§ THE EARL OF ALBEMARLE,
in pursuance of notice, rose to move to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that, in order to bring the war with Russia to a speedy termination, it is necessary to restrict the trade with that country by more efficient measures than any which have hitherto been adopted or announced by Her Majesty's Government. In bringing forward this Resolution, he felt considerable pain, because he found himself, for the first time in his life, at issue with those with whom he had politically acted for a quarter of a century. But, believing most conscientiously that this was a question either of speedy peace or of a bloody and protracted war, he should consider himself a traitor to his country if he did not use all his privileges as a Peer of Parliament to coerce his noble Friends into a course which he felt to be essential to the interests of this great nation. About a fortnight ago he had entered at considerable length into this same subject, and he was induced to adopt the present course of taking the sense of the House upon this question in consequence of the very unsatisfactory answer which he had received 592 from the organ of the Government in that House, the President of the Board of Trade. It was not without having given his very best attention to the subject that he had entered upon the course which he was now pursuing. He had endeavoured to understand upon what grounds Her Majesty's Ministers justified the course which they had taken, and, with that view, he had looked to the opinions of the former President of the Board of Trade. It had been contended in another place that the blockade was ineffective. To prove that it was not so, however, returns of two different years were prepared from the tables of the Board of Trade; but, immediately that they were produced, the Gentleman who had originated the subject in another place pointed out the error of comparing all the imports of one year with half the imports of another year; and, as that was at once exposed, he (the Earl of Albemarle) confessed that he was somewhat astonished to find that his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade served up a réchauffée of the fallacies of his right hon. predecessor. We had been assured that this was to be an effective blockade. If Her Majesty's Ministers could prove this to be the case, his occupation was gone; but, what he contended was, that let the Government make what arrangements they pleased, short of closing the land trade with the enemy, let there be the most effective sea blockade that could be instituted, it was all a mockery and a sham so long as the overland transit trade of Russian produce was allowed to go through the Prussian dominions. It appeared to him that it would be almost better to take the money which had been extracted from the pockets of the people and throw it into the sea, than to continue the farce of a sea blockade and a free transit of goods by land. He had received, just before entering the House, a letter from a gentleman connected with the Russian trade, and upon whose information he could place the firmest reliance, who thus stated his views of the blockade and its effect—The Russian Government has now so organised the means of interior communication to the rivers Niemen and the Vistula, and to the Prussian frontiers generally, that the whole of the produce of Russia is now directed to Prussia in lieu of to the ports of the Gulfs of Finland and of Riga. So perfect, indeed, are these means of transport that even those stocks of produce which had been hitherto retained in blockaded distant ports are now being transported. In a word, 593 henceforth our supplies of Russian produce will be limited to the extent of the production in Russia, the blockade being neutralised in toto."At the breaking out of the war, to trade with the enemy was a violation of the common law; it was a violation of the statute law; it was a direct contravention of the celebrated statute, the 25th Edward III., which made it treasonable "to give aid and comfort to the King's enemies in this realm or elsewhere;" further, it was a violation of the maritime law, which was part and parcel of the law of nations, and entailed upon the subjects of either belligerent Power the liability to confiscation of their property. Such was the original law, and, though he was not disposed always to revere the wisdom of our ancestors, yet he thought that this enactment of Edward III. a wholesome one, and he maintained that war ought to be conducted upon war and not upon peace principles. Three weeks afterwards came that unhappy Order in Council by which in violation of all the principles on which a war ought to be conducted, the subjects of Her Majesty were permitted freely to trade with the enemy, subject only to certain small limitations which were of no material consequence, inasmuch as the blockade had been almost thoroughly delusive up to the present time. He contended that but for that Order in Council the transit trade of which he complained never would have taken place. Two-thirds of the products were intended for British ports; all, or nearly all the money with which the trade was carried on was British capital, and the small remnant of trade and capital which remained would certainly not have paid the expenses of land transit which the Russian Government incurred in order to further the important object of thereby sustaining the national credit of their country. No Englishman would have disobeyed the law if it had remained as it was before. He had a right to assume this, for although war was declared upon the 28th of March, and it was not till three weeks afterwards that the Order in Council was promulgated, yet not one British merchant had been found to make a single purchase in Russia during the whole of that period. He gave Her Majesty's Government the fullest credit for good intentions; but he did say that a lax policy and the absence of ordinary forethought and energy on the part of the Government at that crisis, had done more mischief than the most active partisanship. 594 He concluded that Her Majesty's Government had given "aid and comfort to the Queen's enemies" as effectually as that equivocal ally of ours had done, whose wavering vacillation and fraudulent neutrality had been so ably alluded to by a learned and venerable Peer whom he did not then see in his place (Lord Lyndhurst). He asserted that if Prussia had now a transit trade through her dominions, it was Her Majesty's Ministers who had created that transit trade. Upon them rested the responsibility. If Prussia had supplied the enemy with arms and munitions of war, he said that Her Majesty's Government had supplied the enemy with the sinews of war. They had supplied him with those sinews in the shape of 10,000,000l. to be paid for exports from his country. We want the articles," was, he believed, the shopkeeper reason which was given for this course of policy—at least he could draw no other inference from the speeches of either the late or the present President of the Board of Trade. He had already gone so much into this subject upon a previous occasion, but it was one of such vital importance that he felt constrained to trouble their Lordships with some further details with reference to it; but he must make a few observations upon our ability to bear the sacrifices which would be imposed upon us by acceding to the proposition which he had placed upon the paper. Take the first article of Russian produce—tallow; and he thought that their Lordships hardly could be aware of what a very insignificant portion of tallow Russia contributed to this nation. England itself produced four times as much; and that fact, coupled with the manufacture of all those new substances with the nomenclature of which he had fatigued their Lordships the other evening, was sufficient to prove that all the fears upon that subject were utterly chimerical. Russia contributed only one-tenth to the stock of tallow in this country; but that one-tenth, insignificant as it was to us, was of vital importance to the enemy. He would mention here the subject of imperfect returns. It would be in their Lordships' recollection that he had observed, that there were whole returns made for one year, and half returns for the other. The week after his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade made the comparison between the returns for the two years, a circular was put into his (the Earl of Albemarle's) hand, not prepared for Parliament, but for the trade itself. He spoke on the 595 27th of April, and that circular, which was dated the 7th of May, stated, that there had arrived that week 11,333 casks of tallow from Russia, and, with respect to hemp, that there was now a supply in England unprecedented in any former years. These facts showed the inefficacy of the blockade more eloquently than any figures he could give them, for it included Hungarian, Italian, and East Indian hemp. To show how easily substitutes for Russian products could be procured, he might mention that Mr. Noble, a broker of great experience in East India fabrics, had informed him, that in addition to this there is scarcely a week but that a sample of something fresh of this nature arrives, and that within the last fortnight he had received from Mexico a most beautiful specimen of hemp. He (the Earl of Albemarle) was also told that the superintendent of the Botanical Gardens at Kew had stated, that a number of new plants, which had recently been presented to him, all resolved themselves into hemp, and that there existed in the India House a museum of the fibrous articles, the produce of plants indigenous to India, which would serve for the purposes of hemp. With respect to this particular article, he