§ Order of the Day for the House to be again put into Committee, read.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ The first Clause having been proposed,
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
rose to move an Amendment to the effect that the Bill, instead of coming into operation on the 1st of January, 1850, should come into operation on the 1st of January, 1851. Their Lordships had heard the prayer of the petition from the Committee of the General Shipowners' Society, which his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) had that evening presented to their Lordships, which prayed for an extension of the time for the commencement of the operation of this Bill; they had stated substantial reasons for their request. He was now about to move an Amendment in conformity with the prayer of that petition, and he requested the attention of their Lordships whilst he stated his reasons for so doing. He begged them to observe, in the first place, that his Amendment did not bear upon the principle of the present Bill; on the contrary, it was ancillary to it. It was admitted that one of the chief objects of the measure was to diminish the rates of freight; and it was contended that the greater was the competition between the shipping of foreign States and the shipping of this country, the greater would be the diminution of the rate of freight generally; and it was stated that the British shipowners had the means of diminishing their expenditure at once, so as to enable them to compete with the foreign shipowners 876 upon equal terms, before the Act came into operation. That was altogether a misconception, because the foreigners employed to a greater extent than we do machinery as a substitute for manual labour, and their vessels are fitted with small sails and small masts, and it would take some time before the British shipowners could adopt the same economical means of navigation. In order to make due preparations for the operation of the Bill, time ought to be granted. The time afforded by the Bill was only seven months; but during that period a large number of British vessels would not have arrived from distant places abroad, and, therefore, there would be no means of making changes in the modes of sailing and manning them. In a foreign port they could not reduce the size of their masts and spars, nor the number of men on board their ships. Let their Lordships also observe what was the reduction in the number of men to be made by the owners of British vessels, to enable them to compete successfully with the owners of foreign vessels. It was computed that five men were employed in every British vessel to every 100 tons; whilst in the foreign vessel only three or four men were employed to the same amount of tonnage. It was likewise computed that the British shipowners now employed 230,000 seamen; but that number he conceived to be exaggerated. Assuming, however, the number to be 230,000, there must be a reduction of one-fifth of that number by the British shipowners, in order to place them on an equality with the foreigner; or, in other words, 47,500 British sailors must be thrown out of employment. He hoped that their Lordships, when they reflected that 47,500 British sailors must be thrown out of employment, in order to carry into effect the economical arrangements now proposed, would, in mercy to all the parties interested, give them a sufficiently long time for preparation, so that they might be absorbed gradually into other occupations by the reduction being made gradually too. He had observed that a large proportion of British shipping would not return from the voyages in which they were engaged before the 1st of January, 1850. He could not state with exactness what that proportion was, but it would include all the tonnage engaged in the Indian and Australian trade, which, from the great demand for shipping for California, might even undertake that distant voyage before it returned 877 to this country. If, by the 1st of January, 1850, their Lordships admitted foreign competition in ports at a distance from this country, from which British vessels could not depart before that day, they would bring into competition with them, even in such distant quarters as Calcutta, an immense mass of foreign shipping. There were not less than 200,000 tons of American shipping in California, which might return by the port of Calcutta, and there be brought into competition with the tonnage of this country; and he called upon the House to consider what would be the effect of this sudden competition from the Americans in the freight market of India upon the trade with Australia. Our own vessels carried out emigrants to that dependency, and they could only find return cargoes by going to the ports of India; but there again they would meet with American tonnage from California, and would be unable to find the remunerating freights they expected there. Upon these special grounds, he thought that Her Majesty's Government would be acting wisely if it consented to a considerable prolongation of the term proposed in the present Bill. There were, however, other reasons for it. Ministers had introduced into the Bill a clause enabling them, as a retaliatory measure, to impose certain prohibitions upon foreign vessels, in order to compel foreign Governments to grant to British subjects the same relaxations of commercial restriction which we were prepared to grant to them. He thought that it would be much better to accomplish this object by previous negotiations with foreign countries. Look at the condition of the nations of Europe at the present moment, and consider the disturbed position in which every one of them was now placed. Was there the slightest chance that, occupied as they then were with domestic dissensions, they would have time to attend to our commercial suggestions, and to make with us satisfactory commercial treaties? If then they wished to avoid retrograding in their course—if they wished to form fair, and equitable, and amicable arrangements with the foreigner, Ministers would want additional time for the purpose; for seven months were evidently not sufficient for the formation of so many and such important treaties. He, moreover, thought it advisable that this Act should come into operation during the Bitting, and as it were in the presence, of Parliament, in order that Ministers might 878 be stimulated to carry forward their negotiations with foreign Powers to a successful termination; but even under the operation of such a stimulus, the term of seven months would be insufficient for the formation of the necessary treaties, and he might even propose to prolong the period for negotiation to a later period than the 1st of January, 1851. He also contended that it was not fair to place the shipowners of a country where every article used in shipbuilding was subject to high duties, in competition with the shipowners of a foreign country where almost every such article was free from all duties whatsoever. He, therefore, considered that it was necessary for the shipowner of this country to reduce the high duties on timber and other articles which acted as a restriction on competition with foreign shipowners, on whom no such duties were imposed. But, as this could not be done in time for the first operation of the new system if the present time were retained in the Bill, the consequence would be a claim for drawback on the duties paid for the time previous. Such a claim was founded on justice when the British shipowners were about to be placed in competition with the foreigner on whom these duties did not press; for, by the Act now on the table, the Government would interfere with the building of ships for the present year. But whatever the Government might do in regard to duties which would thus be overpaid, he hoped they would go as far as they could, and that, for the future at least, these duties would not be required to be paid. There was another reason why the time should be prolonged to which he wished to call the attention of their Lordships. It was requisite to make some alteration in the system of appointing masters to British vessels. There was a return laid before Parliament, some time ago, containing the opinion of the British Consuls, in answer to a circular from the Government, concerning the character of the masters and seamen of British vessels. As to that report, he did not think it impossible that there might not be some exaggeration; but he did believe also, that in that report was to be found a great deal of truth, and he thought it was absolutely necessary for shipowners, if they were to compete with foreigners, to pay attention, more than ever they had paid, to the competency and character of the masters. However, a master with the qualifications proper to his place must be well paid; and 879 how could the owner do that if his ship were not well freighted? But, under any circumstances, whatever they might think of these various measures suggested by him as necessary to the thorough efficiency of our marine, the public had a right to be satisfied that our ships were under the command of men who, in previous examinations, had given evidence of their competence and nautical knowledge. He could not help reminding their Lordships that in the case of one of Her Majesty's ships being lost, the captain, officers, and crew were brought before a court-martial, where they were called upon to give a reason for the loss of the ship; and if they could not account for the result, they were liable to whatever punishment the court might award. Why should not the same course be pursued with the mercantile marine? Why should the lives of Her Majesty's subjects be endangered through the gross ignorance or the gross neglect of a master incompetent for his duty? But besides, even if convicted, the master only was liable to imprisonment; whereas, not the master only, but the men were in fault also, and the man who employed such a master was in fault. In all cases of bad character, of drunkenness, of gross neglect, or gross ignorance, having led to the loss of the ship, he would have either the shipowner fined, or, which would be far better and more effectual, the insurance ought to be voided, and the shipowner allowed to derive no benefit from the insurance. As it was, the underwriter at present never looked at the character of the master, he considered only the character of the ship, and, without reference to the probable incompetence of the master, made his calculations on the general average of losses for a certain period. Having laid these suggestions and considerations before their Lordships, he asked again how it was possible for the Bill to come into efficient operation within seven months from this time, without inflicting injury and great discouragement in British shipping, and he hoped their Lordships would agree to his Amendment.
