Therefore, if ships went over to the United States in ballast, it must enhance the charge and expenses of the voyage home. If noble Lords would refer to the return respecting this important trade, and look to the ton- 713 nage of British ships in ballast and American ships in ballast which sailed from the ports of this country to the United States, what did they think would be the result? If they looked to the number of British and American ships engaged in the trade between this country and the United States, they would find it was truly stated by the noble Lord, that the former was only half of the latter; for the American ships were more than double ours. If, in addition to this, they took the ships that went out to America in ballast, they would find during last year the tonnage of British ships so proceeding was 15,000, while that of the United States ships was 13,000 tons. Therefore there was 2,000 tons more of British over American shipping in which no profit was made on the net voyage, and this, too, out of less than half the number of ships. But this was not all. It was of importance here to observe the operation of the law. By the operation of the existing law the ships of this country were restricted from combining voyages, which the Americans could undertake. An American ship could bring over a cargo of cotton from New York or New Orleans to Liverpool, and could then take from any port in this country a cargo of goods, the produce of all parts of the world, to Rio, and then take in sugar for consumption in the United States. If they passed this Bill in the shape in which it was imposed by the Government, it would enable the British shipowner to pursue a similar course; but if the Amendment of the noble Lord was carried, they would continue to be deprived of every advantage of the kind. Would they tell him that this was not a reason for altering the law, by which they gave such an advantage to our most dangerous rival? The existing law gave a most decided advantage to American over English ships. If English shipping were placed under such disadvantages, must it not be clear that they would be unable successfully to compete with the ships of the United States? They could compete with American ships in carrying sugar from Rio to ports on the Continent, and in every instance they could successfully compete with the American ships when on equal terms; but we could not compete with American ships as regarded voyages between England and the United States, simply because by our restrictions we imposed disadvantages upon British shipowners, to which American shipowners were not subjected. It was notorious that a very large propor- 714 tion of the seamen on board American ships had been brought up in our own service, and they were induced to leave our service and enter these ships in consequence of the indirect operation of this law. He was perfectly satisfied, however, that if the British shipowners were placed upon equal terms with the American, the British shipowner would be enabled to engage in advantageous rivalry with regard to the trade between the two countries. He now came to the colonial part of the question. The noble Lord opposite had said the other night that Canada had a very strong claim on the consideration of this country, and he (Earl Grey) was curious to know what the noble Lord's proposal would be. He confessed, however, that he was surprised when he read the Amendment the noble Lord had proposed; for the noble Lord left all our other colonies exposed to the disadvantages to which they were now subjected; and with respect to Canada alone he proposed to make a concession which, in his (Earl Grey's) opinion, would be altogether worthless to that colony. It had been contended that the claim of Canada was this. The complaint of Canada was that you had exposed her produce to equal competition in the markets of this country with the same produce from the United States, without giving them the advantage of being enabled to get equally cheap shipping as the people of the United States obtained, which might be seen if you allowed American ships to load outward from Canada with cargoes to this country. But what were the noble Lord's intentions? He proposed to do something for the American shipping, and to a certain extent to break up this most disgraceful restriction, and in doing so, he proposed to set up American ships against those of Holland or any other friendly State, without the least regard to existing treaties or our political relations with other countries. In short, the noble Lord proposed to give protection to American ships against those of all other countries in the world. The noble Lord, however, was not doing practical justice to Canada, for what Canada wanted was ships which should convey her produce at a low rate, and take back goods at low freights to that country. If the noble Lord would refer to the Minute of the Executive Council in Canada, he would find that they did not refer to a matter of opinion, but to a matter of fact. It stated that during the recent suspension of the navigation laws, with re- 715 spect to the importation of corn, not less than twenty-two ships arrived in the St. Lawrence from Bremen with emigrants, whose destination was the United States. These emigrant ships, they were told, conveyed back corn and other produce to England, at a much lower rate than English ships; and the Canadians largely gained by these cheap ships conveying their corn at an easy rate to this country. The noble Lord's Amendment entirely failed to meet this part of the case. A Bremen ship might carry out emigrants to the St. Lawrence, but she could bring no return cargo, and she must therefore continue to go to New York. The noble Lord would not allow united States ships to trade with Canada in a manner which would make it worth their while to do so. Canada imported a great quantity of sugar and other articles from Cuba; and if United States ships were allowed to carry into Canada sugar from Cuba, or from other countries, they might, if they were allowed to do so, carry back lumber and corn to those places or to this country at a much cheaper rate than at present. The noble Lord in his Amendment made no provision for any case of this kind. He (Earl Grey) might press this part of the case much further, but he felt it to be unnecessary to do so; for what he said with respect to this one branch of trade with Canada applied to all other articles. The noble Lord in his Amendment proposed nothing of substantial advantage to the Canadians, for this could not be effected without throwing open the St. Lawrence to ships to resort to from all parts of the world, that the colonists might thus have the opportunity of cheap conveyance for their produce. He might be allowed to observe that it was a most dangerous principle to lay down, that they should make such a concession as that proposed by the noble Lord in favour of one particular colony only. What would be the feelings of the inhabitants of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, if the proposition of the noble Lord was adopted? They had the same interests as Canada, and were affected in the same way by the navigation laws; and if they were not placed on the same footing as the Canadians, it would create very great dissatisfaction. Part of the inhabitants of New Brunswick might be glad to have the navigation laws as a whole maintained; but at the same time they would be glad to be emancipated from some of the restraints imposed upon themselves; and, if such 716 emancipation were granted to Canada, very great dissatisfaction would be created in New Brunswick. The case of Nova Scotia was still stronger. The trade between that colony and the United States, if it were not for existing restrictions, would rise to great importance; but by those restrictions it was entirely crippled. He would ask their Lordships whether, having passed laws by which the produce of their colonies was exposed in the home markets to free competition with the produce of all other countries, they could refuse to those colonies the advantages of this free competition? He would remind the House—for the noble Lord did not dispute the facts—that even the great author of the navigation laws, Oliver Cromwell, allowed their suspension as regarded the American colonics. In the time of the Stuarts, the power of this country was defeated in them when attempts were made to put these laws in force. Practically, for one hundred years in these colonies, they had allowed those laws to be merely nominal. During this period British America made great advances in wealth and population; but, in an evil hour, when an endeavour was made to enforce these odious restrictions in trade, the struggle was renewed, which ended in tearing from this country, after a fatal and disastrous war, such a large portion of the empire. What now would be the effects in the colonics when you told them that their produce should be deprived of all protection, but that they should not have the advantage of competition? Such was their past experience with regard to the navigation laws, and that, too, at a time when they maintained in this country a monopoly in favour of their colonies. He would remind them that these facts which he had mentioned on a former occasion, had not been controverted by the noble Lord opposite; and he would ask them to apply the lesson which such facts inculcated. The noble Lord did not deny that, even at present, in some of the colonics, we did not adhere to the exclusive system enforced by these laws; for after the American war, they had practically abandoned a great part of the former monopoly. They allowed the system of free ports to he established; but still sufficient restrictions were maintained to be most galling to the colonists, and most injurious to their trade, while there were not enough to be of any practical advantage to British shipowners. The protection they still maintained was not in 717 favour of, but against, the shipowner. While the trade between British colonies was confined to British ships, of course those ships had the full advantage of that trade; but by the system of free ports they had practically admitted the United States to share in that trade. Lumber and provisions could go from all the ports of the United States to Jamaica, as they could go to Cuba; but the united States ship could not carry the same articles from Quebec. The American ports had therefore the advantage of competition in trade with their colonies, while the St. Lawrence suffered from the disadvantages of restriction. In the same manner, with regard to sugar, that article would in four years be allowed to be imported freely into this country from all parts of the world. The Jamaica planter would then have no reason for sending more to this country than to Hamburgh; and if the producer in Cuba were allowed to send his sugar to Hamburgh in the ships of any nation, while he was restricted in sending it to this country, they would give the Hamburgh or Dutch refiner a practical protection against the British refiner. The foreign refiner would be enabled to obtain the sugar which he wished to refine for a foreign market at cheap freights, while the English refiner could only obtain his by means of dear ships. Then with regard to Trinidad. The noble Lord said that the real difficulty respecting that colony originated in the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord said that the Act of Parliament as it stood gave a power to relax the law to Her Majesty's Government; but, oven if that were done, it would not allow the admission of French goods into Trinidad in the way desired. This case with regard to Trinidad was a good illustration of the operation of these laws. Trinidad was originally a Spanish colony, and the taste of the inhabitants led them to prefer the use of French or Spanish goods. Under these exclusive laws, those goods which the inhabitants of the colony were anxious should be imported into Trinidad, could only be imported there from France or Spain in British ships. It was not worth while, however, to employ British ships in this trade; the consequence was that these goods were convoyed from Martinique to Trinidad, so that the inhabitants of the latter place had to pay a much higher price for them than would otherwise be the case. A better place than Trinidad could not be point- 718 ed out in the West Indies as a mart for French and Spanish goods.