recommended to their Lordships' perusal a work written by a friend of his, who sat in the other House—Mr. Gregson—upon Indian fabrics. He mentioned this to show from how many different sources we might obtain a supply of this article, besides the large stock already brought into this country from Hungary and Italy. Among other fibrous products of that country there was an article termed jute, and, when Mr. Noble first introduced it from the East Indies, he was greatly ridiculed by those who doubted whether its importation would ever yield a profit; but the consequence of its introduction had been that it now took its place regularly in the market, and in the latest return of imports he found it put down at 27,000 tons. Last night he had received from Mr. Capper, a gentleman who was the promoter of a Bill which lately came before the House of Commons, and who had given much of his attention to the manufacture of jute into a fabric, a letter containing two specimens of the jute in its original state, and in the condition to which it was reduced by a process of manufacture, [His Lordship produced the specimens referred to, which were handed round.] Mr. Capper had tried to get a patent from the Indian Government; but 596 it seemed that they were very slow to execute the power which was vested in them, for they had taken just a year before they had given an answer to the application. He was assured by those who were conversant with the products of India, that the supply of hemp to be obtained from that country might be practically looked upon as inexhaustible, since nothing was better understood there than the cultivation of hemp, but unfortunately it was at present only esteemed for its seed, which produced the intoxicating spirit termed "bang," and they were told by some author on India that the fibre was principally used for strappadoing refractory wives and strangling superfluous children. The best proof of the abundance of hemp in this country at present was the fact that its price was 30 or 40 per cent lower than it was last year. With respect to flax, he would now say nothing of that produced in England, but mention that he had obtained the official returns of flax grown in Ireland in 1853 and 1854, signed by the Registrar General, and he would refer to them to show what was the effect of an anticipation of a state of war, and the discouragement its production had received when the Order in Council appeared three weeks after the declaration of war. The Registrar General stated, that in 1853 the increase of the acreage in Ireland sown with flax, as compared with the preceding year, amounted to 37,415 acres; whereas in the following year, after the Order in Council appeared, there was an actual decrease in the breadth of ground sown of 23,607 acres; and a gentleman, to whom he had alluded the other day, Sir J. M'Neill, who had the previous year sown 600 acres, had, he was told, reduced that quantity to thirty. There was another document to which he would refer, and which he thought would have great weight with Her Majesty's Government, because it came from a quarter instrumental to the publication of the Order in Council—the flax spinners of Dundee. But his correspondent, to his credit be it spoken, was not one of the deputation, which, it should be recollected, was rather troublesome to Her Majesty's Ministers. Mr. Oliver Miller, of the firm of Miller and Brown, one of the largest and wealthiest firms of flax spinners in Dundee, alluding to the subject of the substitutes for flax, stated—This last year, or rather a month or two earlier, our wits wore set to work to find out substitutes for flax, and samples of fibre poured in 597 from all quarters; they were eagerly examined by all concerned. Experiments were made upon them, and some of them declared suitable for our staple trade. What followed? The overland trade through Russia was kept open, Archangel cleared of goods, and a fair average year's importation of Russian fibres obtained. The samples of fibres were thrown aside, and remain to this day unthought of.That was another example of the mischief of interfering with international law. He had merely referred to a few of the documents with which he had been furnished; but, if their Lordships were not satisfied with what he had read, he could occupy them an hour longer upon this prolific subject. [A laugh.] That laugh convinced him that their Lordships were satisfied that the fear that no substitute could be found for the hemp, flax, and tallow, imported from Russia was a mere chimera. But, even if a real difficulty in obtaining supplies of Russian produce from other quarters existed, he was sure their Lordships would not allow a few casks of tallow or a few extra tons of hemp or flax to be put in competition with the blood of our countrymen, and the sufferings entailed on millions of our fellow creatures by the war into which Europe had been plunged through the cruel and unfeeling policy of a tyrant. He had heard it said, and repeated, that it was nonsense for us to lose this trade—that Russia could do without its export trade to England, and did not care for it. Was there any authority for that statement? Was not the experience of history all the other way? He had stated, the other night, that the effect of stopping this trade would be that the rouble would fall in value, financial embarrassment would ensue, the Russian nobles would become discontented, and that the ultimate result would be a desire to put an end to a contest which was attended by inconveniences so great. He need scarcely remind their Lordships of an occurrence so familiar as that which, fifty-three years ago, happened to the ruler of Russia, in consequence of the stoppage of rents arising from the stoppage of the Russian export trade, nor, be it remembered with the continent of Europe, for that Russia enjoyed, but the trade with this country. A few years later, up to the first half of the year 1807, the Emperor Alexander was our ally; but after the bloody battle of Friedland he put his name to the memorable Treaty of Tilsit, by which he declared his adherence to the continental system of Napoleon—that system which 598 made him dispense with the trade of England. The nobles were not blind to the debtor and creditor account of that Treaty of Tilsit. They knew perfectly well that the Emperor might gain a slice of Finland and a slice of Prussian Poland; but they, as under the reign of Paul, would be deprived of half their rents by the loss of he export trade. What did they do? When M. Savary (the French Ambassador) appeared at St. Petersburg they sent him to Coventry—they would not let him a house suitable to his dignity, and they never admitted him as a guest into their own private residences. Distress and ruin went on in the Russian kingdom, and, in 1809, the decline of the rouble was so great that, all powerful as Napoleon was then, Russia was inclined to break the treaty. Prince Hardenberg, the Prussian Minister in Russia, in his "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," writing upon the effect of the continental system on Russia, used these words—Le systeme continental ruinait en Russie et les particuliers et l'état; la baisse du papier monnaie se faisait setir à tous, et principalement au gouvernement comme le plus grand des consommateurs.An argument often urged, which he would anticipate, was, that if we did not use the Russian exports somebody else would; but the truth was, other countries would not because they did not want them. That is, they did not want them in the politico-economic sense of the word; there was no effective demand for them. Before a new trade could be established, either Russia would have ceased to be a nation, or she would be at peace with us. Finding that, even with the help of the whole Continent, Russia could not make up the loss of the English trade, on the 10th of December, 1810, the Emperor Alexander issued an ukase which discouraged the merchandise of his friends, the French, and encouraged in every possible way the merchandise of his enemies, the English. The consequence was, that 200 English vessels, under the flag of Teneriffe, went into the Russian ports of Riga, Revel, and St. Petersburg, discharged their cargoes, and received in return Russian products; and, in 1811, a few words from the Annual Register would show the effect that had been produced by this relaxation. The Annual Register of 1811 says—The trade with Great Britain had been highly advantageous to the Russians, and many of the nobility derived a great share of their incomes from the sale of products of which this island 599 was the principal market. The state of hostility between the two countries was therefore generally unpopular.Their Lordships knew perfectly well what happened. In 1812 Napoleon threatened to march into Russia with 650,000 men. But the Emperor preferred, as the lesser evil of the two, the invasion of his country to losing his excellent customers the English. He hoped that fact would he appreciated by the Government now. The half blockade now maintained was just sufficient to prevent the honest and honourable merchant from engaging in the trade, but not so effectual as to prevent adventurers from running the risk. He would give an instance, of which he did not think his Friends on the Treasury bench were quite aware. Before the late Conferences at Vienna, and at a time when peace was expected, a number of speculators entered into contracts with Prussian houses for Russian produce, to be paid for at the termination of the war, and pending the Conferences such negotiations were very common. Upon these transactions the speculator paid in advance never less than one-half, sometimes two-thirds, and not unfrequently the whole of the first