§ The Amendment having been put,
§ EARL GREY
trusted that their Lordships would not agree to the proposed Amendment. He could not, however, help remarking that in the course of the protracted debates on this Bill, he had heard no speech so much in its favour as that of the noble Earl who had brought forward that Amendment. In the first place, the 880 noble Earl had admitted that the reports which had been made by our consuls to the effect that our commercial marine was in an unsatisfactory state, which reports had been so severely and so repeatedly attacked in the course of these discussions, were, though in some points exaggerated, in the main true. He fully concurred with the noble Earl upon that point, for he had heard from many officers in the Royal Navy that the mercantile navy was in a most unsatisfactory state. The best British ships and the best British commanders were undoubtedly superior to those of foreign nations; but he believed that a great number of our ships were very unsatisfactorily commanded, and that that circumstance arose from the want of competition. The noble Earl had said that it was necessary that certain economical arrangements should be made by which British ships should be enabled to carry freights at lower rates than those which they now required; and had added, that the changes in the present arrangements of British vessels were so certain of being made, that the delay of one year in the passing of this Bill would bring them all into effect. Now, if these statements were correct—if the result of our system had been to encourage on the part of the British shipowner a want of economy in rigging, manning, and sailing his vessels, and there had been a want of evidence to prove that our close system did not give encouragement to, or produce, able masters and sailors, it was supplied by the noble Earl, when he said that underwriters were left entirely at the mercy of the ignorant, or drunken, or reckless masters of vessels. Though he felt that the improvements suggested by the noble Earl were highly necessary, he could not admit that they were improvements to such an extent as would authorise their Lordships to postpone the operation of this Bill for another year in order to make them. First of all, he must repeat what he said upon a former night, that when he saw British ships competing successfully with foreign ships in certain trades under every disadvantage, he could see no reason why, if they used the proper means, they could not compete with foreigners as successfully in other trades. He had further to observe, that even if he were to adopt the noble Earl's rule, and were to admit that improvement could be carried as far as the noble Earl wished it to be carried, there was still no necessity for this delay—and for this reason, that hitherto 881 foreign ships had only been built to the amount requisite for the service which they had to perform between other countries and their own, so that in no foreign country was there at present a large surplus of shipping which could perform the service now performed by British shipping. Whatever danger there might be hereafter, even supposing him to admit, for the sake of argument, that foreigners might build and sail their ships cheaper than we could, and so ultimately drive us out of the market hereafter, yet until they had built ships to carry freights now carried by British shipping, it would be impossible for foreign to supersede British vessels. The noble Earl had mentioned one circumstance in the course of his speech which, of itself, ought to facilitate the passing of this Bill. He had told their Lordships that California had taken 200,000 tons of American shipping from Calcutta. Now, admitting such to be the fact, he must point out to their Lordships that this trade with California was a new source of traffic for the marine world—that it was a voyage of four or five months from the American ports of the Atlantic to Calcutta—and that this amount of tonnage was withdrawn from the general market of the civilised world. If their Lordships passed this Bill, and our shipping were allowed to extend its operation to the American trade, the employment of 200,000 tons of American shipping in the Californian trade would open a wide space for British shipping to come in. The same, too, would be the case with the other shipping to which the noble Earl had alluded—he meant that engaged in the trade with Australia. The present, then, was a favourable time for the change of the law. The tumults and commotions to which the noble Earl had alluded as raging in every nation on the continent of Europe, had given a check to shipbuilding, and indeed to every species of trade in foreign countries. Every one of those countries felt the consequences of those disturbances; and hence he conceived that British shipping might calculate before long on a great increase of employment. The noble Earl had also told them that the Crown had the power of retaliating on foreign Powers if they would not enter with us into reciprocity treaties; and had said that it was desirable before the Act came into operation that the British Government should make conventions with foreign Powers, in order to avoid the necessity of carrying into effect its prohibitory provisions. Now, the noble Earl entirely 882 overlooked the fact that at present the majority of foreign States had made, or were about to make, all the changes which we had any right to expect. All that the British Government wished to effect by these clauses was to prevent the restrictive system from being adopted by any country that had not yet taken it up. By passing this law, we should pass into the possession of rights in Russia, in the United States, in the Hanse Towns, in Prussia, and in Holland; without any delay for negotiations with foreign Powers, we had only to pass this Act in order to place our commerce at once on a most satisfactory footing. Facts like these were strong arguments against the Amendment of the noble Earl. There was one consideration, however, and that a most important one, to which the noble Earl had not adverted, and that was, that if we made this change at all, we ought to make it as soon as possible. First of all, the experience of commercial changes had sufficiently proved that the apprehension of changes was always more prejudicial to the protected interests than the actual changes themselves. That had been unquestionably the case with respect to the repeal of the corn laws—for it was now admitted on all hands that it would have been much better for the landowners had that repeal come into operation at once instead of being postponed, as it was, for three years. So it would be with the shipowner. If the operation of this Act were suspended for a year and a half, he would suffer great injury from the suspense which would attend him in every transaction. With regard to the colonies, the injury which such suspense would create would be very great indeed. To him, personally, it was a matter of deep regret that this Bill had not passed last year; and it would be matter of still deeper regret if the trade of the St. Lawrence were lost for another year, or even if it were crippled and maimed for this season. The noble Earl had also stated that it was desirable that the Bill should come into operation at a time when Parliament was sitting. Now, it was proposed that it should come into operation on the 1st of January, 1850. That day would be within a short period of the commencement of next Session; and ho, therefore, thought that for that reason, and for the other reasons which he had already mentioned, that day would be the best period that could be named for the Bill to commence its operation.