§ EARL GREY
It was true that an Act of Parliament provided that the Crown might, by Order in Council, admit goods into our colonies from foreign countries, provided those countries admitted British ships to trade with their colonies, and that that Act further provided, that even if complete reciprocity was not given, still it might be in the power of the Crown to make a relaxation. But it was impossible for any man to read that Act, and the treaty with France concluded in pursuance of it, without seeing that it was substantially intended to carry into effect the system of reciprocity. It had been so understood, not by the present Administration only, but by all successive Administrations which had been in office since the Act was passed. It was passed originally by Mr. Huskisson, and it had been understood as conferring upon the Crown no discretionary power beyond this—that of relaxing prohibitions only in those cases where a substantial reciprocity was granted by foreign countries. With respect to Prance and Spain, this law gave no facilities at all, as these Powers would not place this country on a footing of reciprocity. By this course, then, they left this trade to Martinique, and exposed our own colonies to a very great and serious disadvantage. But what would be the result of their opening the trade and despising reciprocity? It would be, that Trinidad would have so great an advantage in the general trade of the world, compared with Martinique, that he would venture to say if the navigation laws were altered in this respect, a twelvemonth would not expire before every merchant at Martinique would make reclamations to the French Minister for a similar change in the law which would thus appear to be so injurious to them. By those restrictions a most serious injury was inflicted on our colonies; and so far from injuring the French colonies, they were productive of advantage to them, for by means of them the whole trade was driven from Trinidad to Martinique, notwithstanding the advantage of the unrivalled port of the former, as well as its proximity to the Spanish Main. He would ask whether there could be a stronger example of the practical working of these odious restrictions? He trusted that he had now said enough to show that the law, 719 as it stood, contained restrictions which inflicted heavy and systematic injury on our commerce and colonies. At the same time there were other points with respect to which it was impossible for any man to say what were their effects. It often happened when they received small duties on articles, they suddenly found they grew up to be of considerable importance, connected with the arts or manufactures of the country. No man could know the extent of injury which restrictions created until those restrictions were removed. When they set free the ingenuity and enterprise of their merchants, they would find for themselves modes of carrying on their trade of which they had never previously dreamt, and would devise new combinations by which the commerce of the world might be more beneficially conducted. They had seen this in repeated instances where duties had been removed. In many cases when a duty had been repealed, an article previously deemed of no sort of consequence sprang into great demand. For instance, all the Members of that House must remember an article upon which formerly there was a small duty, which had been removed—he alluded to the article India rubber, the consumption of which had increased to a most extraordinary extent, since it had been found that it could be practically and advantageously used for a great variety of purposes to which it was never before applied. Formerly the extent of the importation of this article was trifling, and nobody at that time would have attempted to form an estimate of the importance which had since been found to attach to it. No sooner was the duty repealed, than at least one hundred new uses were found for this article, which now was of such importance in the arts. This was a fair illustration of the principle to which he had adverted. He said, there-fore, he had a right to call upon their Lordships to remember what were the principles at issue between the noble Lord across the table and himself, for the former wished to maintain practical restrictions, and to do nothing more than was absolutely necessary in the shape of change. Her Majesty's Ministers, on the contrary, proposed to begin by repealing restrictions, and then to impose those which were shown to be necessary. If restrictions were shown to be necessary, he (Earl Grey) was content that any one restriction for which even a plausible case could be made out, should be re-imposed—that any restriction really of advantage and not injurious to trade, should 720 be restored. He protested, however, against the principle of leaving the onus probandi with the opponents of restriction; and he contended that they ought not to begin by striking out of the Bill those clauses by which existing restrictions were repealed, and making the law more complicated by adopting the exceptions proposed by the noble Lord. There were many points in the noble Lord's speech to which he might advert, and he might refer particularly to the assertion which it contained, that the opinion of the country was against the measure; but he did not think it desirable to enter into that argument, but he begged to assure the noble Lord that he utterly dissented from his view of the subject. He believed that the opinion of the country was not adverse to the measure, though a factitious and artificial clamour had been raised against it in certain quarters. He believed that the deliberate sense of the country was in favour of the measure which Her Majesty's Government had proposed; and he trusted that their Lordships, having agreed to the principle of the Bill by voting for the second reading, would not now practically rescind that vote by assenting to the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE
was understood to say that on this as well as on other occasions, nothing was more important than to ascertain the exact footing on which a question was placed; and that was especially necessary where the question was one of so much complication as the present. It was with that feeling that he ventured to present himself to their Lordships' notice at this point of the debate, because he was anxious, at as early a period as possible, to explain, not indeed the whole of the case upon which he meant to rest the Amendment of which he had himself given notice, but at least the general nature of the grounds which led him to oppose the views of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley). His noble Friend had told their Lordships that in proposing his Amendment he had sought to introduce matter not essentially differing from the principle of the Bill, but differing only as to the mode of procedure. Now, from that statement he begged to dissent. If his noble Friend had confined himself to a general resolution, requiring that the principle of reciprocity should be maintained, there might have been some ground for such a statement; but his noble Friend had laid on the table, in exposition of his views, not an abstract resolution, but a distinct proposition for an alteration of the 721 Bill. He (Lord Wharncliffe) maintained, having studied this Amendment with attention, that so far from being an Amendment comprising a difference with respect to the mode of procedure, it contained provisions so utterly at variance with the whole spirit and principle of the Bill, that no one who had voted for the second reading could support the alteration which would be made by the Amendment. Let their Lordships consider what were the contents of the Amendment. They must look at its effect upon several important branches of navigation. The Bill of Her Majesty's Government proposed to reserve nothing but the coasting trade, and to throw open the rest of our trade to the whole world, except in cases where it might be deemed advisable to impose retaliatory restrictions. To that retaliatory course, he, in common with his noble Friend, objected as unwise, but there his agreement with him ended. He would now beg their Lordships to consider the effect of his noble Friend's Amendment with respect to the coasting trade. It would leave the coasting trade on its present footing, but it would still render it necessary that the ships engaged in that trade should be built in England. Then, with respect to the colonial trade, Her Majesty's Government proposed to throw it open entirely to foreign countries, and so enable the colonies to avail themselves of all the advantages which would result from freedom of navigation. His noble Friend, however, proposed to confine his relaxation to the trade of one particular colony, and thus practically to establish protection in favour of the country with which it is allowed to trade. With respect, then, to the colonial trade, at least, there was some greater difference between the Amendment of his noble Friend and the Bill of Her Majesty's Government, than related to the mode of procedure. He did not see, therefore, how he could, without inconsistency, vote for the Amendment after having voted for the second reading. He would now call the attention of their Lordships to the foreign trade, and first of all to that portion of it which related to the trade with Europe. The restrictions on our foreign trade depended on a list of enumerated articles. He (Lord Wharncliffe) considered that the principle of the Bill was to make relaxation the rule, and restriction the exception; whereas the Amendment of his noble Friend made restriction the rule, and relaxation the exception. He would take again the trade in articles coming 722 from Asia, Africa, or America. The Bill proposed to repeal the existing restrictions, and to admit goods from those countries, even though they should come through European ports; but his noble Friend wished to establish a fresh list of enumerated articles, which would very much increase the complications even of the present law. There was nothing, in his opinion, more obviously felt than the extraordinary complexity which the change that his noble Friend had proposed would have the effect of introducing. Instead of simplifying the operation of the law, it would have the effect of doubling its complexity. In the first place, with respect to the European trade, there were two classes of articles, one of which came under the enumerated list, and the other not, and both were differently dealt with by the existing law. But if his noble Friend's Amendment were adopted by their Lordships, instead of their being only two classes of goods, one capable of being brought from Europe, and the other not, there would be a third class. The same would be the case with respect to goods brought from Asia, Africa, and America. Again, he would say that the prohibitions involved in his noble Friend's plan, and the complexity inseparable from it, were such that it ought not to receive the sanction of that House. He should not shrink from stating to their Lordships, when the proper time arrived, the ground on which he thought that the Amendment which he meant to propose would place that part of the Bill to which it applied on a better footing than that on which it now stood. In the meantime, he was desirous of merely going so far as to explain why it appeared to him that there was nothing in the Amendment of which he had given notice which should imply a concurrence in the Amendment proposed by his noble Friend. He had voted for the Bill with a sincere desire that its main object should be attained, and with no wish that, at a future stage, those great objects should be in any degree neutralised. As, therefore, it appeared to him that the Bill would be seriously injured by the Amendment before the Committee, he should vote against the proposition made by his noble Friend.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