purchase money. The price of crown flax in England was 52l. per ton; in Archangel it was 27l. per ton; it was brought to England for 7l. more, which included freightage, insurance, and other incidental expenses, and that made its cost 34l. per ton. There was 18l. over, or, in other words, 50 per cent interest for the speculation if it succeeded. If it did not succeed; then there was 18l. for land transport through the Russian dominions, the whole of which would then find its way into Russian pockets. Neither the country nor the Government could form any conception of the extent to which these speculations prevailed. He had nothing to say for the morality of the speculators. Perhaps they might be troubled with a few twinges of conscience when they remembered that, while they were enriching themselves, they were enriching also the hitter enemies of their country; but he was afraid the still small voice would be hushed altogether by the prospective 50 per cent, and confused notion that the Government stood in the position of particeps criminis by conniving at the existence of this illicit traffic. With respect to the speculations that had been entered into with regard to the effect that had been produced in the value of the rouble, he 600 thought that any reason but the right had been assigned. He admired the ingenuity more than the ingenuousness of these arguments. They reminded him of a worthy alderman after a City feast, who attributed his horrible dyspepsia, not to the enormous quantity of turtle he had eaten, but to his having imprudently taken a wineglass of cold water. In a despotic country like Russia the Government was the merchant, and had always sought to maintain the credit of the country, and to keep up the rouble at the proper figure consistent with that credit. The rouble at the breaking out of the war was at 38d., or at par; but when war was proclaimed the merchants conceived that the war would be carried on as all previous wars had been, namely, that the trade would be stopped, the rouble fell from 38d. to 32d. The Russian Government did all they could to prevent the evil by prohibiting the exportation of bullion, and so far they did right for themselves; but this would have been of no avail, if the Queen's Government had not come in to the rescue, and lent their aid and comfort to the Queen's enemies in their hour of distress. The Order in Council of the 15th of April appeared, trade was reopened by the British merchants, and the rouble came up to the value it had before possessed, or very nearly so—it rose to 35½d. or 37d. The accession of Viscount Palmerston to the Premiership led to the anticipation that vigorous measures would be adopted. The very name of Palmerston spread dismay in St. Petersburg, and frightened the Russians out of their wits. The alarm was not allayed when, on the 9th of February, 1855, the Court Circular contained the announcement that an Order in Council, using the ominous words of the 25 Edward III. in prohibiting intercourse with the Queen's enemies. The information was telegraphed to St. Petersburg, and caused a panic; the exchange fell, and universal gloom pervaded the commercial circles of the Russian capital. But of our noble Premier, the bark was worse than his bite. It was soon discovered that this Order in Council was only directed against some contract for machinery, the rouble returned to a price which bore about the same proportion to our public credit at 89—the present price of our own funds. He could not help thinking that Ministers had never been sufficiently impressed with the important weaponwhich was to be found in the influence of the Russian exports upon 601 the Russian finance. The rise and fall of the rouble troubled the Russian Government more than Sebastopol. They expected a drain of bullion, but they were reassured by our Order in Council, from which they learnt that, while with one hand we were ready to put a match to a cannon, we were also ready to sow gold broadcast among them with the other. It was with this impression that the Russian Government turned their attention to see if they could not injure us. They found that the export trade in flax, hemp, tallow, and bristles were just sufficient to keep the exchangeable value of the rouble up to the credit point, and that was enough. But there was another export—that of corn; and an ukase appeared by which the Emperor, with the view of distressing us, prohibited the exportation of grain. By the mercy of Providence a plenteous harvest saved us from the calamity which this prohibition might have brought upon us; but who, looking at the inclement weather which up to the very moment he was addressing their Lordships had not yet changed, could think without apprehension of the possible consequences of that attempt of the Emperor of Russia to inflict the maximum injury upon us, and the minimum injury upon his own subjects? Their Lordships would do well to remember the old schoolboy maxim, Fas est et ab hoste doceri. Let us adopt the Russian policy, and inflict the maximum injury upon the enemy and the minimum injury upon ourselves. Now a few more words to those he (the Earl of Albemarle) had addressed to the House on a former occasion on the subject of certificates of origin. He believed they would be effective, and several correspondents had favoured him with plans for rendering them still more so; but admitting that they would not answer the purpose of shutting out Russian produce—admitting that he made his noble Friend the President of the Council a present of them—admitting that they were not worth a sixpence, he thought we could do without them. The trade with Russia was in the hands of so few merchants, and they were men of such capital and standing, that he felt confident if the Government would rescind the Order in Council he would be content even with a certificate of origin drawn up by the Emperor of Russia himself. He had returns which showed how insignificant were the contributions of the Hanse Towns, the Prussian dominions, and Holland—the only 602 countries which produced them—in the different articles which were supplied from Russia. He was prepared to make a liberal allowance in these certificates of origin for what each of these countries used, and he would not advance the certificate of origin beyond that quantity. He was, indeed, prepared to give up the certificate of origin for argument sake. His remedy was this. Reverse the orders in Council and prohibit the importation of goods of Russian origin or of goods partly composed of Russian-grown produce, and throw all the onus of proof upon the importer here in England, and you will immediately stop the whole of the trade between this country and Russia direct or indirect. Let neutral flags make neutral cargoes, but let the importer of goods bearing a Russian aspect be told, that he must prove his case, and that he must show to the satisfaction of the Custom-house authorities that the goods imported were the growth of a neutral State. Any broker in England practically acquainted with the subject would be readily enabled to discriminate between Russian and Prussian goods; and his own firm conviction was, that if the plan he had shadowed forth were adopted it would operate effectually in crippling the trade of Russia. Indeed, he believed the effect would be instantaneously felt, and that the greatest advantages would accrue to this country in the war in which it was engaged. There was now only one other point which he was desirous of impressing upon their Lordships, and he did so with the hope that the observations he might make would go beyond that House. There was an impression abroad—and he was not certain that it had not been confirmed by the statement of a Minister of the Crown—that there were two parties in Russia—the peace party and the war party. The war party was said to consist of the Muscovite noblemen, and the peace party of the Germans of the conquered provinces. Now, he believed the contrary to be the fact—he believed the fact to be that the Muscovite noble was the real friend of peace, as he naturally would be, inasmuch as the whole burden of the war was thrown upon him, but that the case was different with the German party, who, having little or nothing to lose, had no interest in peace, though they had a great interest in war. They felt that the moment the war was over their occupation would be gone, and they were therefore 603 the real enemies of this country in the present war. Having been the originators of the war, they were now doing their utmost to prosecute it, and they would prevent a peace from being concluded as long as they had the power to do so. At the head of this German clique stood Count Nesselrode, and leagued with him were the Luders, Osten-Sackens, and Danneubergs, and others whose name was legion. They were the men who were the real enemies of peace and civilization, and he hoped that the knowledge that they were detected would find its way somehow or other into Russia. That there Was such a thing as fanaticism in Russia could not be doubted for a moment, but the way to deal with it would be to place the country in a state of isolation, and thereby cripple its finances, show the population that the enemy of the Czar, the noble and the serf, was the German foreigner; and if the Russian people were shown that the cry of the Church being in danger proceeded from a foreigner and a heretic, who cared for nothing but the plunder which he would gain from the continuance of the war, that was the way to cure their fanaticism and there would soon be a loud call for putting an end to the war. Sixty millions of people could not live upon fanaticism alone, and the Czar of Russia would be driven to take his choice between anarchy and peace.