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE
said, he felt 883 strongly the inconvenience of delay in carrying any change into effect, and therefore he could not vote for the noble Earl's Amendment. But he thought it desirable that the Act should come into operation during the sitting of Parliament, and though he could not concur in the Amendment for the 1st of January, 1851, he would suggest the month of June next year as a safer time than that named in the Bill.
The EARL of GRANVILLE
said, as the desire had been expressed to have the Act come into operation during the sitting of Parliament, he did not see how the 1st of January, 1851, was likely to bring it more within the Session than the 1st of January, 1850. And again, as to the suggestion of June next year, that would be exactly two months after the opening of the St. Lawrence.
§ House divided on the Amendment:—Contents, 44; Non-contents, 56: Majority 12.
|List of the NOT CONTENTS.|
|Wicklow||Saye and Sele|
The EARL of WALDEGRAVE
then moved the following Amendment:—Whereas it is expedient to amend the laws now in force for the encouragement of British shipping and navigation: be it enacted by the Queen's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the first day of September, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty-nine, the following Acts and 884 parts of Acts shall be repealed; (that is to say,) a certain Act passed in the Session of Parliament holden in the eighth and ninth years of the reign of Her present Majesty, intituled 'An Act for the Encouragement of British Shipping and Navigation;' and so much of a certain other Act passed in the said Session of Parliament, intituled 'An Act to regulate the Trade of British Possessions Abroad: 'as provides that no goods shall be imported into or exported from any of the British possessions in America, by sea, from or to any any place other than the united kingdom, or some other of such possessions, except into or from the several ports denominated free ports; and so much thereof as provides for the limitation of the privileges allowed to foreign ships by the law of navigation in respect of importations into the British possessions in Asia, Africa, and America; and so much thereof as provides that no vessel or boat shall be admitted to be a British vessel or boat on any of the inland waters or lakes of America, except such as shall have been built at some place within the British dominions, and shall not have been repaired at any foreign place to a greater extent than in the said Act is mentioned; and so much of a certain other Act passed in the said Session of Parliament, intituled 'An Act for the General Regulation of the Customs; 'as prohibits the importation of train oil, blubber, spermaceti oil, head-matter, skin, bones, and fins, the produce of fish, or creatures living in the sea, unless in vessels which shall have been cleared out regularly with such oil, blubber, or other produce on board from some foreign port; also an Act passed in the thirty-seventh year of the reign of King George III, intituled 'An Act for Regulating the Trade to be carried on with the British Possessions in India by the ships of nations in amity with His Majesty; and so much of a certain Act passed in the Session of Parliament holden in the fourth year of the reign of King George IV., intituled 'An Act to Consolidate and Amend the several Laws now in force with respect to Trade from and to places within the limits of the Charter of the East India Company, and to make further provisions with respect to such Trade, and to amend an Act of the present Session of Parliament for the Registering of Vessels, so far as it relates to Vessels Registered in India,' as enacts that no Asiatic sailors, Lascars, or natives of any of the territories, countries, islands, or places within the limits of the charter of the East India Company, shall at any time be deemed or taken to be British seamen within the intent and meaning of any Act or Acts of Parliament relating to the navigation of British ships by subjects of Her Majesty; and also the following Acts and parts of Acts: so much of a certain Act passed in the fourth year of the reign of King George IV., intituled 'An Act to authorise His Majesty, under certain cireumstances, to regulate the duties and drawbacks on goods imported or exported in foreign vessels, and to exempt certain foreign vessels from pilotage,' as relates to the regulation of duties and drawbacks; also an Act passed in the fifth year of the reign of King George IV., intituled, 'An Act to indemnify all persons concerned in advising, issuing, or acting under a certain Order in Council for regulating the tonnage duties on certain foreign vessels, and to amend an Act of the last Session of Parliament, for authorising His Majesty, under certain circumstances, to regulate the duties and drawbacks on 885 goods imported or exported in any foreign vessels; 'also so much of an Act passed in the Session of Parliament holden in the fifth and sixth years of the reign of Her present Majesty, intituled, 'An Act to amend the laws for the importation of Corn,' as enables Her Majesty, under certain circumstances, to prohibit the importation of corn, grain, meal, or flour from the dominions of certain foreign Powers.The address in which the noble Earl supported his Amendment was inaudible.
The EARL of GRANVILLE
begged to assure the noble and gallant Earl that he by no means undervalued the importance of the Amendment which he had proposed to their Lordships, while he proceeded shortly to state the objections which he entertained to its adoption. It was satisfactory to him to find that the noble and gallant Earl, after the great attention which he had paid to the subject, which must be so interesting to him, and with the great advantages derived from his professional education, was quite convinced that the British shipbuilder was able to compete with the shipbuilders of all other nations; and produce ships as good as and cheaper than any. He was not quite prepared to admit that if the foreigner built ships better and cheaper than our own, it would be completely to the disadvantage of our commercial or the Royal Navy to profit by that cheapness; he was rather inclined to agree with an American writer, that any country wishing' to have naval supremacy, and having in view the necessity of employing seamen, should, as a cardinal point, go wherever it could obtain the cheapest ships. Even if ships could be obtained cheaper abroad, this country would still enjoy an enormous advantage in that which had been described before their Committee as the most profitable part of the shipbuilder's trade—the repairing of ships, on account of our great superiority over all other countries in dry docks. He felt, however, that it was unnecessary for him to follow out that argument, for he entirely agreed with the noble and gallant Earl that we could build ships as well and as cheaply as any country. He believed no attempt had been made to deny that ships could be built for as little money in the North American colonies as in any place in the world. He would not, on the present occasion, trouble their Lordships with any more statistics; but he thought that the conduct of Messrs. Wigram and Green, whom a noble Lord had mentioned as able to compete with the whole world, in paying three times as much in the river 886 Thames as what they could get a ship built for in the American colonies, or twice as much as they could get one built for in Sunderland, could not be taken as a guide, for they ought to distinguish between the money value and the real value of a ship. An experiment had been made, from the presumed cheapness of the place, to build ships at Bombay, but it had turned out a complete failure. We had been compelled to resort to this country as really the most economical place for building ships of war. The fact was, we had all the elements of shipbuilding cheaper here; and in support of this assertion he might refer to the fact, that of almost all those materials we were an exporting nation. We certainly did not export timber; but of good timber, for instance, our own oak, African teak, mahogany, and all descriptions of articles required for the best ships, we had a most abundant supply. In the beginning of the evening a noble Earl alluded to the difficulty which the shipowner suffered from the duty upon foreign timber. Now he really thought that this part of the question had been very much overstated. He heard the other evening the evidence of Mr. Young cited, in which that gentleman stated that in a ship of 500 tons, which he had to build at a cost of 8,200l., the whole cost of the foreign timber employed amounted only to 308l.; and he believed that Mr. Money Wigram stated he believed 3s. 6d. per ton to be the total amount of the difference imposed by the duty on foreign timber. He had lately had an opportunty of seeing a calculation, which he was sure had been drawn up with great care, and in which the sum had rather been overstated than understated; and this showed that the whole amount of duty levied upon timber consumed in shipbuilding did not amount to more than 30,000l. a year. But when they were considering the question of the duty on timber, their Lordships ought to take into account the duties which other countries thought fit to impose upon shipbuilding materials. If they would refer to Mr. Minturn's evidence, they would find instances stated in which 5 per cent was levied on copper, 20 per cent on sailcloth, and 30 per cent on iron. He had seen the other day an extract from a memorial proceeding from the Dantzic merchants, addressed to the Assembly at Frankfort, for relief from the enormous duty imposed on iron, which showed by a very long calculation that the duty in question increased the expense of building 887 a German ship by 9 per cent. Therefore, they might dismiss the question of duty as weighing so heavily on the British ship-owners. But if we could build ships as well and as cheaply as foreigners, he might be asked what would be the use of repealing these laws? To such a question he would answer that that repeal would destroy a monopoly which in that instance, as in many other instances, had been injurious not only to the community at large, but also to the parties whose interests it more immediately affected. The most respectable shipowners had stated, in evidence before the Committees of the two Houses of Parliament, that the same amount of work could not be obtained from the shipwrights of this country, on account of the combination among them, which was obtained from the shipwrights of America; and that fact afforded, in his opinion, a sufficient proof that the existing monopoly had operated disadvantageously. He confessed that, under the proposed alteration of the law, he saw no grounds for the apprehensions which some noble Lords entertained, when he recollected that there prevailed in this country, among all classes, a natural aptitude for maritime pursuits, which had hitherto enabled us, and which, he believed, would continue to enable us, to compete with every nation in the world.