so far agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down, that he thought that any noble Lord who had voted for the second reading of the Bill would not be consistent if he voted for the present Amendment. 723 At the same time be could not see how an assent to the principle of a Bill involved the necessity of agreeing to all its details. He could conceive that some people might wish for some alteration in the navigation laws without desiring their total abrogation. The noble Lord had spoken of the complexity which would arise if (ho scheme of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) were carried into effect. To some the carrying trade between this country and Asia, Africa, and America, would be opened; to others it would remain closed. But as long as there was a scheme of retaliation contained in the Bill, that supposed that there would be some countries which would not accede to the terms proposed by this country; and therefore, if those clauses ever came into operation, if any cases of retaliation occurred, there would be precisely the same result of complexity. In fact, the irregularity of action which had been attributed to the Amendment of his noble Friend, would apply with greater truth to the Bill proposed by Her Majesty's Government. He must remind their Lordships, that if the navigation laws were of any importance at all, they were of great, of vital, importance; it was not a little difficulty here, or a little complexity there, which would justify their abolition: nothing but a conviction that the interests of our navigation would in no degree be injured by their abrogation, could justify their abandonment. If, indeed, that conviction could be established, it was our duty to abandon them; for no one could deny that they always involved some sacrifice of convenience, some obstruction to commerce. To prove that, was nothing: it was admitted. The whole question consisted in this—could the change be brought about without danger to an interest on which depended our power, our very existence? The onus lay on those who proposed such a sweeping change to show that it could. Now, he could not see on what such demonstration could now be rested. In the course of the speeches made in support of the Bill, much stress had been laid upon the statistics which had been brought to bear on the question; but there was no one who paid the least attention to the course of the debate who could for a moment doubt that those statistics and calculations ought to go for nothing—not one of them could hold water; they were all blown to pieces. They had been proved on examination to have no bearing on the question; and yet on them, if on any evi- 724 dence, the very existence of the State was to be put in peril. For let it be recollected, that it was not a measure from which they could recede when it had once passed, on account of the engagements with foreign States which would be created, and which could not be broken without danger of hostilities; and all this was to be done by reason of some mercantile inconvenience from the operation of the navigation laws, of which none complained. For who complained of it? Certainly not the merchants of England: the merchants of England had not complained of the navigation laws—the complaints bad been made for them; but by their evidence and by their petitions they disowned it. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies said that the people of England were favourable to the measure; but what evidence of the fact had he brought forward? What petitions were there? What public meetings? Certainly, there had been no petitions presented in its favour from any of the ports, with the exception of Dartmouth, from which also a petition had been presented against it; and one from a town of which he had never heard before—Blakeney, or some such place. He did not ask the Government to listen to the remonstrances of shipowners, because it might be said that they were interested parties; but as the Government declared that they wished to repeal the navigation laws for the benefit of commerce, they certainly ought to listen to the opinions of the merchants of England. Now, he believed, that from the whole mercantile body, only one petition bad been presented in favour of the Bill, though certainly that petition proceeded from a very important town, which probably carried more weight with it at present than all England put together, and that was the borough of Manchester. To be sure, at last there was a little petition squeezed out of Liverpool, signed by 143 of the political friends of Her Majesty's Government; but disregarding the result of this hydraulic pressure, he would rather appeal to the natural feeling which found an irrepressible expression among all classes of the community in that town, when the repeal of the navigation laws was proposed; and their Lordships know already that there had been in this same town of Liverpool numerous demonstrations not of shipowners only, nor of shipbuilders only against the measure; but of every class and variety of trade—parties who, if any, felt the pressure of the navigation laws, and who 725 would have been, of all others, the first to feel it, and the most impatient for its removal. He had no difficulty in preferring the course proposed by his noble Friend, by which the principles of the existing law would be continued; but such alterations in it would be admitted as were shown to be beneficial to commerce. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies deprecated reciprocity; at least he thought it of little value; but he (Lord Harrowby) did not see how carriers could live, if they were entitled to carry only one way, while their rivals and competitors were entitled to carry two. The question was, whether reciprocity should be secured before foreign nations were admitted to share in the privileges hitherto reserved for our own subjects; or whether we should admit foreign nations to those privileges at once, and see if we could not obtain reciprocity from them afterwards. He did not see how it was possible to carry out the scheme of Her Majesty's Government. In the first instance, at any rate, they were going to expose British shipping not to a more competition of equality, but of inequality. They could obtain no equivalent for our colonial trade; for where was the colonial trade which was equal to our own? The interests involved in this question were so large that he hoped their Lordships would be persuaded to adopt the course proposed by his noble Friend, and secure something in return before everything was given up.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that their Lordships had treated him with so much indulgence during the very unreasonable time he had trespassed upon their attention when he addressed them upon the question of the second reading of the Bill, that it would be unnecessary now for him to occupy their attention at any great length, and he would, therefore, condense as much as possible what he had to offer to the House on the present occasion. It was his earnest wish not to be wearisome, and, whatever might be the sort of excuse which the former occasion afforded him for being somewhat lengthened in the observations that he made, he was bound to say that there now existed no possible grounds for his taking up much of their Lordships' time. Upon the former occasion he followed a noble and learned Lord who addressed the House at great length, and with much eloquence, and who tried to prove that there existed no inconvenience whatever in the navigation laws as they at present stood, and that any possible change 726 which might be effected in that code could not fail to be attended with danger and risk. Following a noble and learned Lord who had so spoken, it became necessary for him to go into the whole of the case. That which he was called upon to do this evening, however, was of somewhat a different kind from the task that devolved on him previously. This evening, certain important admissions had been made, and therefore was the character of the discussion changed. One noble Lord admitted that there was a hardship in the colonial case; a second allowed that the navigation laws might lead to commercial inconvenience; while a third pointed out the best way of negotiating with foreign Powers; and now that the principle of the Bill had been affirmed, some of these admissions were found embodied in the Amendment. He, therefore, would not follow the example of the noble Lord who had just preceded him, by making a speech as applicable to the second reading of the Bill as to its present stage, and he would address himself as much as possible to the Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). With respect to the colonial part of the case, he did not agree with the noble Lord opposite in thinking that its consideration ought to be postponed to a later period of the evening; he would, however, allude to it, if only for the purpose of saying that, in his opinion, a most ample and complete answer had been given by the noble Earl behind him (Earl Grey), confirmed by the noble Lord on the cross benches (Lord Wharncliffe), and which had not been even attempted to be shaken by the noble Earl who last addressed their Lordships. He would come at once to the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord with respect to European produce and European trade. If he understood that portion of the Amendment correctly, it was to the effect, that with respect to those nations which were willing to enter into negotiations upon the principle of perfect reciprocity, it was proposed that those articles of European produce now enumerated should be placed upon the same footing as European articles, the produce of Europe, which were not now enumerated. The Amendment proposed by the noble Lord on the cross benches (Lord Wharncliffe), with respect to reciprocity, was, in his opinion, inferior to the plan proposed by the Government; but, at the same time, he thought it the beat Amendment, and the best suggestion, with respect to reci- 727 procity, which had yet been brought forward, either in their Lordships' or in the other House, the chief merit of it being, in his eyes, the discretion which it gave to the Government of the day. With the greatest respect for the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), it appeared to him that the Amendment which he had laid upon the table of the House was not only inferior to that of the noble Lord, but it was also inferior to every abortive Amendment which had been produced in the other House, and inferior even to those abortive Amendments which they had endeavoured to frame in the Board of Trade, which he believed were complete failures. The noble Lord opposite, in opening his speech, said nothing at all with respect to the existence of the treaties between this and other countries. He did not want to go into any tiresome disquisition upon treaties. He would not refer to those nonterminal old treaties with Denmark and Sweden, in which the Danish claims were as clearly put as they could possibly he, and in which, with respect to the Swedish claims, the Government had urged upon the Swedish Government the necessity of adopting the construction most favourable to the arguments of the noble Lord. With regard to Holland, that country had made some claims on account of "the most favoured nation clause," with respect to some advantages which had been granted to Oldenburg and Mecklenburg. Those claims had been admitted, and he could not see how they could possibly say upon the same reasoning that they would not give them any further advantages which they might claim on the ground of "the favoured nation clause." If they were to say to Holland, as a ground of their refusal, that they had extensive colonies, and that Holland had none to admit this country to the benefit of, the answer of Holland would be, that that might be quite true, but that Oldenburgh and Mecklenburgh had none, and that by their treaties the colonies were excluded. Again, he did not forget that the arrangement to which he was referring might be terminated on giving twelve months' notice; but what would be the effect of giving such a notice? It would be this, that England would thereby lose all the security which she possessed against the imposition of differential duties by Holland. If such a course were taken by England, they might be assured that they would obtain no reciprocity from Holland. 728 Then, as to Belgium—Belgium had no navigation laws, she imposed no restrictions, but preferred to lay on a differential duty of 10 per cent upon the ships of this country. This country retaliated upon this restriction, and imposed a differential duty of 20 per cent upon certain articles coming in Belgian ships. He would ask whether, on a country like that, whose competition they did not fear, whether it was fair or expedient for them to retaliate for those disadvantages to which they subjected this country, and that they should add to it the whole weight of the restriction of the navigation laws, and which they proposed to take from other countries? The next country to which he would allude was France, which also had "a most favoured nation" clause. It was difficult to say to what extent that treaty went. The words of the treaty were—" In the course of navigation between any ports of those countries, no third country shall have any advantage to their shipping which is not equally enjoyed by French and English shipping." He believed that if he were a lawyer he could make out a very strong argument to show that those treaties precluded the possibility of England making any such relaxations of her navigation laws as was involved in the Amendment by means of which the noble Lord opposite sought to establish the principle of reciprocity. It was impossible, as he conceived, that any foreign ships should enjoy in the ports, say of Calais or of Dover, the least privilege which was not open to French and English ships. Now, there were certain enumerated articles which it would be allowable to bring from France in Swedish vessels, if Sweden gave all the advantages to this country which were required of her; and there, he would submit, was a difficulty in the way of the noble Lord's plan which he had not yet made any attempt to surmount. The next country to which he thought it necessary to make any reference was Spain. To that country it was well known that we were bound by certain old treaties, which were not permanent—they were treaties which he was willing to own had been damaged considerably by the construction put upon them during the late Administration by the noble Earl opposite (Earl of Aberdeen), the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Whether that construction were correct or not, he would not then stay to inquire. It could not, however, be denied, that if that construc- 729 tion was sanctioned by the Government of this country, it was only admitted under protest by Spain. He thought that the construction then put upon those treaties went as far as it could with propriety he carried. He had some authority for saying so, for he found that the Colleague of the noble Earl actually deplored that any such construction should have been put upon them. He thought, considering that the whole of the party now in office protested against that construction, that it was obviously not desirable to raise any discussion upon that point at present. He was not quite sure even that the construction then put would apply to the present case. He might, however, be allowed to say, that the reasons assigned by