Moved, to Resolve—
That it is the opinion of this House that in order to bring the War with Russia to a speedy termination, it is necessary to restrict the Trade with that Country by more efficient measures than any which have been hitherto adopted or announced by Her Majesty's Government.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, he most entirely concurred with his noble Friend as to the importance of the object which he had in view; he concurred in the great importance of doing all in their power to restrict and, if possible, to destroy the trade of Russia; but, as far as he could understand it, he did not agree with his noble Friend in the means by which he proposed to effect that object. The noble Earl had spoken as though the trade with Russia had been in no way interfered with by the efforts which had been made to blockade the ports of that country during the past year. He (Lord Stanley of Alderley) was not about to enter into details, because he had already done so upon a former occasion, but, in order to show their Lordships the way in which the blockade of the enemy's ports had been 604 carried out, he must be permitted to remark that at the breaking out of the war the greatest part of the produce of Russia lying in her ports ready for exportation was, in point of fact, the property of English and French, rather than of Russian subjects. He admitted that the blockade of the ports of the Black Sea had been not only imperfect, but might almost be said to have barely existed; but, as he had mentioned before, the reason was that, though strict orders were issued to effect a blockade, in consequence of erroneous views the English and French Admirals conceived that the blockade was to be instituted by blockading the Bosphorous alone; the legality of a blockade of this nature was declared by the Government to be untenable. The matter having been referred to the Governments of England and France, orders were issued for a more effective blockade of the ports of the Black Sea, and the reason why it was not so effective as it might otherwise have been was, that by the time the orders arrived, the season was so far advanced that the whole of the fleets of the two nations were entirely occupied in assisting and superintending the embarkation of the troops from Varna to the Crimea. But, notwithstanding the imperfect blockade of the Baltic and the Black Sea, the trade of Russia had been reduced between 50 and 60 per cent, even giving her the benefit of the excess of exportation from Prussia, though there was no reason why it should be considered that that excess of exportation had consisted entirely of Russian produce. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke) had declared that the measures adopted by the Government had not affected the commerce of Russia, but had only transferred it to Prussia, and that no injury had been inflicted in this way upon the Russian nation. A statement which he held in his hand, however, would show the effect which the blockade of last year had had, and would prove that the result must live in the memory of the population of Russia. The communication to which he referred was dated Berlin, May 5:—The inhabitants of the islands along the Russian coast of the Baltic are described as having made all preparations for quitting their exposed dwelling-places, and retiring to some distance in the interior of the continent. Oesel and Dagoe, which are the largest, have the most to lose, more particularly the capital of the former, Arensburg, which still boasts a considerable market for timber, which in former days was still more flourishing than at present. The island of Nargen, off 605 Revel, is already desolated and deserted. The forest that formerly furnished the inhabitants with firewood for the winter was burnt last autumn, in consequence of taking fire accidentally, about the time our countrymen quitted the island. The Emperor has commanded that henceforth a highway toll shall be levied on all vehicles travelling on the road from Engelhardshoff, by way of Riga and Mittau, to the Courland frontier; the amount levied is for the benefit of the Courland and Lifland nobility and the town of Riga. This impost is described as varying from 4 to 1½ silver copecs for every ten wersts (about six English miles). It was reckoned that this would fall very heavily on the commercial interests of the place, the whole trade being carried on by land, and just now very brisk.So that the Emperor of Russia, who, they were told, was to be at once coerced by a diminution in the trade with this country, which was described as being so important to him that if the small quantity which now came through Prussia were put a stop to, he would fall down at our feet—the Emperor of Russia had so little regard for that trade that he did not hesitate to put an additional tax upon every vehicle passing along the road by which the produce of Russia was to be conveyed to Prussia. A great part of the exports of Russia consisted of corn, and it was to be supposed, that a diminution in the amount would have a most injurious effect on the revenue of the Russian nobles; nevertheless, the Emperor of Russia had put a prohibition on the export of corn, and seemed to feel, therefore, that the reduction in the revenue of the Russian nobles, which would follow that prohibition, was not likely to be extremely injurious. The noble Lord had referred to a certain order in Council, which he said ought to be rescinded; but what was that order? It was one issued because everybody felt that it was impossible to insist upon all the rights to which the British Government laid claim. We were engaged in war in concert with an ally who entertained different views about the right of search and about the laws regarding neutrals. The British Government, therefore, waived—though they did not abandon—the right to which they laid claim—namely, that by which all goods of an enemy found on board a neutral ship were confiscated. Considering the position of Russia, he did not know that there was any great generosity in doing this, because Russia presented an immense inland territory with comparatively a small seabord, and we might blockade every port she possessed, so that not a single craft could show its nose out of harbour 606 without being taken by the cruisers of both nations. Another Order in Council, which seemed to have raised the ire of the noble Earl, was one the effect of which was said to be to allow English subjects to trade with the foreigner. Now, the Order in Council of the 15th of April, 1854, to which he supposed the noble Lord referred, no doubt did permit all vessels under a neutral or friendly flag to import all goods and merchandise whatever, to whomsoever they might belong, and allowed British subjects freely to trade with all places, wherever situated, which were not in a state of blockade. The only effect of these Orders in Council, however, was, that the English Government waived their rights with respect to enemy's property on board neutral ships, and made it legal for them to bring enemy's property and dispose of it without being liable to confiscation. Suppose, however, these Orders in Council were rescinded, what would his noble Friend propose to do? The noble Lord would then call upon the Government to insist upon searching every vessel which came out of a Prussian harbour, and to arrest and seize all property found on board those vessels which the owner could not disprove was Russian produce. But merely rescinding your Orders in Council was not sufficient to do this. By the Customs' laws of this country all manufactured articles—and a very slight process was necessary to give them this character— were considered the produce of the country from which they were exported, and he was afraid that the mode of meeting the difficulty by a certificate of origin would be entirely illusory. His noble Friend had stated that the returns quoted by him (Lord Stanley) on a former occasion were "cooked" and were entirely fallacious. Now, he was at a loss to understand in what respect those documents were wanting in correctness; but his noble Friend a few days ago had moved for returns which he now held in his hand, showing the importations of hemp, flax, and tallow, the three principal articles of Russian produce, received through the Prussian ports in the first four months of the last three years. With regard to hemp, the increase was certainly very large, In the first four months of 1853 the importation from Prussia was 227 cwt.; in 1854, 323 cwt.; and in 1855, 42,745 cwt. But, on comparing the whole amount exported from Prussia during the last year, and allowing it to be placed to the account of Russia, he found that, so far from the 607 imports of the first four months of this year representing one-third of the amount usually imported in a year, it did not represent one-fourth, or even one-sixth; so that there was every reason to think that the quantity of this article imported from Russia was diminishing and not increasing. The next article was flax, the importation of which he found by this return was only 12,423 cwt. during the first four months of the present year, while in the corresponding period of 1854 it was 58,518 cwt.; and in 1853, 47,617 cwt.; so that, so far as the export of that article through Prussia was concerned, instead of increasing, the trade had been reduced by nearly one-fourth. With regard to tallow, the importation from Prussia during the first four months of 1855 was 144,035 cwt., and in the corresponding period of 1854, 3,694 cwt.—certainly a considerable increase. As regarded flax, the actual decrease in the export from Russia, taking into account all export through Prussia, amounted to no less than a decrease of about 52 per cent. He felt bound to apologise to their Lordships for having so long trespassed on their time, but he could assure them and the country, that Her Majesty's Government felt as strongly as the noble Earl who had brought forward these Resolutions could feel, the great importance of crippling the trade of Russia and of keeping up a blockade with all the energy and strictness that could be shown by the naval forces of this country. He was satisfied that the commanders of the maritime forces of the country would establish a strict and effective blockade of Russian ports and that the seaboard export trade of Russia would be annihilated. With regard to that portion, of the trade of Russia which oozed out through Prussia, he saw so much difficulty—on account of the difficulty of distinguishing that which was Russian produce from that which was Prussian—in devising any scheme which should put an end to it, that he feared to attempt it would be to inflict the maximum of injury upon ourselves for the minimum of injury inflicted on Russia. For these reasons he did not think that it would be prudent to adopt any other step beyond that of establishing and enforcing an effective blockade.