The DUKE of NORTHUMBERLAND
said, that as he had already presented several petitions from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and other places, expressing the great alarm which the measure of Her Majesty's Government had created among all parties connected with the shipping interest, he wished to take that opportunity of stating that he had since received the most ample assurances that that alarm still continued undiminished. As an officer in the Navy, he felt great apprehensions that the measure as it then stood would increase the difficulty of manning our men of war. Now, there were not many among their Lordships who were fully aware how painful impressment was under any circumstances; but from his own experience he could assure them that it was the most painful of all the duties that devolved on a naval officer. No one entertained a greater horror of impressment than he did; and he was decidedly opposed to the present measure because he believed it would aggravate that evil. It appeared to him to be manifest that the Bill would place the English shipowner under a great disadvantage as compared with his foreign rival. 888 There could be no doubt but that ships could be built at one-third or one-fourth less cost in New Brunswick than in England; and he supposed it could not be denied that they could also be built more cheaply in Boston, which was in the neighbourhood of New Brunswick, than in this country. The owner of a ship built in Boston would, however, not only obtain it at a cheaper rate than his English rival, but he would also be able to employ it much more advantageously, both in time of peace, and in time of war. In time of peace, the American shipowner sailing from Liverpool to New York, might, on his arrival in the latter city, trade along the American coast, while the English shipowner, after having reached New York, might be compelled to bring his vessel home in ballast. That clearly would give the American shipowner a considerable advantage in time of peace. Then again, in time of war, the English shipowner might be exposed to the great loss and inconvenience of being compelled to wait for a convoy, and sailing with that convoy for many weeks; and further, the English shipowner would have to incur the heavy expense of insuring his vessel against the enemy. Such were the disadvantages to which our shipowners would be exposed in time of war, as compared with their American rivals. He certainly should feel it his duty to support the Amendment of the noble Earl opposite; and he would remind the right rev. Prelate, who had a proposal to make connected with the question of slavery, that that Amendment would greatly tend to promote his object. He believed that our Navy was the only effectual defence of this country, and the only security for the maintenance of our vast colonial possessions. He also believed that the protection of our commercial marine afforded us the best means of ensuring our maritime supremacy; and with these convictions he should oppose the Bill as it then stood, and support the Amendment of the noble Earl.
The EARL of CADOGAN
said, he thought that circumstances justified him, as a naval officer, having served for nearly twenty years, in making some few observations to their Lordships upon a subject affecting that branch of the service. He conscientiously believed that in many countries in the world ships could be built much cheaper than they could be in this country. If this Bill passed, shipowners would proceed to register their vessels in 889 foreign countries, and would man them with foreign seamen. Then, again, what injustice they proposed to inflict upon that most meritorious and excellent class of men, the shipwrights. From 1804 to 1809 the greatest inconvenience was felt in consequence of their being unable to obtain a sufficient number of shipwrights for the dockyards. If this measure passed, a large proportion of the shipwrights would be driven from their present employment, and compelled to seek work abroad; and thus, in the event of a war, the difficulty of obtaining artificers would be increased to such an extent as to threaten our naval supremacy. As a naval officer he could not stand by and see the Navy sacrificed by such a measure as the present.
The EARL of MINTO
considered the noble Earl to have altogether begged the question, when he said that this measure would have the effect of driving away the foreign trade of the country by the competition which would be created by foreign ships. This was entirely assumed, for there was no evidence to justify such an opinion. The noble Duke also said that ships could be so cheaply built at New Brunswick that it was impossible for English shipowners to compete with them; but the ships from New Brunswick could at the present time be admitted with every privilege to English ports, as they could be registered.
The DUKE of NORTHUMBERLAND
explained that he had alluded to ships built at Boston, in Massachusetts, and not to those of New Brunswick. His authority for this statement was the evidence taken before the Committee of that House on the navigation laws.