the noble Earl to the Spanish Ambassador were reasons with which France and England, at all events, had nothing to do: but he did think it not right that this country should commit itself to any such constructions, for he feared that the effect of such a course would be to involve us in an endless amount of special pleading and mere verbal quibbling, which could never at any time prove satisfactory to either party. Such considerations appeared to him quite conclusive against the plan of reciprocity. To this he might add that the effect of almost any plan of reciprocity would be to compel other countries to enact laws in an indefinite degree hostile to the commerce of England. As to the long-voyage clause, it was proposed, he believed, to allow that part of the measure to stand as it was—namely, that the most bulky and valuable articles would be preserved to British vessels. But he must say, that he did not sec how European nations could be induced to give to this country all the privileges which they sought, if they continued to take from them such an important article as the carrying trade between Asia, Africa, and America, and the produce of those three quarters of the globe. The effect of such a system of policy as at present pursued was only to give increased importance and strength to other countries of Europe, by establishing the warehousing system at Antwerp and other ports on the Continent, which were thereby made as it were the emporium for the produce of the greater portion of the world. With regard to all the articles at present enumerated, they retained all the inconveniences which had already been shown to exist, and actually gave a premium to the foreign manufacfacturer to work up the raw material and send it to this country in a manufactured 730 state. The case then came simply to the one question of competition. But he hoped that there was no one acquainted with the resources of England who could for a moment doubt her ability to compete with any country in the long-voyage trade; and if she could compete, there was no argument at all remaining against that part of the measure which had reference to the long-voyage trade. There was one argument which he had heard against the Bill, not to-night, perhaps, but it had been used, to this effect, that Parliament ought to be extremely cautious how they meddled with a trade in which was invested from 60,000,000l to 70,000,000l. of capital, and which gave employment to upwards of 200,000 seamen. With respect to this argument, althought it might be an appeal to their Lordships' feelings, still, as an argument, it was one which told exactly the other way from that in which it was intended; for what country could they find which possessed a surplus capital of 70,000,000l. or 80,000,000l. ready to bring into competition with capital so employed in this country, particularly when they were told, by a most stringent protectionist witness who was examined before their Lordships, that, notwithstanding the increase of shipping in this country, the capital had been diminished by one-half, and that the remaining half paid no interest whatever? He did not lay much stress upon such a statement as that, as it seemed so entirely contrary to every principle which generally actuated mankind. With respect to seamen—those 200,000, which upon both sides of the House were considered to be the best in the world—where would they he able to get 200,000 seamen to supplant their places? Was it from Denmark, which was now advertising for seamen? Was it from Norway, where one-tenth of the population were actually employed in maritime engagements? Or from the United States, where three-fourths of the seamen who were employed were British seamen? The noble Lord opposite (Lord Wharncliffe), in the course of his speech, said, with respect to the statistics which had been referred to, that "they had been blown out of water." If that were so, they were certainly "blown out" by the noble Lord himself in the very able speech he had made on a former stage of this Bill. He regretted that he had not the good fortune to hear the speech of the noble Lord himself: he was told, however, that it was a very able one, and that it had a great effect upon the opinion of 731 their Lordships. From what he could gather of the purport of the speech, it appeared to be, in the first place, an attack upon that much-vexed question of protected and unprotected trade. He (Earl Granville) endeavoured, on a previous occasion, to answer that attack, because it was not a new question—it had been constantly brought forward, and as constantly answered. He had striven to show that the more figures were knocked about, from one side to the other, the more favourable they appeared to show the cause, and it would be found that when they took out of the account the tonnage of the steam vessels, the result would entirely bear out the arguments which had been founded upon those figures. About twenty-five years since prophecies were freely made of the utter extinction of the trade of this country unless reciprocity treaties were fully carried out. The result, however, proved exactly the reverse. Notwithstanding all the abuse which was showered upon those figures whenever they told against noble Lords opposite, still they were very ready to make use of them when they appeared to be on their own side. The noble Lord opposite had referred to some returns showing the amount of shipping entered, not into the United States, but into Liverpool, and endeavoured to found an argument upon that in support of his case. That argument, however, was speedily broken down by the noble Earl near him (Earl Grey), who followed the different vessels to their respective countries, and showed in which cases they possessed reciprocity treaties, and in which they did not. Allusion had been made to the case of Mr. Porter, whose name had, he must say, been brought forward somewhat too prominently. The noble Lord opposite had said a great deal about that gentleman's fencing in Committee with respect to the tonnage which had been entered into the ports of the united kingdom. He had looked into the evidence given before that Committee, and he confessed that he could not see anything like "fencing" in the answers which he gave to the questions put to him by the Committee. Mr. Porter said that he could not give an accurate answer as to the amount of American tonnage, as he had no authentic information upon that point before him at the time. He (Earl Granville) was certainly struck by that fact; and upon inquiry he found, what certainly was not very creditable to the Board of Trade, that they had no official account of the American tonnage. He 732 thought that would fully bear out the statement of Mr. Porter, that he had no authentic information on the subject. He next came to a question in which he feared he had not quite so clear a ease to deal with; but still he thought that he would be able to place the question in a very different position from that in which the noble Lord opposite had presented it to their Lordships. It appeared that a letter had been written by Mr. Cardwell to Mr. Porter, requesting immediate information respecting the amount of lake tonnage employed in the trade with the United States. At the time that letter arrived there was a great pressure of business of that particular department of the Board of Trade with which he was connected, and, remembering the amount of the tonnage generally employed in the trade with America, he wrote to Mr. Cardwell accordingly. He regretted that Mr. Porter did not, in a matter of so much importance, refer to his tables in order to be perfectly accurate. That gentleman, however, had since had a little more leisure, and upon reference to the returns in the office, had found that he had committed a mistake, and of his own accord, without hearing again from Mr. Cardwell, he wrote to him to correct the error into which he had fallen; but this was a circumstance which those who communicated the fact of the mistake to the noble Lord, had neglected to make him acquainted with. Reference had been made by the noble Lord to the sense of the country, which he stated to be against this measure. Her Majesty's Ministers had been accused of arrogance for refusing to receive the petitions of the agricultural interest as of any weight in respect to this measure. He denied that such was the case. No noble Lord on that side of the House had stated that the agricultural interest had not a perfect right to petition that House, nor that their petitions were not entitled to he received with the utmost respect. What was said was, that agricultural pursuits were not very likely to make them acquainted with the operation of the navigation laws, or what the effect of their repeal would be. Upon turning to some of the arguments used by some gentlemen at public meetings of the agricultural body, held for the purpose of influencing them to sign petitions, he found that much rested fairly upon the ignorance of the farmers. They were told that one of the effects of the repeal of the navigation laws would be to lower freights very much: the only remnant of protection was now to be found in 733 the high rate of freights upon the shipment of foreign corn; therefore, by lowering the rate of freights, they would diminish their protection by so much. Now, what were the real facts of the case? Corn could be brought from America in American as well as in British ships. Did not that tend to lower freights? Corn could also he brought from the Baltic in Baltic ships. Did not that also tend to lower freights? Meal, cattle, and flour could also be imported into this country from all the ports on the Continent, and by the vessels of any country. Did not that again tend to lower the price of freights? With regard to guano, an article so valuable to the agricultural body, that came almost entirely from Chili, Peru, and the island of Ichabo, none of which places rejoiced in the possession of a very considerable marine. What was the consequence? The monopoly was strictly confined to the British shipowner, who could charge the British farmer whatever price he pleased for freight. The noble Lord also referred to a remark which had fallen from him on a former occasion, to the effect that neither the naval officer nor the merchants of this country knew fully the bearings of the navigation laws upon the trade or interest of this country. Upon the occasion when he alluded to naval officers, he only meant to have said that he could not go to the full length of Sir W. Stirling, who said that if the commercial marine were to be entirely destroyed, it would be no blow to the Navy of this country. With regard to the merchants, what he said was, that Governments had frequently more foresight in these matters than the merchants themselves, and that in late commercial events almost all the great interests of the country had shown superior intelligence to that displayed by the particular interests concerned. The case of the East India Company was one in point. When it was intended to throw open the trade of the East Indies, they were told that they were going to destroy altogether the trade of that part of the empire; whereas the consequence of the repeal of those restrictions had been to increase six or sevenfold the amount of the trade with the East Indies. A noble Lord had said, in the course of this debate, that if relaxations were to be made, they should be made gradually, and advised that they should not give up the whole of the navigation laws at once, but proceed step by step, or point by point. He (Earl Granville) put it to their Lordships whether it would be wiser to go on step by step, 734 and point by point, leaving their merchants, their colonies, the foreign growers, and their shipowners in the condition of persons who were aware that some changes were coming, but who knew not what those changes would be, or whether it would not be wiser to endeavour in this instance, with regard to all those interests, to follow the example of Pitt when dealing with America, and at once propose a liberal, comprehensive, and, however, little weight might be attached to the term—a statesmanlike measure—by which they would put the question at once upon a sure foundation, one not likely to be misunderstood, and which would give to every person interested in it a perfect understanding of what our commercial relations with other countries really were and would remain, without fear of further alteration or change.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
was understood to say that upon reference to the returns which he then held in his hand, showing the comparative quantities of goods carried between Liverpool and the United States, it would be found that the United States vessels carried double the quantity of goods both ways that the vessels of this country did. Of American ships 15,000 tons left Liverpool in ballast, and of English ships 13,000 tons. In his opinion the measure could confer no possible advantage on the colonics; but what cause of complaint had they to call for it. The advantages and disadvantages derived by the colonies from the navigation laws were the same as those which were experienced by the mother country. The colonies had, therefore, no cause for complaint, because the navigation laws had been maintained for the safety and strength of the empire, and for the protection of our shipping and sailors. But for our naval supremacy, for which we were indebted to our navigation laws, our colonies would fall; and our naval position it was also which authorised the people of this country to take a leading part in the affairs of the world.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