§ LORD RAVENSWORTH
said, the noble Lord had admitted the importance of the discussion and he fully concurred with him in that admission, and, therefore, could not withhold his thanks from the 608 noble Earl who had brought it forward for having given their Lordships an opportunity of considering a matter which had so important a bearing on the question of peace and war, and upon the trade and commerce of this country. The real point involved in the Resolution of the noble Earl, it appeared to him, was how effectually to cripple the trade of Russia, and the question to be decided to-night was, whether all had been done that it was possible to do to effect that object. The noble Lord who had just addressed the House had been somewhat guilty of inconsistency in admitting the importance of this subject, but at the same time leading their Lordships to suppose that the value of the trade of Russia so carried on through neutral ports was not so great to the Power with which we were at war as those who took a different view of the subject were disposed to believe. He could not, he confessed, understand how far the noble Lord meant to assert that it was of comparatively trifling importance that we should continue to permit Russia to export the greater part of her produce through Prussia; but he thought he might assume that it was of importance to Russia as affording an outlet for her produce, which in a large measure provided her with resources for carrying on hostilities against us. In the present and previous discussions which had taken place on this subject he considered that two points had been established. The first was, the utter and entire absence of any efficient blockade of the ports of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff. The second was, the evasion of the blockade of the Baltic by means of the land traffic through neutral ports. Those two points were established; and he might therefore assume that Her Majesty's Government were not indifferent to their importance. With regard to the second point, an able political article had appeared in one of the newspapers, which, after pointing out the advantage to Prussia from Russian produce being exported through her ports, went on to show that as long as she possessed that advantage it was scarcely possible for her to depart from a position of neutrality. It was, therefore, in his opinion, a matter of serious importance that they should consider whether means could not be devised for reaching the Russian trade so carried on indirectly through the neutral ports of Prussia. The value of that traffic could scarcely be diminished in the eyes of their Lordships by 609 the figures which the noble Lord had cited, and, so far from being of little importance, all the best authorities concurred in the estimate that last year it had amounted to 10,000,000l. sterling. The noble Lord had urged that the Government had taken all the means in their power to repress it by a strict blockade. That might be so; but there were two opinions held on the subject of blockade, which it would be well to consider. The more rigid political economists and freetraders, including Mr. Ricardo, who had published an able pamphlet on the subject, urged that the whole question of blockade in these days of free trade and national intercourse, ought to be considered as utterly useless and obsolete, and they urged that it would be wiser to put aside all notions of blockade, and permit the same intercourse, as far as regarded commerce, as existed in time of peace. It might be deemed obtuse and old-fashioned to make the assertion; but he could not help thinking that the principle of free commercial intercourse with a country with which we were at war was as absurd and untenable as for a country to attempt to carry on a great war with a peace establishment. But the Government had taken the medium course between these two extreme opinions; and he must say, with all respect for Her Majesty's Government, that that appeared to him to be by no means the safest course, but one which, on the contary, had led to great inconvenience to our commerce and disappointment to our merchants, while it had tended to the advantage of the enemy and the profit of the neutral trader. What the Government were now urged to do was, to take a step further in their own direction, and, instead of being content with the means they had hitherto adopted for destroying the enemy's trade, to take other measures which would render that blockade what it was not, really efficient. One argument had been used by those who consider the whole question of blockade useless, which he must admit was logically used. They said that unless you had a complete blockade you could only deprive your own merchants of the advantages they before enjoyed from the enemy's trade, while you left it free to neutral ships to carry on that trade without impediment and to the advantage of the enemy, so that in such a case it might be urged that the expense and trouble of a blockade were all thrown away. The noble Lord the President of the Board of 610 Trade, in answering the noble Earl, asserted that there had been a reduction of the exports of Russian produce, and read some returns which supported, although he (Lord Ravensworth) must say in a very small degree, the assertion of the noble Earl. The President of the Board of Trade argued that a diminution of Russian produce had taken place. Perhaps it had; but was that any reason why it should not be still further reduced? [Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY: I spoke of the trade through Prussia.] The Russian trade flowed through Prussia; but he contended that so far from there having been any diminution, there had been an enormous increase by the overland carriage of produce from Russia to neutral ports. The noble Lord had referred, as a proof of diminished exports, to the prohibition placed by the Emperor of Russia on the exportation of corn from Russia; but the fact was, the Emperor wanted that corn kept in the country to feed the immense armies he had raised. But to show the importance of this indirect trade to Prussia, he would read a return as to the manner in which that Power had availed herself of the Order in Council of August, 1854, which permitted Russian produce to be imported into this country in neutral bottoms. In the year 1853 the exports of tallow from Prussia were 54,000 cwt.; in 1854 they were 253,205 cwt. Her exports of hemp in 1853 were 3447 cwt., and in 1854 they were 366,220 cwt. Her export of flax in 1853 were 242,383 cwt., and in 1854, 667,879 cwt. Her exports of flax and linseed in 1853 were 57,848 quarters, and in 1854, 116,227 quarters. He thought these figures sufficiently proved the value of that export trade to Prussia, and so long as that trade was carried on through Prussian ports, so long would the war be popular and profitable to Prussia; and so long would that country resist any attempt by diplomacy, or any other means we could use, to bring her into that great European alliance on which we must depend for diminishing and controlling that colossal Power with which we were at war. Having shown the extent and value of the trade through neutral ports, he would now direct the attention of their Lordships to the mode by which that trade might be restricted. He simply should propose that Her Majesty should be advised to impose a duty of from 20 to 25 per cent ad valorem on all cargoes of Russian produce imported into this country in ships of whatever nation from all ports in the Baltic and Black 611 Sea. He could see no sort of objection to such a proposition. We were at war with a great Power, and with that Power a great trade was carried on. It was our interest at once to choke that trade in their own ports, if possible, and if we could not blockade their ports effectually, we could impose a duty on cargoes coming from these ports, while, if not equivalent to a prohibition, would throw an additional burden on Russia, tend greatly to restrict her commerce, and swell our own resources. He could see no practical difficulty in the way of such a course. It would act as a vigorous home-thrust at the resources of the enemy, and at the same time prove a great encouragement to British enterprise; because it had been clearly proved by all the authorities who had spoken on the subject that almost all the articles now procured from Russia could be got from other parts of the world, and especially from our own Colonies. He believed that India alone, if its resources were properly developed, and if encouragement were given to the growth of its fibrous plants, would supply an ample quantity for all the demands of this country. In the paper which he held in his hand, The Calcutta Review, there was a list of thirty-one fibrous plants, all of which were found in great abundance among the productions of India, and, with very little cultivation, would yield any quantity of fibre which our manufacturers might need. The Writer added, that among the many important questions which were now pressing upon the attention of the country none was more important than the means of providing an effective and ample substitute for Russian flax and hemp; for if there was any advantage obtained by war, it was in the development of trade in new quarters consequent upon the restrictions imposed on the trade of the belligerent Power. He thought the suggestion he had made to the Government was worthy of consideration, because, if restricting and discriminating duties levied in our ports would lead to a diminished supply of the articles in question, it would give encouragement to the trade of India and of our Colonies. It might be urged that it would be an artificial encouragement, and inconsistent with the principles of free trade; but the paramount object was to put a stop to the war. That was the point to which all our efforts and all our energies should be directed, and, as to any future inconvenience which might arise from any 612 undue encouragement to other parts of the world, great corresponding benefits would accrue. Any increase of commerce with India would have the effect of increasing the internal communications of those productive regions, and that would be an advantage which would not cease with the present emergency. It would be the means of stimulating the undeveloped resources of those mighty countries in a manner which no immediate calculations could adequately represent. Even supposing some inconvenience arose from the measure, that inconvenience would be slight and trifling compared with the object they had in view. But was inconvenience to commerce the only inconvenience of war? Was there no inconvenience in raising by taxation an annual sum of 81,000,000l.? Was there no inconvenience in adding by one stroke of the pen 16,000,000l. to the already accumulated debt of the country? Was there no inconvenience in approximating to a 10 per cent income tax? All these inconveniences would have to be endured so long as this unhappy war should continue; and was the hypothetical inconvenience of one small branch of the community to be set against them? Having had some means of ascertaining the feelings of the commercial interest, it was his firm belief that any vigorous step for the purpose of concluding the war would, whatever temporary inconvenience it might inflict, meet with their general assent and approbation. Let them look at the character of the enemy with whom we were engaged, and the sacrifices he had already made, to gain his ends. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had stated on authority, which he had termed unquestionable, that not less than 240,000 of the enemy's troops had already perished in these campaigns; and yet, so far as he could judge from the papers which had been laid on the table, it was evident that the Russian Ministers had gone to the Conference at Vienna without any intention from the beginning of bringing them to an amicable termination. With an enemy of that description they should be prepared to meet him on all points. This war was not a mere territorial war, but also a commercial war, and throughout the whole of his dominions the effect of the restriction he (Lord Ravensworth) had proposed would be felt. He desired that England should make her power known and acknowledged throughout the whole Russian empire. It should 613 not merely be said that she had to dread the power of our arms by sea and land, but that she should know also the value of our commerce; and the Russian agriculturist, as well as the Russian soldier, should know the power of this great country, so that the same apostrophe might be addressed by the Russian cultivator which was addressed by the Roman poet to the Goddess Fortune—To pauper ambit sollicitâ preceRuris colonus; te dominam æquorisQuicumque Bithynâ lacessitCarpathium pelagus carinâ.