The EARL of MINTO
was satisfied that the weight of evidence showed that ships could be built as cheaply in this country, if they took into account the wear and tear, and the time they lasted, as they could be in any foreign country. In the United States the wages of the artificers were higher, and, with the exception of one article, timber, the materials for shipbuilding were dearer than in this country. The present clause was a most important part of the Bill for the shipowners, for it would tend to check those combinations of shipwrights which existed to a greater extent in this country than in any other. It would enable them to turn out more ships in times of combination than they could under the existing law.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
said, the noble 890 Earl the Secretary for the Colonies stated the other night that English ships could successfully compete with American ships at Rio; but the fact was directly the contrary to this statement, for in 1847, as well as in other years, the tonnage of the American ships which sailed from Rio Janeiro was more than double that of the English ships from that port. It had been said that the shipowners of this country could build good ships at as cheap a rate as foreigners. No persons certainly built finer ships than Wigram and Green; but what was the nature of the evidence taken before the Committee as to their ships? Mr. Wigram, on being examined before the Committee of the House of Lords, said that the cost of ships built by him varied from 23l. 10s. to 25l. per ton before they were ready for sea; while another witness, Mr. Minturn, an American merchant and shipowner, said they built him such ships in the united States at the cost of 14l. 10s. per ton. Mr. Wigram also said, that if this Bill passed he should compel his captains to take his ships to foreign ports to be repaired, and, if necessary, he would send them out in ballast for that purpose. That gentleman also said, that the effect of the measure would be to ruin the shipbuilding trade in this country; and, therefore, either he should go himself, or he should send one of his sons, to New York to build ships. He added, that he should not purchase American ships, but would have vessels built under his own superintendence. Notwithstanding this strong evidence of this eminent shipbuilder and shipowner, the Government said, that still English ships could successfully compete with those of all foreign nations. If, at any time, it was necessary to break down the combination of the shipwrights, they might resort to the proceeding which was adopted in 1825 and 1826, when the shipowners suffered much from this cause, namely, to allow the Privy Council to issue an Order in Council to grant licenses to shipowners to send their ships to foreign ports to be repaired at such periods of combination. He could not see why they could not introduce a provision to this effect into the Registration Act. One gallant officer, who had been sixty years in the service, and who was examined before the Committee of that House, stated, that from the breaking out of the war, in 1793, the Admiralty were obliged continually to resort to private yards to get assistance in the building of 891 ships of war. The evidence showed that, between 1793 and 1815, not less than 616 vessels of war were built in private yards, of which 56 were ships of the line. If the shipbuilding trade was destroyed, they would be unable to get ships built to enable them to carry on a war. Even so late as 1845, when it became necessary to fit out a number of ships, and bring forward a number of other vessels as ships in advance, they found that the work could not be completed in the Royal dockyards, so that it became necessary to resort to private yards, and amongst others to that of Mr. Wigram, who repaired several large ships of war. He would only add, in conclusion, that he believed that the maintenance of the welfare of the country depended on the continuance of these laws.
§ EARL TALBOT
wished to offer a very few observations in support of the Amendment of his noble Friend. As a naval officer, he felt that he should be wanting in duty to the service if he did not add his humble testimony to the statement as to the great risk which would be incurred in having other than British-built ships registered. The noble Earl had stated that ships could be built as cheaply in this country as abroad, but he had not adduced the slightest evidence to show that this was the case. On the contrary, the evidence taken before the Committee showed that ships could not be built in the river Thames under 22l. 10s. a ton. He might be told, however, that ships were built at Sunderland at a much cheaper rate; but these were vessels of a very inferior class. It was a matter of notoriety that the vessels built by Mr. Green or by Mr. Wigram, were constructed almost entirely of British material, and they were made of great strength, to adapt them for long voyages; but at Sunderland and the other northern ports by far the great proportion of the timber used was foreign growth. The noble Earl seemed to suggest a reduction of the wages of the English shipwrights. He (Earl Talbot) believed the wages of the artisans engaged in shipbuilding were not more than those received by other skilled artisans, such as joiners, machinists, or blacksmiths. In the general run he was satisfied that they did not receive more than other skilled artisans. If the navigation laws were repealed, a large portion of the English mercantile marine would be found sailing under foreign flags; and if a war should then unfortunately break out, we should have large numbers of British 892 seamen fighting against this country. He looked upon the provision of the Bill which would be affected by the Amendment as one of the most important and dangerous in it. He did not know whether that was the proper time to do so; but he must protest against their getting rid of the apprenticeship system in connection with our mercantile marine. There were no very serious complaints of this system, although he admitted that some little inconvenience might occasionally have arisen from it.
§ The EARL of ELLESMERE
said, that, in his opinion, the effect of the present restrictions upon shipping gave to the shipping interest something of the nature of a monopoly; and he was not certain but that the removal of those restrictions would ultimately benefit that numerous and important class whose interests were connected with the shipping of this country. In the course of his experience, he had seen several monopolies broken down, either by legislative enactments or by other means, and the result had been, in most cases, beneficial to those interested in them. He remembered a time when the inland navigation of this country possessed something of a monopoly; and he knew that the effects of the monopoly which it possessed was to make the persons engaged in it lazy, and to prevent a sufficient amount of accommodation being supplied to meet the requirements of the public. The removal of that monopoly, however, gave a stimulus to activity; and although it perhaps reduced to some extent the profits, still it ultimately led to an aggregate increase of the traffic. If he could be persuaded that this measure would weaken the defences of the country, he would feel it his duty to act with his noble friends who opposed the Bill; but, as he did not entertain this opinion, he would give his support to the clause as it stood.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
said, that as reference had been made to Russian shipping, he would refer to a paper which he held in his hand, from which it appeared, that out of 900 ships leaving the port of Rio de Janeiro, there was not a single Russian vessel, though there were among them some belonging to almost every other country in the world. The Russian nation was a nation of serfs, and the only fleet of which they were possessed was in the Black Sea. With regard to vessels employed in the foreign trade, there were some particular trades in which it was desirable to have the best possible 893 ships, while in others, those of a more inferior class would suit. In the case of a vessel of 500 tons, British built, of the highest class, A 1, there would be used a considerably larger quantity of foreign than of British timber; and with respect to the advantage possessed by the British shipbuilder in obtaining his iron and copper for sheathing at a cheaper rate than the foreigner, that was far more than counterbalanced by the advantage possessed by the foreigner with regard to timber.
The EARL of GRANVILLE
wished, upon the subject of the cost of shipbuilding in this as compared with that of other countries, to call their Lordships' attention to the evidence of Mr. R. B. Minturn, a most respectable merchant of the United States. The question put to him was—In what respect should you consider that a ship can be built cheaper in America than in England—where would be the saving? "—" The only item in shipbuilding which to my knowledge is cheaper in America than in England is wood; and this, for ships built in New York, has to bear heavy transportation, much of the timber being brought by sea from Virginia and Florida, and the plank from Lake Erie, a distance of 500 miles. The iron is imported from England, and pays a duty of 30s. besides the expense of importation. Copper is also much higher than in England, and wages are nearly double.Other witnesses gave evidence, also, to the same effect. It had been said, that if ships could be built cheaper in foreign countries than in this, shipowners would go to those countries to purchase them. He did not think that such would necessarily be the result. Under the existing state of things, a considerable number of ships were built in Norway, and then brought over to this country to be sheathed with copper and strengthened with iron "knees;" and he did not think that such an arrangement was a very great disadvantage to the British shipbuilder, although it might, perhaps, be a trifling advantage to the shipowner.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that he thought the low estimate put upon the Russian marine, on the ground of Russia being a nation of "serfs," was one which could scarcely be justified by the facts of the case. There was no doubt that Russia had a considerable fleet in the Black Sea; but that she had none comparatively in the Baltic might be accounted for by the circumstance of the great competition which she met with in that sea. During the last few years, this country had maintained a successful competition even in the Baltic—the number of 894 vessels which had passed the Sound having increased rather than diminished.