was anxious not to detain their Lordships for more than a few minutes, but he could not avoid expressing his strong conviction that both the Amendment and the speeches made in support of it told in favour of rather than against the measure itself. It was admitted by the Amendment, and acknowledged by the noble Lord who moved it, that there might be reasons why there should be a still further relaxation of the navigation laws. Of course he had no 735 wish to misinterpret any noble Lord; but it was certain to his mind, and that of many noble Lords around him, that that was the only construction they could put upon the Amendment; but of the noble Lords who followed that noble Lord, and who now proposed to vote with him, one asserted that any modification of those laws was wholly unnecessary, and another went so far as to say that any change in the present system must be attended with disastrous results. Now, would not the change proposed by the Amendment of the noble Lord be better effected by the plan of the Government? He confessed he thought it would; and he gathered from that circumstance the conclusion that many noble Lords who supported the Amendment were not so much desirous of any change, as adopting the views it enunciated, because it came from the noble proposer, and not from the Government. The noble Lord who had just sat down, for instance, had attempted, by reference to the Liverpool returns, to argue against any alteration in the present law, and had arrived at the startling-conclusion that England could not compete with America, because those returns showed that the quantity of merchandise carried by the United States vessels both ways was more than double that carried by the shipping of this country. Now, if that were the case under the existing system, how, in the "name of common sense, could they reconcile it with the termination of the speech the noble Lord made at a former stage of the Bill, when he said, protection kept up the interest of the shipowner? and if we were so badly off under the present system, why should noble Lords be so anxious for the preservation of a state of things which had been productive of results which they considered so unsatisfactory? Did not the result of these returns prove, beyond a doubt, that protection was not beneficial to the trade of the shipowner, though it might be vexatious to the commerce of the world? It was to be regretted that the noble Lord whose Amendment was under consideration had not explained what course he would advise to be adopted with respect to foreign treaties; and upon that subject he should very much like to hear the opinion of the noble Earl over the way, who had been so long at the head of the Foreign Office. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) was inclined to think that if the noble Lord's Amendment were adopted, in the shape in which he had proposed it, the grossest infraction of treaties with foreign countries would be 736 committed of which there was any record in history. It would be no satisfactory reply to say that the treaties so infringed upon were not productive of advantage to England, and that the countries which were the contracting parties with us were not powerful nations; for surely if there were an infraction of a solemn compact, such infraction would involve as great an injury to the honour of England as if the contracting party were the United States, and that the trade in question was the most important that had ever crossed the Atlantic. Several noble Lords, who were prepared to vote against the present Bill in all its stages, had been very eloquent in expatiating on the advantages of an international system based on the principle of a reciprocity of benefits; but how was such a system to be obtained? How was England to induce other countries to adopt such a system? Was it by retaining commercial restrictions in unmodified severity? Most assuredly not. The better course by far would be for England herself to adopt that course which she believed to be the most liberal and enlightened, and thus by her good example, as well as by good advice, to supply to other nations an incentive to pursue a course equally judicious. With regard to the colonial part of the question, it would seem that the Opposition were quite ready to make concessions to Canada. But it was idle to talk of making a concession merely in favour of Canada, or any one colony; for if they granted it to one, on what consideration of justice or fair play could they deny it to all? If they made a concession to Canada, on what consideration of justice or fair play could the Colonial Minister refuse to extend the same concession to Trinidad, Ceylon, or even Australia? The concession to one dependency of a favour they would not consent to grant to another, would be nothing more nor less than a confession of their readiness to yield to considerations of expediency that which they were not prepared to grant to considerations of equity and justice. No; the liberal-minded and statesmanlike course would be at once to introduce a measure which would apply to the whole system, and deal with the question in all its bearings. It had been said that the sense of the public was against this measure—that the great majority of the people were hostile to it; but the fact was, that the question was one about which the great majority of the people had thought very little at all. The noble Lords whose migration 737 from the west to the east to get up a great meeting in the city of London on the navigation laws had been so much talked of, would have gathered quite as many around them, and created quite as great a sensation, if they had taken precisely the opposite view of the question. The Bill had come up from the Commons, bearing the sanction of a large majority of the Members who represented the seaports. All except two had voted in favour of it; and therefore it was not fair, or right, or wise—and scarcely Parliamentary—to say that a Bill, so circumstanced, did not come to their Lordships with strong recommendations. No Bill ever came before the House recommended by a greater weight of authority than the Bill now on their Lordships' table. If they had not the numbers of the country with them—and he dared say they had—the weight of the intelligence of the country was with them. The Motion made by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) was a move in a wrong direction.—it was one tending to re-establish a system of restriction. They were told that British seamen and British shipbuilders could not compete with the seamen and shipbuilders of foreign countries. He, for one, could never allow that British seamen could not and would not be able to compete with the seamen of the rest of the world. Did the noble Earl forget the immense number of our seamen who were in the American navy? What fed that navy? It was our system of apprenticeship; for our seamen found that under the present system of restriction the British shipowner was unable to pay them properly, and therefore they sought refuge in American ships, where owners could afford to employ ablebodied seamen and to give them good wages. Parliament ought, therefore, to pursue a different policy in future. They ought to leave the trade of the world entirely open, and leave it for the enterprise and energy of their own shipowners and seamen to compete with the foreigner. Remove these restrictions, which, it was admitted, ought to some extent to he further limited, and then they would hear no more of the British seaman being inferior to the foreigner, while they would have the gratification of seeing the shipping trade flourish, commerce extended and increased, if not universal activity in our ports.
was unwilling to occupy much of their Lordships' time and attention at this period of the discusssion; but having in the discharge of his duty 738 felt it right to oppose this Bill, on the second reading, on the same ground as his noble Friend near him, he should not feel he was discharging his duty if he did not support the Amendment of his noble Friend, and state his reasons for doing so. He would not say one word of introduction, nor would he advert to what had passed at a former period of the debate, when his noble Friend on the cross benches (the Earl of Harrowby) addressed himself so ably to the question of the second reading; and his noble and gallant Friend (Lord Colchester) upon the same occasion evinced such very extraordinary clearness and perspicacity, as well as such great practical knowledge of the subject in hand; but he would endeavour to confine himself strictly to what had taken place to-night. Passing over those speeches, he was somewhat startled at hearing the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Granville) complaining in the outset of his address that the speech of his noble Friend then sitting on the cross benches (Earl of Harrowby) ought to have been advanced on the question for the second reading, and he (Lord Granville) should therefore address himself only to the Amendment before the House. But what was his (Lord Brougham's) astonishment at finding the noble Earl, after deprecating speeches going to the principle of the Bill, which ought to have been made on the second reading, as now out of season, addressing himself—he would not say how long, for when his noble Friend spoke he did not feel the passage of time; but though the individual listener did not feel the march of time in his own person, he could always calculate it through the medium of machinery; and the clock showed him that his noble Friend had occupied half an hour—not on the Amendment, for upon that he scarcely said one word, but on the topics and the history of the last night's debate on this measure. But the noble Lord still further surprised him. Not content with having a speech from his noble Friend (the Earl of Harrowby) to-night, to which he could reply, he must address himself to another speech which he said he had not the opportunity of hearing, but of course had referred to the report of it. But "oh," said his noble Friend, "that speech was only partially reported;" and yet to this ill-reported speech—this nothing-at-all reported speech—so very little reported that some shipowners required it to be corrected—did the noble Earl opposite address himself. Although it was not reported in- 739 telligibly, nor heard by the noble Earl at all, nevertheless the noble Earl felt no difficulty in elaborately answering it; and in the same manner did the noble Earl proceed throughout. His reference to Mr. Porter was another instance of his skill in keeping clear of the subject matter in hand, for he (Lord Brougham) had not heard one word about Mr. Porter to-night. True, they heard a good deal of Mr. Porter the last time this measure was debated; but then his defence was undertaken by his noble Friend on the cross benches. To-night the defence was taken up again by the noble Earl opposite; but he was very much afraid Mr. Porter himself would not be much satisfied with this second defence, if that could be called a defence which represented him to be aware of an error that could be possibly palliated though not at all defended. Now, what was the offence Mr. Porter committed? Why, he produced a return, and said, "This will prove so and so;" and in answer to Mr. Goulburn, as to whether a return relating to American shipping, of 800,000 tons, included the steam tonnage, he said positively, and in the most peremptory and decided terms, that they were not included at all." You may depend upon it," he said," I am right." He did not venture upon declaring his own absolute infallibility, but "generally," said he, "I am right, and upon this particular occasion you may depend upon it that I am;" and yet in one short week afterwards it turned out that he was all wrong. Still generally he was infallible in his own opinion, but the exception appeared to be the rule; and on this occasion he was more fallible than on any other, always excepting the never-to-be-forgotten instance of the tonnage of a ship having been multiplied by the repeated voyages, so that an actual tonnage of 7,001 had been multiplied into 215,000. With reference to the petition which had been presented in favour of the measure from Liverpool, it bore very few of the signatures of the large and influential merchants; while the one against it contained the names, not of the whole, perhaps, but certainly of very nearly the whole. They ought, however, to look at the petitions collectively, and then they would see that while the petitions which had been presented against it were signed by 1,497 persons, those which had been presented in favour of it had only 142 signatures. It was very easy to get up a petition in Liverpool in a quiet manner; and the simple fact of its having remained a couple of days at the Exchange, and only obtained 740 so few signatures in that space of time, established beyond doubt that the favourable petition in question was one of this worthless character. The noble Lord also referred to some resolutions which had been passed at a meeting at Liverpool of the persons who had signed one of the petitions in favour of this Bill, and said that that meeting was not a public one, and he supposed the reason to have been that they did not like to expose themselves to the risk of being defeated by an enormous majority. But one of the resolutions ran thus:—" Having heard that there is a Bill on the navigation laws in the House of Lords," as though it was not known throughout the country—"and that its object is a modification of the navigation laws;" that was all; they gave the Government no credit for it as a measure of free trade—as the removal of restrictions, but regarded it as a modification only;" resolved, that we receive this with great satisfaction, because it is only a precursor to other measures to carry away