did not say that arguments of considerable plausibility and weight could not be urged against the policy adopted by the Government, but he maintained that, when that policy was fairly considered and more narrowly examined, it would be found to be both wise and effectual. It appeared to him that it had altogether been forgotten by his noble Friend that one of the objects which Her Majesty's Government bad in view in promulgating the Orders in Council was, that we might be in strict agreement with our ally the French in the conduct of the war. Considered as a matter of national law, there could be no doubt that, being a belligerent Power, we possessed the right of searching neutral vessels for enemies' goods, but the question was whether, when we were engaged in operations in alliance with a country whose maritime laws were not the same as our own, and considering that the strict exercise of the right might involve us in difficulties and disputes with neutral Powers, it was not wise to waive that right to a certain extent. The noble Lord who spoke last complained that the blockade had not been I effectually carried out in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff. He (Lord Wodehouse) must venture to doubt that statement, for from the 1st of February, when the blockade of those seas was announced in The Gazette, Her Majesty's Government lost not a moment in enforcing the blockade, and he would express his belief that before long there would not be a single Russian port which was not effectively blockaded. Another plan to which allusion had been made, not so much in that House as out of doors and in another place, as a means of stopping the trade with Russia, was the establishment of the system of certificates of origin. It was, however, obvious to all who had considered the 614 subject, that the evasion of those certificates, cither by converting the raw material into manufactured articles, by procuring false certificates, or in a hundred other modes, was attended with so little difficulty that such a system must prove ineffective; take the article of tallow, for instance, the large importation of which was certainly remarkable, and which it was their great object to stop; yet tallow was the very article which it was most easy to convert either into stearine or some other manufactured article, so as to render certificates of origin perfectly useless. Neither was the plan of imposing a restrictive duty of 20 or 25 per cent on all produce imported from ports in the Baltic or Black Sea a sound one; for the importation might easily be made to various neutral ports in other States—to Amsterdam, for instance, and thence to England, so as to evade the duty, and the effect would be that we should be inflicting the maximum injury upon this country without inconveniencing Russia. With regard to the returns alluded to, no direct inference could be drawn from them, because one set referred to the whole year, while the other related to only four months, and the increase in the Russian exports for four months before April could easily be explained, for the noble Lord had overlooked the fact, that, whereas the ordinary course of Russian trade was by sea, and the ports wore not usually open before that month, in the present condition of the trade of Russia the conveyance was all overland, and the most favourable time for transit was the winter; so that there would naturally be an increase in the imports of Russian produce from neutral ports at the beginning of the year. The question was not one of free trade or protection—considerations which could not be allowed to enter into a war, but simply as to the means of inflicting the greatest injury upon the enemy. Upon the whole, he considered the policy pursued by the Government had been a wise one, and that it had been attended with beneficial results.
§ LORD BERNERS
had, on the 6th of March, when he brought forward a Motion with respect to the exportation of munitions of war, been informed by the noble Earl the President of the Council, that the Prussian Government had given an assurance to Her Majesty's Government that they would take steps to put a stop to the transit of warlike materials; he wished to 615 know whether the Government now entertained any expectation that those assurances would be fulfilled.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
observed that the real question was, by what means the trade of Russia could be most injured. The noble Lord opposite considered that the object had been best attained by issuing the Order in Council, while the noble Mover of the Resolution and his noble Friend behind him (Lord Ravensworth) thought that that in itself was insufficient and had failed to effect the purpose intended. It was clear that the Orders in Council had not had the effect of stopping the Russian trade. It was well known that there were two great principles always adopted in warfare—one that a belligerent might follow an enemy's property wherever he could find it, and the other that free ships made free goods. It appeared to him that the blockade of the Baltic, although vigorously maintained, had failed in its object, and that the effect of a continued blockade there would be of no use while Russian produce could be conveyed over land. He, therefore, upheld that it would have been consistent with the law of nations if the old principle of warfare had been continued, and to have extended the Orders in Council so that no Russian goods could have been exported from any neutral port in the Baltic. He thought that out of the recommendations made by the noble Earl (the Earl of Albemarle) and the noble Lord (Lord Ravensworth), measures might be taken to effect more completely the object they had in view—the destruction of the Russian trade.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
In answer to the question put to me by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Berners), I am informed by my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, that he has no official knowledge yet of the practical result of those measures which the Prussian Government have engaged to take relative to contraband of war. With regard to the plan of the two noble Lords, they have been so conclusively answered by my two noble Friends near me, that I will not injure the effect of their speeches by dwelling on the subject. With regard to searching all vessels that trade with the Baltic, to see whether they have enemy's goods in them, I think it would not be advisable at any time; but I will ask noble Lords to consider whether in a war like this, undertaken with disinterested objects, and one in which we wish to have the sympathies 616 of the world, we should be likely to secure that sympathy and moral support if we were to give instructions to our cruisers to search Dutch, Belgian, Swedish, Danish, Spanish vessels, and vessels belonging to the United States, in order to find out whether they had Russian property on board. Even if it were wise to do anything so offensive and so likely to lead the rest of the world to sympathise with Russia instead of against her, I believe you would fail in your object, because, although there was some confusion in the noble Lord's speech (Lord Ravens-worth) with regard to the distinction between Russian produce and Russian property, yet there is the greatest distinction between them. You may seize a cargo of Russian tallow, but you would probably find that it had been paid for by a Pomeranian Jew or a Greek, who, I believe, usually advance money upon these articles; and, although you may find that Russian property in any vessel, yet, by your international laws, you are utterly incapacitated from taking them. With regard to the question of blockade, which was brought under the notice of the House by a noble and learned Lord not now in his place, I sent him an enclosure from Admiral Dundas; and his answer was—that, as far as he was concerned, if he had been aware of the facts thus conveyed to him, he should not have made the remarks which he addressed to your Lordships. It would, however, probably be much more satisfactory to your Lordships if, instead of discussing the past, I were to show the state of things which at present exists. I will, therefore, read an official document which will show the orders given to our admirals in the White Sea, the Baltic, and the Black Sea—With respect to the blockade in the White Sea, on the 1st of May, 1855, the coming-off squadron was directed, in his orders, to establish a third blockade of the ports of Archangel