§ EARL GREY
said, that he quite agreed in the opinion which had been expressed by a noble Lord as to the desirability of creating a spirit of self-reliance, and wished to see that spirit exercised by those connected with the shipping interests of the country. With regard to the trade with the Baltic, to which reference had been made, the reason why that trade had not increased to so great an extent as that with other portions of the world, admitted of an easy explanation. It was because British shipping was too good for that trade, and it sought more profitable employment elsewhere. Although they had largely increased the amount of their shipping, they could not, unless they wished to monopolise the whole trade of the world, increase it to an equal extent in all parts; and they left that portion of the trade, which was fitted for worse and coarser ships than their own, to their rivals—the better trade was preserved to themselves. The timber trade with the Baltic was carried on in the coarsest and most ordinary ships; while silk from China, and sugar from the colonies, required a better class of ships; and in this trade, in which good ships were required, they contrived to gain an advantage over their competitors. The simple explanation of so small an increase in certain portions of the trade of this country was, that although they had so largely increased their total tonnage, yet, with that increase, their shipping had found more profitable employment in some branches of trade than in others.
would remind the noble Earl who had just resumed his seat, that the sugar from the colonies was entirely confined to British shipping. Their trade with China was also practically confined to British shipping, inasmuch as tea could not be imported into this country by any other ships than by British or Chinese; and, in consequence of this country being the largest consumers in the world of tea, they were able to import it into the country, and export it again in small quantities, as it was required for the consumption of the Continent. The great difficulty in extending their China trade was the small amount of remittances which they were able to make in return. They sent out their goods to China, and, being large consumers of tea, imported it largely into this country in their own ships, and in exchange for British manufactures. Pass 895 this Bill, and the consequence would be that tea might he imported into this country in ships of the United States, and in exchange, not for British, hut for American manufactures of the same description, which they would carry to China, bring hack tea to this country, and return with cargoes of British goods to the United States.
§ After a few words from the EARL of WALDEGRAVE,
§ House divided on the Amendment:—Contents 37; Not contents 49: Majority 12.
|List of the COSTENTS.|
|List of the NOT CONTENTS.|
|Eddisbury||Say and Sele|
said, that after what had taken place, and the extraordinary measures resorted to by the Government to secure a majority, he would no longer oppose the further progress of the measure, but would leave on Her Majesty's Government and their allies the joint responsibility of proceeding with it. In announcing, however, his intention of not moving any other Amendment, he might be, perhaps, permitted, as it was the last occasion on which he should trouble their Lordships in the course of these debates, to advert to one or two points which, he thought, could hardly have been sufficiently considered by Her Majesty's Government. He might, perhaps, also be permitted to say a word or two with respect to an Amendment which he had intended to introduce at a later part of the Bill, and to which he had, therefore, not adverted when he formerly addressed their Lordships. He would not complain of the course taken by Her Majesty's Government, in answering conclusively a speech which had never been made, and arguments which had never been submitted to their Lordships. But he was bound, in answer to what had been advanced by the noble Earl, to explain the Amendment which had reference to the trade of the St. Lawrence—a trade which the noble Earl considered of sufficient importance to justify the destruction of the shipping of this country. The object which he (Lord Stanley) had in view was to meet a reasonable complaint which had been made on the part of the people of Canada. The complaint of the people of Canada was that there were greater facilities now for the transmission of their produce by way of New York than by the St. Lawrence, because at New York they had their choice of an American or a British ship, while from Montreal or Quebec they could only send it by a British ship. He had felt that there was an inequality in these rival routes; and, with the view of promoting the traffic of the St. Lawrence, and of giving the Canadians a freer intercourse with the United States, he proposed to permit Her Majesty to make a treaty with the united States. That object was to be effected, not by enabling ships of all countries to enter the St. Lawrence, but 897 by enabling British or American shipping to convey from either outlet the produce of Canada or of the United States. But then the noble Earl had told him that, while he was endeavouring to do all this for Canada, which the noble Earl said would not satisfy the Canadians, but which he (Lord Stanley) asserted ought to satisfy their reasonable demands, he was leaving the complaints of all the other colonies unredressed. He did not know, however, what other colonies made complaints of the navigation laws. Jamaica asked permission to have goods imported in British or foreign ships, but did not ask to have advantages given to her commercial rivals. Trinidad did not complain of the navigation laws, but of the operation of the Possessions Act upon her trade. He certainly was of opinion that the clause in that Act was very obscurely worded, and he apprehended that the difficulty might have been mot by an alteration in the Possessions Act; but the present Bill would throw open the trade of Trinidad to the unrestricted rivalry and competition of all foreign nations. He did not, however, feel that he should now be warranted in contending against the provisions of the Bill as affecting the colonial trade. But one or two other points he must advert to. At the present moment the renewal of the South Sea whale fishery was held forth as a most important object to the commercial enterprise of this country, and encouragement was about to be given to the British merchant in the prosecution of that object. Some years ago the bounties given for the promotion of the whale fishery were discontinued, and the duties on vegetable oils were taken off altogether; while the Americans, by keeping up a high duty on vegetable oils, and by encouraging the pursuit of the trade in fish oils, had increased that trade enormously. Within ten or fifteen years the American South Sea whale fishery had increased to such an extent that it employed 700 ships and 19,000 seamen, producing an annual value of 1,240,000?.; while, within the same period, the whale fishery of this country had dwindled away till not a single British vessel was employed in it. Mr. Enderby was now going out, to endeavour to restore that trade, though, when this Bill passed, he would prosecute it in foreign ships. As the law now stood, oil could only be entered from the port where it was loaded, and from which the ship cleared out. At present, therefore, the ships belonging to 898 this country would come at once from the fishing ground, while the cargo of their rivals must go to the United States, and thence be brought to this country. Practically this was a very great boon to our own ships; but at the very moment when the attempt was about being made to revive this neglected branch of trade, the Government were, by this Bill, striking off the only advantage which the English shipowner now enjoyed, and bringing him into direct competition with his American rival. It was a self-contradiction in practice. He understood it was the intention of a noble Earl to call the attention of the House to the subject of apprentices. On that question he would not address any observations to their Lordships, because there were other persons who were more competent than himself to do so; but he was sure that they would be told, by one and all, that the most important regulation for the bringing up of seamen for the Royal Navy was that provision which required merchantmen to carry a certain number of apprentices, as they were much better seamen than the boys brought up in the Royal Navy. That provision, however, was about to be abandoned altogether. He would not say one word about the effect which this measure would have on the naval service of this country, particularly after the speech delivered with so much power of language by a noble Duke as to make him regret that one who was so well able to inform and enlighten their Lordships should so seldom address the House. He must remark that one restriction was re-enacted by the present Bill which would operate with greater severity than before. By the existing law, three-fourths of the crew were required to be British seamen; but provided there was one British seaman for every twenty tons, there might be a greater proportion of foreign seamen aboard than one-fourth. The relaxation of this restriction was done away with by the proposed measure. The noble Lord then proceeded to justify the navigation laws as affecting the Lascars, who, he contended, had been legislated for upon the ground of humanity, because they were not by constitution and habits able to bear the hardships to which a British seaman subjected himself at all times. Having made those observations he should not offer any further objection to the Bill in Committee; and he left Her Majesty's Government the under the responsibility of the consequence [...] would follow its adoption.