all restrictions." It was then to be but a precursor, and not a final measure; and yet some noble Lords voted for the Bill, saying," Here is another attack on the trade of the country, on its most vital interests, but, as it must be the last, I will vote for it to have done with the whole subject." But what if it were the worst as well as the last? But then it was not at all regarded by its supporters as the last. The petition he referred to regarded this measure as an instalment only of what the petitioners had a right to claim. They desired the absolute removal of all restrictions whatever. His late friend. Lord Melbourne, like all able and intelligent men, so far from regarding it in that light, having applied all his sagacious intellect and quicksightedness to such subjects, said, that any man who talked of the absolute removal of all restrictions was fitter for Bedlam than for an assembly of sane men. But they were not confined to the authority of Liverpool against this Bill. They had Sunderland and various other towns opposing it in the strongest manner, and Hull remarkably so; for whilst a right hon. and much distinguished Friend of his in another place asked how could Liverpool be quoted as against the Bill when the two Members for that borough voted for it, he found that the same argument was not used by the friends of the measure as regarded Hull; for although the hon. Member for that borough held office during the pleasure of the Crown under the Go- 741 vernment, yet, if he (Lord Brougham) were not greatly misinformed, that hon. Gentleman held it on the express condition that he was to vote on the navigation laws as he chose, and that he carried that choice into effect by voting against the Government and against their Bill. So that, as to Liverpool, the Members and the town were acting in different ways; but in Hull the Members and the town were acting in the same way. And if they were to go into the City they would find there was hardly an exception to the unanimity against this Bill. The present Lord Mayor (Sir James Duke) was as strongly attached to the Ministry as any man could be; and how had he voted upon this question? Why, he had not voted at all. His noble Friend the noble Marquess who last spoke, had called upon their Lordships to pass this Bill, partly out of respect to the House of Commons, who had sent it up to their Lordships with a great majority. His noble Friend had not said "an increasing majority," and he ought to have said" a diminishing majority;" for last year the majority was 117. After a year's reflection, in spite of all canvassing of the Government—in spite of all the extraordinary appeals made to the people in both Houses of Parliament to vote on this occasion on the most unintelligible grounds, that majority had dwindled down from 117 to 54—less than one-half—and the result was, that the two majorities, taken together, of this year on the two celebrated divisions, did not quite make up the majority of last year on one division. But he came now to the question before them, and he would begin by placing it on what he thought was the real basis, and stating the real matter at issue between the two sides, or rather, as they were in a somewhat triangular position, the three sides of the House. There was the side of the Government, the Opposition side, and the side of his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe) on the cross benches. He should say that his noble Friend's position was not the most felicitous on this occasion, and there was no doubt he had not succeeded in persuading him (Lord Brougham) that there was any great consistency between his vote against the Motion of his noble Friend, and the Amendment he himself was going to propose. How it was possible to vote against the one and for the other, his noble Friend had not explained to satisfy him. He denied that the question was complex, or that there 742 was any difficulty in understanding his noble Friend's Motion; but he thought that if he took an instance, and showed their Lordships how the two Bills would operate upon that example, he should more satisfactorily prove what each was, and in what respect they differed from each other, than by giving any explanation of them in detail. The noble Marquess opposite said," Throw everything open except the coasting trade, and if you find any nation hampers your commerce unfairly, or exposes it to oppression, give the Crown afterwards the power to reimpose restrictions." The exception was conditional upon the misdea-meanor of foreign nations. Now, his noble Friend, by his Amendment, said, "Do not begin with repeal; keep up the system under which your commerce has flourished and your Navy been created; do not repeal your restrictions by a sweeping measure; but if any nation will, of itself, give, or you by treaty can obtain, an equivalent, then arm the Crown with the power to give up, pro tanto, your restrictions." It was said that the modus operandi was the only difference between the two. It might be the only difference; but the effects that resulted from the two were prodigiously different. Take the case of America according to the two modi operandi; and their Lordships would soon perceive the difference. The Government said," We have repealed the colonial monopoly," which he (Lord Brougham) looked upon as far the most important part of the navigation restrictions. America, then, was at once let into the whole of our colonial trade, and to the enjoyment of all the advantages possessed by our own shipping in the carrying trade between this country and our colonies. Oh! but there was a retaliatory clause; and it was said," Excellent America—our dear kinsmen, separated from us by the chances of war, but still our friends—we do not ask you to abandon repudiation and pay the debts you owe, but only to give us reciprocity; and if you will not give us reciprocity, we shall be forced to stop the repeal of the navigation laws and shut you out of the colonial trade." "Oh, no," reply the American lawyers; "you are authorised to do no such thing; the Act gives you no such power; it only gives you power to shut us out of your colonial trade, if we oppress your trade by not putting it upon the same footing as that of other nations. What is it you want?" "Why, reciprocity." "We cannot give you reciprocity, though no 743 fault of ours, but because we have no colonies. Reciprocity should be this—if you will give us access to your colonies, we will give you access to our colonies, and we will both be upon the same footing." But the Americans had no colonies. Reciprocity, therefore, was out of the question; and, consequently, we were about doing an act which must of necessity give the Americans the full enjoyment of our colonial trade, without the possibility of their giving us anything in return that looked like reciprocity; and not only must our colonial trade be opened to America without the possibility of reciprocity, but it must be opened also to Belgium and Prussia. Belgium and Prussia had no colonies, but they had ships; and he had shown upon a former occasion, the wages of the Belgian seaman were half those of the British seaman, his food cost only half as much, and the pay of the Belgian captain was less than half that of the British captain; and the Prussians could both build and sail their vessels more cheaply than ourselves. But under the Amendment of his noble Friend nothing of this sort could happen; for it said," Keep your Navigation Act; keep your restrictions; maintain your colonial monopoly; and open it only when America, Belgium, or Prussia make it worth your while by giving you an equivalent." This was the difference between the two measures—the difference, certainly, consisted in the modus operandi; but it led to immensely different results. To a certain degree the same observations applied to his noble Friend's (Lord Wharncliffe's) Amendment, but it was narrower and inferior to that of his noble Friend near him (Lord Stanley). He entreated their Lordships to consider the extent of the colonial trade. Excluding India, it occupied 500 vessels and 250,000 tons; and including India, there were engaged in it 650 vessels of 500 tons each. The returns showed that the trade between Liverpool and the United States, which was unrestricted, employed more than double the amount of American over British tonnage. Did not that show what a prodigious mass of interest would be endangered by the ill-advised and ill-digested measure of the Government? Then, the noble Earl who spoke from the other side expressed his belief that English seamen would be able to contend with the seamen of any other nation. Doubtless they would, as far as gallantry, seamanship, and even sobriety, were concerned; and the circum- 744 stance which had been referred to of many thousand British seamen being engaged in the American mercantile marine, established the point. But, if a war should break out, of what avail would be 50,000 British seamen in the American marine? In order to be able to man our fleet, we must have our seamen in our own mercantile marine. Looking at all the circumstances of the case, it was impossible to view without extreme astonishment the extraordinary efforts which the Government made to pass this Bill. Exertions of an unprecedented description had been used to secure a majority. If the fate of the empire depended on the success of the measure—if the sum of affairs were involved in it—if the glorious fortunes of the Navy rested upon it—if the stability of the constitution, the security of the State, and the prosperity of England were dependent on the passing of the Bill, greater anxiety could not be manifested for the attainment of that object. Votes had been sought for in all directions. He had just seen a right rev. Prelate (Bishop Wilberforce), who had not heard a word of the debate, hurry into the House to give his vote, and he hoped it would be on his (Lord Brougham's) side, because the extension of the African slave trade must result from this measure. Far and near, east, west, north, and south, the summons had gone, and men had come. No doubt this proved the strong sensation the Bill had created. Some who had been summoned represented the Sovereign abroad, and therefore supposed they represented the country abroad, the fact being that the country at home was against them. There must be some reason for all this. Europe was not in such a state as to justify these recalls. From the east to the west it was in a state of agitation, shaken to its foundations by revolution. The position of France was most critical and perilous, and no man could tell any one hour what state France would be in the next. The same might be said of Frankfort, and almost of Vienna. The country was most ably represented in those quarters, and he felt the importance of having its representatives in those quarters during the present crisis of European affairs. He was, therefore, the more struck with astonishment when he found that upon these removals depended not the fate of the empire, but merely the fate of the Government. But, after all, he could not help thinking that this measure for the repeal of the na- 745 vigation laws was not of that urgent character and pressing description which had been ascribed to it. Under this system, established two hundred years ago, by a man who carried the glory of the British arms as far as he carried the crimes of his party, our commerce and marine had flourished—he meant Oliver Cromwell. The wisdom of his policy was speedily recognised. Its beneficial effects were immediately felt. The Navy soon rose into a flourishing state, and one of the first acts of the restored Government of Charles was to adopt the Navigation Laws. Their policy had ever since been rigidly adhered to in principle by all succeeding statesmen in all succeeding ages. He utterly denied the doctrine that the example of Mr. Pitt, in regard to the United States of America, could be cited as having made an inroad upon the navigation system. To apply and adopt was not to destroy, or even to evade. The American colonies became an independent State; and Mr. Pitt, finding they had become independent, applied the Navigation Act to them, putting them upon the fooling of other independent Powers with regard to our trade; but the Navigation Act itself was not altered, and it would have been contrary to its principles to have treated the United States in any other way than as an independent Power. We had obtained, by means of this navigation system, a mercantile marine which was unexampled in history, and a Royal Navy the glories of which it were superfluous and unnecessary to extol. But was it not a very obvious remark—and with that he would close the few things he had to say—that nobody complained of our Navy being deficient, nobody affected to deny its superiority; nobody pretended to deny that the navigation system had produced these effects. It was allowed to have worked well—perfectly well—as well as any man could have expected; nay, better than any man could have hoped; and was it not the language of common prudence and foresight which he spoke when he asked them why they changed that which had worked so well—that of whose results no one complained? Did not that throw the burden of the proof upon those who proposed the change? Oh, but said the noble Marquess, I am a man against all restrictions, of which this is one, and therefore the proof is thrown upon you. Now the noble Marquess was not so little experienced in political life but that he knew how the trick of debate was 746 apt to conceal the real question, and he hoped to convince him that it was kept concealed at present. It was quite true, as a matter of political economy, as a matter of wealth, as a question affecting the accumulation of national