and Oregon, and not to fail to communicate the earliest information of any blockade which shall have been de facto established. No notice of this blockade has yet been received. In the Baltic, Rear Admiral Dundas, in his orders of the 7th of April, 1855, was directed to establish a strict blockade of the Gulf of Finland (on arrival in the Baltic), as well as of the Russian ports in the Baltic and in the Gulf of Bothnia. The Gulf of Finland, from Hango Head to the Dagerort and all the Russian ports from the Dagerort to the Filsand light, were placed in a strict blockade by a competent force on the 28th of April. With reference to the blockade in the Black Sea on the 4th of January, 1855, Admiral Sir E. Lyons was 617 directed to take care to give requisite notifications after blockades have been instituted, and to be careful that the blockades are instituted by the 1st of February next. On the 10th of January, his attention was called to the above, and to the necessity of blockades being established de facto by the 1st of February. On the 14th of January, he was informed that, by the letter of the 22nd, their Lordships entirely approved of his establishing an effective blockade. On the 1st of February, 1855, the allied naval forces in the Black Sea put in execution the blockade of the river Dniester, the ports of Akerman, Ovidiopol, and Odessa; the ports Ochahoff Point, Kimbonrow, including the ports of Nicolaeff and Cherson, the rivers Boug and Dnieper, also the ports between Kimbonrow and Cape Tarhan, including the ports in the Gulf of Perekop, the port of Sebastopol, the ports comprised between Cape Aia and the Straits of Kertch, including those of Yalta, Aloutcha, Soudah, Kaffa, and Theodosia, the port of Kertch, the Straits of Kertch, the entrance to, and all the ports in, the Sea of Azoff, including especially the ports of Berdianski, Taganrog, and Arabat, the river Don, and the ports of Anapa and Soujak. The ports of Eupatoria, Strelitza, Kamiesch, Kazatch, and Balaklava, are and will remain open, free from blockade, until further orders.I hope your Lordships will pardon me for having given this explanation.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said he thought an efficient blockade of the White Sea was a most important point for consideration, but, if it were intended to establish an effective blockade, the vessels which were to be employed for that object ought to have been despatched from this country at least a month earlier than they had been. There was open water in a part of the White Sea all the year round, and the blockading force might have been ready to act, and to prevent all commerce from taking place in it the moment the navigation became open. He also felt bound to say that the force sent out to establish the blockade of the White Sea appeared to him utterly incompetent and insufficient for the service to which it was appointed, and he wished to call the serious attention of noble Lords upon the Treasury bench to this subject. He did not know whether the French intended to send out any auxiliary force, but he was convinced that our present force was entirely insufficient. It consisted of the Leander, an old frigate of 44 guns; a very good steamer of 200 tons and 8 guns—the Phœnix, he believed; and two other vessels carrying a few guns. In approaching the ports of the White Sea so small a force would be exposed to considerable danger, because it was perfectly well known, from the observations of our fleet last year, that, though there 618 was no large naval force in the White Sea, there were two or three large vessels—steamers drawing little water, and efficient boats in those seas—and there were about forty gunboats, each carrying a very heavy gun. If, therefore, any mischance happened to the blockading fleet, if a sailing vessel got becalmed or a steamer run aground, considerable risk would be run. The uncertainty that prevailed last year with respect to the course that was to be pursued was very detrimental to British interests, and no less than 670 vessels were allowed to sail from Archangel before the blockade was instituted. No uncertainty as to the course to be taken ought to prevail at present, and he could only regret that the White Sea fleet had not sailed at an earlier day. With regard to the Resolutions now before their Lordships, the noble Baron who spoke upon the other side of the House (Lord Ravensworth) seemed to consider the matter under debate as a question of the best mode of crippling the trade of Russia. From the various opinions expressed upon the subject, he thought there would be very little chance of coming to any definite conclusion upon that point:—but that was not the real question for consideration now; and, though it might be useful to discuss that subject, the real question they were called on to decide to-night was, whether or not they could feel any confidence that the Government were determined to do their best under all the circumstances of the case. He rejoiced that it was not intended to revive the practice of searching neutral vessels, and he was glad to hear the opinion of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) that it was inexpedient to adopt that principle in the present war. [Earl GRANVILLE observed that he had not given any opinion on the subject.] He had understood the noble Earl to say that it was not expedient in the present war to assert the right of searching neutral vessels and he had also understood him to refer to the Orders in Council, which announced that the belligerent right of searching neutral vessels was suspended, though not entirely resigned. For his own part, he was inclined to go a little further, because he did not believe that any maritime Power would hereafter venture to assert a right of searching neutral vessels, unless she was prepared to go to war with every civilised nation in the world engaged in commerce. No doubt it was of great importance to injure the trade of Russia as much as possible; but it appeared 619 that last year the trade of Russia was carried on nearly to as great an extent as before the war commenced. At this moment, he believed, there was nearly as much Russian produce in this city as the average quantity in former years—there were 40,000 casks of Russian tallow in London, which was about the average annual importation; and with regard to linseed, a greater quantity had been imported last year than in any previous year. Prussia was of course the great gainer, and undoubtedly it was to her interest, so far as the Russian trade was concerned, to maintain her present position. Large sums of money had been expended both by the Russian and Prussian Governments in order to afford facilities for the transit of goods by the overland route; but it was a grave question for their Lordships to decide whether the country should or should not go to war with Prussia in order to enforce a more strict blockade. The trade of Russia consisted of two kinds—that of raw produce and of manufactured goods. The latter trade was carried on overland with Asia, and with it we had not in the slightest degree interfered; the former was with Europe, carried on by Sea, and through Prussia, and this had not yet been affected to any appreciable extent. He was sure the noble Lord opposite would not attempt to enforce the old maritime law, and to run counter to the maxim, that free ships make free goods. In point of fact, though we had abstractedly maintained this doctrine, within the last two centuries, it had been more frequently suspended and laid aside than it had been enforced, and it had been laid aside by treaty with every maritime country in Europe during the last century. It would be a most dangerous doctrine for this country to endeavour to reassert; and the noble Earl opposite, if he was in power at this moment, would never attempt to enforce that doctrine. Although he thought this discussion might be of service, as showing how ready this country was to take all proper means of carrying on the war, yet it was not prudent for them to lay down a doctrine that no noble Lord had yet shown any practicable mode of carrying out. They had been told by the Government that there was to be an efficient blockade of the Russian ports, and, though this would not entirely cripple the enemy's trade, he took it as an assurance that the Government were determined to injure that trade by every sound and legitimate means in their power. If, therefore, 620 his hon. friend pressed his Motion to a division, he should feel bound to vote against it.