§ EARL GREY
observed, that though the noble Lord had declared his intention of offering no further opposition to the Bill, he had certainly not abandoned the contest as long as there was any chance of success. Still he would wish to say one or two words. After having heard the noble Lord's explanation with respect to Canada, he must add, that he remained of the same opinion, that the concessions proposed by the noble Lord in favour of Canada would have been entirely futile, and calculated to excite great discontent in that colony. With respect to Trinidad, the noble Lord had admitted the correctness of his statement, and therefore it was not necessary to say more. With regard to the whale fishery, which had died away under a system of restriction, the great benefit of the alteration would be, that it could now be carried on from New Zealand, the Auckland Isles, and Van Diemen's Land, with cheaper ships than could be sent from America; and these places would become the great depôts of the whale fishery, giving us a great advantage over America in carrying on that trade. The noble Lord had stated that Mr. Enderby intended to sail his whale-fishing ships under a foreign flag; but since the second reading of this Bill, as appeared by a City article in a newspaper, there had been a meeting in the City at which Mr. Enderby bad declared that if a proposed company could be organised, he would send out two ships, which would be fitted out in the Thames, he was very happy to hear that no further opposition was intended to be offered to the progress of the Bill through Committee; and as he perceived that this announcement had taken away all interest on the subject, he would not attempt to make any further observations.
§ Clause agreed to; as were other clauses to Clause 8.
§ On Clause 9,
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, that this clause enacted, "that if Her Majesty shall at any time, by Her Royal proclamation, declare that the proportion of British seamen necessary to the due navigation of British ships shall be less than the proportion required by this Act, every British ship navigated with the proportion of British seamen required by such proclamation shall be deemed to be duly navigated, so long as such proclamation shall remain in force." He objected to this clause on the ground that the rule ought to be that no authority should be delegated 900 to Her Majesty in Council which could be as conveniently exercised by Parliament. This power ought not to be given, so that it could be exercised at any other period than in a time of war.
§ EARL GREY
thought it would be found impossible to define the circumstances which, in the apprehension of a war, might render necessary a large augmentation of seamen in the Royal Navy. An immediate increase of the naval force might be required to meet a sudden attack, and the occasion might thereupon occur for the immediate issue of the Royal proclamation. It was a most difficult thing, in fact, to define what was a "state of war," and he thought it would be better to allow the words to remain as they at present stood, not only in the existing Act, but in the Bill now before their Lordships.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
had no objection to the clause remaining as it stood, on the understanding that the power given should never be exercised except in a case of apprehended war.
§ After a few words from the EARL of MINTO,
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 10, which proposes to enact that if British vessels are subject in any foreign country to prohibitions or restrictions, the Queen, by Order in Council, may impose similar prohibitions or restrictions upon the ships of such foreign country,
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE
said, that as he felt that there was no possibility of his succeeding in carrying the Amendment which he had placed upon their Lordships' paper, he would not press it to a division; yet he thought that, though he would not be justified in detaining their Lordships by any lengthened arguments, he should be merely fulfilling his duty by laying before them the reasons which had induced him to bring the proposition before their notice. One of his principal reasons was, that he felt that if they adopted a system of absolute and inflexible reciprocity, it would lead to very great confusion. He owned that it was a most attractive argument that when they conceded privileges to other countries, they had every right to expect that other countries would concede equal privileges to them. He believed, however, that absolute reciprocity was unattainable, and was of opinion that before they removed restrictions it should remain in the power of Her Majesty's Government to communicate with foreign Powers who imposed similar restrictions, in order to ascertain whether 901 they could be induced to remove them. On a previous occasion when he addressed their Lordships, he alluded to a despatch which was written by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in December, 1848. In that despatch it was well known that he had written to the different agents in foreign countries, and had stated the possible advantages which Her Majesty's Government thought this country would derive from others by an alteration in the navigation laws. Now, the language which was contained in his Amendment was strictly in accordance with the language used by Her Majesty's Government in communication with foreign agents. His object was, that the Government should consider, in the first instance, the position in which this country stood with regard to foreign States, and whether they would be justified in demanding the removal of certain restrictions before they gave them any privileges. He would leave Her Majesty's Government to judge of the expediency of asking for restrictions in proper cases. If such cases should arise, and the removal of these restrictions should be refused, then Her Majesty's Government should be at liberty to declare in Council what country or countries should be exempted from the operation of the Act for the repeal of the navigation laws. Now, in the case of Prussia, for instance, it would be advisable that they should obtain the removal of some very partial and unjust restrictions imposed by the Prussian Government, before they made any relaxation which would benefit that country. In the case of America, also, they should obtain the removal of the restrictions imposed with regard to their trading with the colonies of America before they opened their colonies to them. They opened their colonial trade to the Americans, and they had a right to be allowed to carry on the distant trade with California. He should not detain their Lordships any further than by stating that the Amendment, which he declined to press to a division, contained provisions which would very much improve the Bill brought in by Her Majesty's Government if it were adopted.