capital, it was better that trade should be as unencumbered as possible. But that was not the question. The question was not one as to wealth or as to commerce, but as to navigation. It was said that by this measure the effect would be, we should enter into competition with foreign seamen, and freight being lowered, the articles of commerce would be provided at a cheaper rate to the consumers, who would profit to the gain of a farthing per pound perhaps upon the price of sugar, as much upon tea, and something like it upon coffee—a gain so small that it was not possible to calculate how little it could lessen any one's yearly expenses. But, suppose the saving ever so great, and commerce ever so much increased, it would be done in foreign ships, and our ships and seamen be displaced. So, supposing that the effect on commerce of the repeal of these laws would be, not to lessen it, but that the exports the year after amounted to as much as they had been for twenty years before, still Adam Smith was almost as good a politician as his noble Friend opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne), as good a free-trader as the noble Marquess, one of the men most eminent for sagacity and learning—Adam Smith was in favour of the navigation laws; and he said he was so because defence was better than wealth; and he made that an exception to his system, which he (Lord Brougham), had the honour, five-and-forty years ago, of proving was no exception to his system at all. The question was a question not of commerce but of navigation; they would enter into competition with Prussia and America, they would not be able to man the Navy, and British navigation was gone. On all occasions, where the matter was to the point, when the question related merely to trade, to wealth, he was always opposed to needless restrictions; but where that was not the question he was with Dr. Smith, with Mr. Huskisson, with Washington, and Maddison, and refused to promote the interests of commerce at the expense of national safety. But, said the Government, and those who supported them," how can you be guilty of so much cruelty and oppression to your traders?" He asked them, in reply, how 747 could they be guilty of so much cruelty and oppression to the foreign traders of this country as to levy 23,000,000l. on the Customs, or to the home traders as to raise 15,000,000l. on the Excise. These were grievous restrictions on national commerce and national industry. He (Lord Brougham) voted for these imposts; was he then not a free-trader? Yes, but there was something more important than wealth, than commerce, than the home trade itself, which might be bought too dear—that something was the defence of the country. He voted for the Customs and the Excise, although they almost cut up our trade foreign and domestic; he said there was a like necessity of consulting our safety; he said defence was better than wealth; therefore he voted for taxes and duties most painful to all trade. So on the present occasion, therefore, he voted for the Amendment, and in favour of the navigation laws.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down had travelled over every portion of the globe, but had devoted very little attention to the real question at issue. The noble and learned Lord had said that the shipping interest of the country had not called for these alterations; but there were other interests which ought to be consulted on this question. Did not foreign countries call upon their Lordships to modify the present system of navigation? Undoubtedly they did, and unless they immediately made such modification they would be in danger of losing the trade which we carried on with those countries. The noble and learned Lord had spoken of the wisdom of our ancestors, as having sanctioned these navigation laws; but he (Earl Fitzwilliam) did not entertain the same opinion as the noble and learned Lord as to the wisdom of our ancestors with respect to the present pernicious navigation laws. The naval power of this country was pre-eminent before any navigation law was passed; but forty years after the passing of the first Navigation Act, the Dutch were beating us in all quarters of the world. He was afraid that they were disposed to ascribe too much to the wisdom of their ancestors and themselves, and too little to the power of the Creator. They, no doubt, owed much of their maritime superiority to the arms of the sea, the rivers, and estuaries with which this island was intersected; and he asked if it was not possible, therefore, that more ought to be ascribed to the physical 748 conformation of the island than to the mere devices of men? He wished them to lift their minds higher than they were wont when considering this question; he wished them to consider that they owed more to the bounty of the Creator than to the wisdom of man. On this point he would remind them of the naval superiority of Denmark, which did not depend on navigation laws, but on the favourable position which the country occupied. He believed that the naval power of England was not due to the navigation laws, and that they ascribed more to that cause than circumstances at all warranted. He did not deny but that temporarily they might at first have effected some of the objects contemplated by them; but certainly the permanent effects were not such as had been contended for by the advocates of the present system. Believing, then, that they gave no additional security for maintaining our naval supremacy, he would deem it his duty to vote for the Bill as it now lay on their Lordships' table.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, he would not have addressed the House unless to place, he hoped clearly, before their Lordships the exact position in which the House stood, not only in respect to the Amendment of the noble Lord near him (Lord Stanley); but in respect to the three several propositions made by the Government, by the noble Lord near him, and by the noble Lord on the cross benches (Lord Wharncliffe). As the House had sanctioned the second reading of the Bill, it was to be concluded that their Lordships were of opinion that alterations ought to take place in the navigation laws. Her Majesty's Government, the noble Lord near him, and the noble Lord on the cross benches, had all concurred in this; but the opinion of those who opposed the Bill as it now stood was, that there should be in the Bill some provisions in favour of the principle of reciprocity; that there should be given by the Bill some means of inducing foreign countries to make concessions equivalent, or at any rate reciprocal, to those which it was proposed to make in their favour by their relaxation of your navigation laws. This was proposed to be done in three different ways. First, it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that the Acts affecting a great part of the British navigation should be repealed; but they reserved to themselves this power, in regard to prohibitions and restrictions 749 as to the voyages of British vessels and the articles they imported, that it should be lawful for Her Majesty to impose such restrictions and prohibitions in this country upon the vessels of foreign countries, and the articles imported by them, as in the ports of those countries were imposed upon British ships and articles of importation. He begged their Lordships to observe the wording of the clause as proposed by Her Majesty's Government. This power only arose under the circumstances that there was in the foreign country a prohibition or restriction upon the voyages that British ships might make, or upon the articles of commerce that British ships might carry for importation. Her Majesty's Ministers had not looked so carefully to the wording of their proposition as his noble Friend on the cross bench had to the wording of his. Provided there was no plain prohibition or restriction on British ships, or the articles imported in British ships, there would be no power under the Government proposition. There might be every sort of injury inflicted in the shape of duty; there might be an indirect refusal of the rights of the most favoured nation, and nothing could be done. His noble Friend on the cross bench had provided for all those cases. But again, let their Lordships observe the power that the Government had of placing what restriction they pleased upon articles imported in the ships of foreign States which should not place us in a position of reciprocity. There was no mention of the repealed Acts. Their power was to be regulated only by all the acts of foreign States, all of which they might import into our legislation. They were, in fact, bound to do so, because the clear direction of the clause was, that the Government should place foreign ships in our ports in precisely the same circumstances as British ships were in the ports of the various foreign States. They must, therefore, adopt the legislation of all those foreign countries; and he begged their Lordships to see what the consequences would be. There was at present but one code of laws applicable to all: there would then be a different code applicable to each particular foreign State; and these codes would not be found in any published Act of Parliament to which merchants could refer for information, but only in the Orders of Council. Such was the simplicity of the system which Her Majesty's Ministers were desirous of establishing. The Amendment of his noble Friend on the cross bench (Lord Wharncliffe) re- 750 quired that which it would certainly take some time to prepare. He required that in every case where there were restrictions or prohibitions in foreign States upon the voyages of British ships, or upon articles on which there should be any variety of duty, by which there should be any direct or indirect preference given to the national over the British ships, or in which British ships were not altogether placed under circumstances of the most favoured nation, the whole commercial code of every such foreign nation which did not exactly correspond with our legislation, should, in a series of Orders in Council be published for the information of every merchant and shipowner. That done, Her Majesty in Council was to be empowered to suspend the repeal of our Navigation Acts as regarded such foreign State. That was his noble Friend's proposition, and although the power granted under this proposition was more limited than that contained under the proposal of Her Majesty's Government, it was attended with this great evil, that there would be no end to the variety of legislation which must be introduced under such a power. He next begged leave to lay before their Lordships the difference that existed between those two propositions and that of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) which was then before them. In the first place, he thought there were very serious constitutional objections to doing that by Order in Council which could be done otherwise and as well by Act of Parliament. It was a novel system of modern times, and one to be repudiated, not followed as an example. It was a transference of the legislative power, which, except under extreme circumstances, their Lordships were not authorised to make. The Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) dealt very carefully in giving any power to Her Majesty in Council. His noble Friend said," If it should be made to appear to Her Majesty that any foreign country was willing to concede to the ships of this country the like privileges and advantages as were enjoyed by the ships of such foreign countries, or anything equivalent thereto, Her Majesty in such case might declare as follows," &c. Now, he begged their Lordships to observe, that by such a clause the only point on which discretion was given to Her Majesty in Council was, to decide what advantages should be considered to be equivalent to those which had been offered. Their Lordships would therefore 751 observe, how very limited was the power proposed to be granted to Her Majesty in Council by the proposition of his noble Friend. It would be incorrect to say that their Lordships had then to decide between the plan of Her Majesty's Ministers and the amended plan of his noble Friend. It was not so. The principle being established that Her Majesty should be authorised to ascertain what foreign Powers were willing to make concessions, and that she should be empowered to grant privileges in return, the Amendment of his noble Friend merely affirmed the naked principle; and the mode which he (the Earl of Ellenborough) thought he had pointed out was a more convenient one of arriving at that which Her Majesty's Ministers proposed than either theirs or that of his noble Friend on the cross benches; but it was open to any noble Lord to specify the relaxations of the existing code, which he would be willing to make. He had thus endeavoured shortly and clearly to place before their Lordships the exact position in which they stood. Any one could see the three courses of proceeding before them, but he could hardly see how they could hesitate to adopt the proposition of his noble Friend, which ran most directly and most certainly to that which was their Lordships' avowed object.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that after the two last speeches of noble Lords on the opposite benches, he could not avoid offering a few observations to their Lordships. His noble Friend who had last addressed them had dexterously endeavoured to detach from the Amendment of the noble Lord all the words that followed those particular ones which he had quoted; but he had left untouched and unanswered the speech of his noble Friend the noble Earl near him, who had clearly shown the inconsistency of the Amendment, and the inconveniences which might arise from its wording. The consequences that might follow from its adoption, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should presently state, or perhaps only restate. The noble Earl said, that there was nothing of difference between the different parties in the House, but upon the mode of adjusting the principle of reciprocity. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) utterly denied it. He thought the Bill would be utterly insignificant if that were all. There was this essential difference between the two plans, that by the Government Bill they removed all the restrict- 752 tions that they could, and kept none but those that were imposed by necessity upon them; whilst the noble Lord strove to keep all the restrictions he could, except those which he was driven from by force of circumstances that he could not resist. By the Amendment of the noble Lord, he felt many of the restrictions which were most injurious to the commerce of the country, exactly where he found them. The noble Earl who had spoken last contended, that, if the Bill passed, we should be left at the mercy of any foreign Power to restrict and impair our commerce. The noble Earl must have read the Bill very imperfectly, or he would have found that there was a clause to guard against that very contingency. If the noble Earl had not read the Bill, others of their Lordships also might not have read it; and he must, therefore, tell those who believed it possible that Her Majesty was deprived by this Bill of the means of resenting such conduct on the part of any other Power, that they were mistaken, and he would read the clause. The following was the 10th Clause of the Bill, as follows:—And be it enacted, That in case it shall be made to appear to Her Majesty that British vessels are subject in any foreign country to any prohibitions or restrictions as to the voyages in which they may engage, or as to the articles which they may import into or export from such country, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, if she thinks fit, by order in Council, to impose such prohibitions or restrictions upon the ships of such foreign country, either as to the voyages in which they may engage, or as to the articles which they may import into or export from any part of the united kingdom, or of any British possession in any part of the world, as Her Majesty may think fit, so as to place the ships of such country on as nearly as possible the same footing in British ports as that on which British ships are placed in the ports of such country.That clause met the particular case referred to by the noble Earl. But that was not all. The 11th Clause ran thus:—And be it enacted, That in case it shall be made to appear to Her Majesty that British ships are either directly or indirectly subject in any foreign country to any duties or charges of any sort or kind whatsoever, from which the native vessels of such country are exempt, or that any duties are imposed upon articles imported or ex-ported in British ships, which are not equally imposed upon the like articles imported or exported in national vessels, or that any preference whatsoever is shown, either directly or indirectly, to national vessels over British vessels, or to articles imported or exported in national vessels over the like articles imported or exported in British vessels, or that British trade and navigation is not placed by such country upon as advantageous a footing as the trade and navigation of the most 753 favoured nation, then and in any such case it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, if she thinks fit, by order in Council, to impose such duty or duties of tonnage upon the ships of such nation entering into or departing from the ports of the united kingdom, or of any British possession in any part of the world, or such duty or duties on all goods, or on any specified classes of goods, imported or exported in the ships of such nation, as may appear to Her Majesty justly to countervail the disadvantages to which British trade or navigation is so subjected as aforesaid.Never was a better safeguard provided than these clauses afforded against the contingency imagined by the noble Earl. The Bill of the Government set out with laying down a broad line of policy, which they were prepared to adopt as laying a broad foundation for the interests of commerce in this country; but after giving every attention to the Amendment, and listening to the arguments in support of it, he could not but feel that the noble Lord, after holding out certain polar stars by which he was to guide them in the system of change which he proposed—namely, that of free, open, and complete reciprocity, persuaded that in universal reciprocity would be found the best security for the commerce, the prosperity, ay, and for the Navy of this country—had to a certain degree sacrificed his own principles, for the changes themselves were inconsistent with the considerations the noble Lord had put forth. One great object, for instance, was to give satisfaction to Canada, and for that he would make an infraction of the navigation laws, and abandon, pro tanto, the interests of British seamen, which, according to his hypothesis, were involved in every departure from the navigation laws. But who would believe that Canada, having once tasted of one specific facility, would not claim bit by bit—what we should be forced to concede—the complete navigation of the St. Lawrence free to all ships and accessible to all countries? As regarded the united States, while the noble Lord taxed the Government with giving everything away to them, the fact actually was that by his Amendment the United States would derive greater advantages than any other country. They were the favourites of the noble Lord, and the House must observe that of all countries the most favoured was the united States, and that without any provision for a return. But, while giving these advantages to America, and endeavouring to satisfy Canada, the Amendment would give just case of dissatisfaction to colonies equally attached to the mother country, but which were not to participate 754 in these privileges, because the noble Lord was determined not to allow them, except in cases where the noble Lord thought an immediate gain could be made, unheeding that general gain and advantage which would be derived. The noble and learned Lord opposite had spoken contemptuously of statistics; but he would remind that noble and learned Lord, that if any statement founded on statistics in connexion with the present Bill remained unshaken, it was that statement that under treaties now existing, by which this country enjoyed no protection, she nevertheless monopolised the greater part of the commerce of the north of Europe; and this advantage, in his belief, she would infallibly lose if the proposed Amendment were agreed to. The extension of our warehousing system was one of the great objects of the Bill. If the gradual growth and development at its different stages of the warehousing system in this country were looked to, it would be found that every increase in that system had been attended with a corresponding effect, tenfold, upon the prosperity and wealth of this country; and the tendency of the present Bill would be to promote that system, inasmuch as it would bring the vessels of other countries, which would be excluded by the Amendment of the noble Lord, to the British shores, conveying the produce of Asia, Africa, and America for the purpose of being warehoused in this country, and afterwards distributed through Europe. Would not this contribute more to the gain and advantage of British shipping than that partial exclusion of foreign vessels which it was now possible to enforce? The noble Lord said that the Bill had not the general assent of this country; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) believed, historically speaking, that no measure advantageous to the commerce of this country was ever adopted by Parliament which could be said to have the assent of the mass of the people of this country, if the sense of the people were to be collected from public demonstrations and petitions. However, with respect to this particular measure, he conceived that, as its provisions were considered, even in the outports, the feeling against it was disappearing. Much had been said with respect to Liverpool; and in reference to the petition which he presented from that city, he had not stated the petitioners to be such a mere representation of the mass as might be obtained by counting the persons who signed; but he had said that the peti- 755 tion represented the opinion of a great many most intelligent and enlightened mercantile men in that city. With respect to Glasgow, he would state what had recently occurred there, on the authority of a newspaper devoted to the cause of protection, and opposed to the repeal of the navigation laws. The noble Marquess here quoted a paragraph, setting forth that a meeting had been convened in the Merchants' Hall for the double purpose of forming a reciprocity association, and petitioning against the Bill for the repeal of the navigation laws; and it appeared that the attendance did not amount to more than 150 individuals, including 12 reporters; and out of seven persons on the platform, not more than two had the slightest interest in shipping. The arguments against the present measure which assumed to he great and overpowering, sank into insignificance when used in application to any similar question on a small scale. He had, within a day or two, read something relating to an inquiry respecting navigation on a small scale, which had brought out the same opinions and arguments as had been used in opposition to the present Bill. He referred to an inquiry respecting the navigation of the Tyne; and, in the course of the investigation, a great authority, bearing no less a title than the Ruler of the Pilots, denounced a cause of decay with respect to the interests of the Tyne and the interests of the pilots; and that was the circumstance that, as he had reason to believe, the corporation of Newcastle were about to put up an illuminated clock at night. The Ruler of the Pilots said, that when that was done, strangers would be able to come up the Tyne without pilots, and that therefore the clock should be put down, for that the pilots, who were dear and necessary to Englishmen, ought to be protected. These sentiments would appear ridiculous if uttered before a Committee of their Lordships; but they were exactly the same as had been expressed in opposition to the present Bill; for, while regarding the interests of individuals, the interest of the country at large seemed to be disregarded. The object of this Bill was to contribute to the extension and maintenance of the commerce of the world, which, when promoted, could not fail, sooner or later, by quick or by slow degrees, to advance the general prosperity of the finance, the customs, the excise, and all those interests of this country to which the noble and learned Lord had adverted. He (the Marquess of Lans- 756 downe) hoped that, whatever other amendments their Lordships might adopt, they would reject the amendments of the noble Lord opposite, which were proposed—the one now before them in conjunction with the rest—for the purpose of narrowing to the greatest degree the benefits of this measure, and that they would with a good grace assent to those relaxations which, if they now refused, they might afterwards with a bad grace be compelled to yield.
§ On Question, House divided:—Con-tents, 103; Not Contents, 116: Majority against the Amendment, 13.758
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Anglesey||Archbishop of York|
|Fortescue||Howard de Walden|
|Morley||Stuart de Decies|
|Oxford||Saye and Sele|
|Earl of Enniskillen||Lord Cloncurry|
|Earl of Erne||Earl of Gosford|
|Earl of Rosslyn||Lord Suffield|
|Lord Farnham||Earl of Leitrim|
|Earl of Lauderdale||Lord Belhaven|
|Lord Douglas||Lord Holland|
|Viscount St. Vincent||Earl of Auckland|
|Duke of Athol||Lord Stafford|
|Lord Bagot||Earl Radnor|
|Lord Gray||Marquess of Conyngham|
|Lord Lorton||Lord Dacre|
|Lord Castlemaine||Lord De Freyne|
|Earl Brownlow||Marq. of Northampton|
|Lord Sherborne||Lord Churchill|
|Viscount O'Neill||Viscount Massareene|
|Duke of Rutland||Lord Wenlock|
|Lord Saltoun||Duke of Roxburgh|
|Viscount Canterbury||Viscount Clifden|
|Bishop of Bath and Wells||Bishop of Salisbury|
|Viscount Beresford||Earl Cornwallis|
|Bishop of Bangor||Bishop of London|
|Bishop of Llandaff||Bishop of Hereford|
|Lord Bayning||Bishop of Norwich|
|Earl Darnley||Bishop of Ripon|
|Marquess of Ailesbury||Earl De Grey|
|Earl of Tankerville||Earl Howe|
|Earl Somers||Lord Heytesbury|
|Earl of Dartmouth||Marquess of Ormonde|
|Earl of Chesterfield||Lord Mostyn|
|Earl Digby||Duke of Somerset|
|Duke of Beaufort||Earl of Cork|
|Earl of Ranfurley||Earl Pembroke|
|Earl of Rosse||Lord Cremorne|
|Lord Willoughby de||Lord Manners|
|Earl of Munster||Duke of Sutherland|
|Bishop of Rochester||Lord Denman|
|Viscount Hereford||Lord Dunfermline|
|Lord Templemore||Lord Abercromby|
|Earl of Clare||Earl of Ripon|
|Viscount Exmouth||Lord Portman|
|Earl of Orkney||Lord Langdale|
|Earl Beverley||Lord Rossmore|
|Earl of Roden||Earl Lovelace|
|Earl Beauchamp||Earl of Ellesmere|
|Duke of Manchester||Archbishop of Dublin|
|Earl of Winchilsea||Earl of Uxbridge|
|Earl of Longford||Earl of Gainsborough|
|Earl of Banden||Earl of Wicklow|
§ House resumed.
said, after the decision the Committee had just come to, he would not offer any further opposition to the repeal of the 8th and 9th Vict., c. 88, which he wished merely to see amended. He would, however, have some observations to offer on other provisions of the Bill.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.