§ EARL GREY
, whilst doing justice to the motives of his noble Friend, could not concur with him that the Amendment he intended to have proposed would be an improvement upon the Bill—so far as he understood it, it did not appear to differ very materially from the Bill with regard to the powers vested in the Government. The 902 right principle appeared to be, not that because foreign nations acted unwisely and imposed restrictions injurious both to themselves and us, we were to follow their example when we should not gain by doing so; but rather that we should make foreign nations feel that, by our free system, we had the advantage over them, at the same time retaining the power of retaliation for cases where it might be necessary and proper to exercise it. It was quite impossible to act upon the principle of reciprocity; and in a former debate he had mentioned cases where reciprocity was, in fact, a punishment upon ourselves. On the other hand, if no powers were reserved in case foreign countries refused to afford us the benefits we gave them, British shipping would be exposed to a disadvantage. The right principle, then, was to retain a power of retaliation. But the Bill went further than the Amendment. It imposed, under certain circumstances, prohibitions and restrictions; but his noble Friend suggested only to revive the law as it stood before. The powers given under the Bill, therefore, were larger than under the existing law, and most undoubtedly if foreign countries imposed restrictions upon our shipping, those powers would be used. Seeing, then, that the views of his noble Friend did not really differ very much from those of the Government, and that the Bill contained larger powers than he suggested, he was very glad to find that his noble Friend did not mean to press the Amendment.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, he retained the opinion that the proposition of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley) was preferable to that of his noble Friend who had lately spoken; but, looking at the two clauses in the Bill as they at present stood, he thought they were preferable to the proposition made by his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe). He would observe that previous negotiations would not be negatived by the two clauses in the Bill. Now that we were making a concession to the Americans by opening to them the trade of the St. Lawrence, he thought that we ought to negotiate for the purpose of obtaining some equivalent for Canada. Either we must consider Canada—as had hitherto been the case—as a part of this country, and carry on our trade with it as a coasting trade, or we must adopt that different course of conduct which, perhaps, under all circumstances, it might be the most expedient to pursue, that of negotiating 903 for Canada as if it were an independent Power, and endeavouring to obtain for it, in its intercourse with the United States, every advantage which it would have if it were annexed to the United States, and formed part of the Union. He thought it undesirable to go further into the subject, but he could not refrain from impressing on the Government that it ought to be made a subject of negotiation with the United States, that as the most perfect freedom of intercourse between them and the Canadas and this country was conceded to them, they ought to make similar concessions in favour of our North American colonies. We ought to endeavour, whatever might be the prejudices of the population of Canada, and whatever might be the prejudices of the inhabitants of the United States, to bring their minds into that train which would tend to the most free and unrestricted intercourse between them by land as well as by sea. He believed that the time might have arrived when it was necessary to adopt a perfectly novel course of treating the North American colonies. Between the adoption of that course and adherence to the present system, he saw no intermediate line of policy.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
was understood to say, that he agreed entirely in the suggestions of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough), and that it was most desirable that Canada should have nothing to gain by annexation. Our other North American colonies, too, ought to be placed in as favourable a position as Canada. After the explanations of the Government, he thought his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe) was justified in not pressing his Amendment to a division; but the Government ought not to forget that if they had great discretion by the present Bill, they had great responsibility likewise.
§ EARL GREY
was anxious to say, with reference to the observations of the two noble Earls, that the Government was as anxious as possible to relieve intercourse, both by sea and land, between Canada and the united States, of all restrictions. The restrictions at present maintained by the latter were more injurious to the States than to Canada. A Bill had been brought into Congress for the purpose of removing those restrictions, and granting all that was essential to the welfare of the provinces; but it was lost, not through any hostile feeling on the part of the representatives, but because the 4th of March had arrived 904 before the Act had reached maturity, and at that period the sittings of Congress ended. Canada, when the Bill now before them was passed, would, from her commercial position in being connected with this country, have an infinite advantage beyond that which she would have were she annexed to the united States. Canada, lot it be remembered, was purely an agricultural country, and for her staple produce she would always find a ready sale, and the best market in England. At present she bad the route by New York opened to her, and she would now have that by the St. Lawrence opened in the most advantageous manner. And let this further consideration be taken into account, that whilst Canada had all the advantages of belonging to the United States, she would have this further advantage, which she would not have were she one of the States—namely, that she would not be subject to the high protective tariff for the importation of manufactured articles which the United States kept up with the view of fostering theirs. Canada would be able to obtain manufactured goods from England at a much lower price than from the United States, which imposed a protective duty of 20, 30, and even 35 per cent. Were Canada annexed to the United States, it would surely be a heavy burden on her agriculturists to be obliged to submit to the payment of this high duty without any compensating advantages. It was only that very day that he had received information from Canada to the effect that the improvements were upon the point of being completed, for the transmission of goods to the West through Canada, which would be of most material advantage to her; and that, through the modes of communication affected by those improvements, an important and extensive trade with the West would be carried on. A large amount of American produce came down the St. Lawrence Canal as far as Montreal, thence to Lake Champlain, thence to New York, and at a much lower rate of freight than by the Erie Canal. By this mode of communication, heavy goods, railway iron, &c., would find a transit, and cause a most profitable trade. There was not the slightest doubt that commerce was suffering severely in Canada; but that suffering was, he believed, of only a temporary character, and under the influence of the more liberal system established by this Bill, the trade of Canada would speedily revive, and there was every fair prospect for that country 905 of an era of great commercial prosperity.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
, not having addressed their Lordships during the previous debates on this Bill, wished to say a very few words before it passed through Committee. He would not touch on the general principle of the Bill; but with respect to the Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe) he thought it infinitely preferable to that of his noble Friend on the bench behind him (the Earl of Ellenborough), and he could not help expressing his surprise that the noble Earl should have described the two Amendments as differing in degree and not in principle—for if they had not differed in principle, it was rather singular that the noble Earl had not taken that most favourable opportunity of modifying the Bill, by voting for the Amendment of Lord Wharncliffe. Many noble Lords who were willing to support the Amendment of Lord Wharncliffe would vote against the Amendment of the noble Earl. For his own part, although he thought the Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe) preferable, he could not give it his support, and for this reason, that it would not be possible to adopt to the full extent the principle of reciprocity. Upon that term (reciprocity) there were great differences of opinion. Some thought that by it was meant that this country should give all the advantages she possessed in return for all the advantages possessed by another country; whilst others understood it to mean an absolute equivalent. In his opinion they never could establish anything like perfect reciprocity, and this being his view of the matter, he could not help thinking that it was an unwise and unsound policy that we should remain inactive, and refuse to reform our commercial code because other countries declined doing so. Let England adopt and pursue what she believed to be an enlightened and liberal policy; and, if it proved to be so, foreign nations would soon follow in her footsteps. He did not attach much importance to the retaliatory clause in this Bill; but he thought there might be exceptional cases in which foreign countries, acting in a vexatious spirit and in an unjust manner, it might become the duty of the Government to exercise the powers entrusted to them by this clause. But he firmly believed that when other countries saw that England had adopted that course of policy which had already been pursued by the great maritime and 906 commercial States of the world, and in which this country was, up to the present time, backward, they too, would, consulting their own advantage, enter into the same liberal course of policy.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.