§ EARL GREY
Though I think the speech of the noble Earl who proposed this Resolution has received a complete answer, and that my noble Friends, the President of the Board of Trade and the President of the Council, have shown, as completely as it is possible to do, that the various plans proposed for further restricting the trade of Russia would fail to accomplish their purpose, still the importance of this subject seems to me so great, so serious an evil would arise if this House should give any countenance whatever to the dangerous and mistaken policy of attempting to put any further restriction upon the trade of the world for the purpose of injuring the enemy, that I must ask your Lordships' permission to say a few words, in order to point out some of the bad consequences of such a policy which do not appear to me yet to have been sufficiently dwelt upon. Two different plans have been proposed for further restricting the trade of Russia. First of all, there are, it is said, restrictions which we may adopt at home. This course is suggested by the noble Lord opposite, who proposed to impose a heavy differential duty upon all produce, whether Russian, or belonging to other countries, coming from certain parts of the continent. [Lord RAVENSWORTH: On certain enumerated articles.] Just so; and I am informed that our reciprocity treaties now in force would not necessarily prevent the adoption of that course. My noble Friend the Under Secretary of State (Lord Wodehouse) has, however, forcibly pointed out, that all you would do by this would he to drive the producers to send these enumerated articles to a neighbouring port. They would have no occasion to send them to the United States, but they might send them to Rotterdam, to Ostend, or some such port; or they might get New South Wales' tallow, mix Russian tallow with it, and so bring it in in defiance of the prohibition. Thus all you would do would be to make a very trifling addition indeed to the inconvenience which the importer of these articles would have to undergo. Assume for a moment, however, that you succeed in your proposal, and make these articles so much dearer to your own consumers. What would be the effect of this? What is it that has carried us so far through the present war with less suffering than is usually entailed by war? What is it that 621 makes our revenue steadily increase, and renders the people of this country able to submit to the enormous burdens which you have found it necessary to impose upon them. What has enabled us to do all this is simply that this war has interfered less than most wars with the general commerce and industry of the country, and that, in spite of the existence of this unhappy struggle, though they are subjected to a certain degree of pressure, trade and commerce continue to flourish. But what would be the effect of increasing the price of these articles—articles of raw produce, remember, which are of the first necessity in carrying on some of the most important branches of your domestic industry? The great brandies of trade and manufacture for which these articles are indispensable will be immediately carried on in foreign countries, in advantageous competition with yourselves. You will drive abroad skill and capital from this country, and you will raise up trades in foreign countries to compete with your own. For let me observe to your Lordships that the circumstances of the present time are totally different to those of the last war. In the last war all Europe was devastated from one end to the other; there was no country in which men could take refuge to engage in industrial pursuits with a feeling of security; and besides this, manufacturing industry had at that time scarcely taken root in any of the nations of the Continent. But what is the case now? Look at Belgium—look at Switzerland, and many other countries which are exhibiting day after day an increasing power of manufacturing industry;—they are already treading on our heels in some branches of industry, and remember that every restriction yon adopt which tends to make raw materials dearer here than in these countries, tends also to enable them still more successfully to compete with our manufacturer. Is it, then, wise—is it safe, at a moment when your own people are burdened with all the sacrifices they have been called upon to make, to give to other nations this advantage in the race of commercial and manufacturing competition, by driving these important branches of trade into their hands? It would, my Lords, be easy to point out many more difficulties which would arise if you enter upon this policy of endeavouring to check the trade of Russia by restrictions imposed at home. The effect of placing that kind of differential duty upon goods coming from particular 622 parts of the world is to raise up in this country protected interests, and we know what the consequences of this would be—you create in many persons a great interest in maintaining that state of things, and thus raise up great difficulties in returning to the former system of duties at the termination of the war. I say, then, that you cannot accomplish your object by means of duties imposed at home without doing infinitely more mischief to yourselves than to your enemy. But, then we are told that we ought to revert to the old policy of attacking an enemy's property in neutral ships. [The Earl of ALBEMARLE: No, no; I avoided that subject altogether.] Well, but I heard a good deal from the noble Earl of the repeal of an order in Council, which only says that during this war you shall not take an enemy's property in neutral ships; and, if I mistake not, the great burden of his song was—giving up certificates of origin, which he said were not worth sixpence, in which I perfectly agree with him, for I think they are worth much less than sixpence—giving up these, the noble Earl insisted that this order in Council must be revoked. Now, after what I have stated is the purport of that order, it is perfectly clear that if you are to make any further restrictions, your first step will be to attack the enemy's property in neutral ships, and that you must revert to the old principle of maritime law. Now, are you prepared to take that step? I believe it is one which you can never revert to again, and, in point of fact, if you look back to the history of the last two centuries, you will be unable to find an instance in which any country has submitted to this law, except when it was too weak to resist it. When we consider the vexation and oppression to which of necessity such a law would give rise, is it possible to conceive that any Power would willingly submit to its being carried into effect? Let me, for the sake of illustration, take the case of a ship sailing under the flag of the United States with tallow on board. That ship is boarded by one of your cruisers; it is asserted that the property belongs to an American subject resident in Memel or some other town, and papers are produced to establish that such is the case. Do you suppose that the United States would submit to your entering into the question and deciding it in your courts as to whether the sale of the tallow to one of their citizens had been a colourable sale or a bonâfide 623 transaction? It appears to me, my Lords, that the mere statement of the case is enough to prove the impossibility of reverting to such a law. Are you then prepared to enter upon a course of policy which, as my noble Friend the President of the Council has justly remarked, will infallibly embroil you with every neutral State, and which will deprive you of that sympathy which, at the present juncture, is of so much importance? Upon this subject, my Lords, history teaches us some useful lessons, and, I must say, that I was surprised to hear the noble Earl, who has brought this subject under the notice of your Lordships, advert to the case of the great Revolutionary War with France, and the commercial policy pursued during that memorable struggle, as an example of wisdom which it would be expedient at present to follow. I will not enter into details, but the broad results of that system of commercial policy I think every man is acquainted with. With regard to ourselves, the enforcement of our belligerent rights, as they are called, involved us in a calamitous war with the United States, and raised against us feelings of hostility over the greater portion of the world, and it also gave rise to a feeling, which even yet is not entirely dispelled, that England is disposed to make use of her great naval power in a manner tyrannical to other nations. Why, even at home, the grievance of the celebrated Orders in Council was such that they were eventually broken down and repealed, in spite of the opposition of a very powerful Government. How did the adoption of such a course of policy succeed in the case of the first Napoleon? The whole continent of Europe was practically under his domination, and his orders were received from one end to the other. Napoleon issued the Milan and Berlin Decrees against commerce, and I think that all the most intelligent observers of the events of those days concur in thinking that it was mainly to the attempt to make war upon this country by compelling all Europe to submit to a most galling system of commercial restriction that the fall of that great man was owing. The effect of the restriction which he imposed was felt an intolerable oppression and annoyance in every household in everyday life, and it was the operation of that system which created that intense feeling in Germany and in Russia which was eventually the main cause of the fall of Napoleon. 624 Mr. Ricardo, in one of his able works, has stated that the population of Russia, in the war against France, were actuated, in the support they gave to their own Government, by the feeling of animosity engendered by the commercial restrictions imposed by Napoleon. These are examples which history affords us; and let me ask your Lordships, will you, with these examples before your eyes, commit the folly of reverting to a policy which we see has been so disastrous in its results; or will you blame a Government for not acting upon such insane policy? I have observed, with more regret than I can describe, that this Motion of the noble Earl behind me appears to be adopted by the powerful party opposite, and I must say, that in adopting it they incur, I think, great responsibility. I think that they incur a grave responsibility in giving any support to those Resolutions, while they give so little explanation of the reasons by which they have been led to take that course. They have, in adopting this course, given your Lordships new reason to rejoice that the division of last night was such as not to bring into the councils of Her Majesty noble Lords who are prepared to adopt a course of policy so short-sighted and pernicious as I have described. If this Resolution is to be supported by noble Lords opposite, it would make me regard their accession to office not merely with regret, but with dismay. It is by such measures of ill-advised and unreasoning hostility in pursuing an enemy, without considering what would be the effect on the rest of the world, that a great empire might be brought to destruction, and I can only repeat that, if noble Lords opposite support such a policy, I can only view with increased satisfaction the vote at which your Lordships arrived last night.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, it was not my intention to have troubled your Lordships with a single word upon this subject, nor should I have felt myself called upon to do so, or, indeed, justified in doing it, if it were not for the very extraordinary speeches which I have this evening heard delivered by a noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) and by the noble Earl who has just sat down. The noble Earl has infused into the discussion a little more of that party acrimony and political animosity than has been apparent in the course of this debate, for up to the time when the noble Earl rose to 625 address your Lordships the discussion was singularly free from those elements. At the same time I am at a loss to know by what perverse ingenuity the noble Earl has persuaded himself that, by assenting to this Resolution, the party with which I have the honour of being connected—a party which appears to be a special object of animosity to the noble Earl—does in any way pledge itself to doctrines which he considers so dangerous, and the dangers and evil consequences of which he has depicted with all the colours of his vivid imagination. I know not, my Lords, by what parity of reasoning the noble Earl has persuaded himself from anything that has occurred in the course of this discussion, that by supporting the present Resolution we have been advocating the principle of exposing this country to the risk incurred by Napoleon from the discontent and dissatisfaction of the nations of the world, who felt their commerce and their industry destroyed and stifled by the oppressive character of the Berlin and Milan decrees. I know no parity between the two cases; I know no risk which the country would run by this Resolution being adopted to its utmost extent; I know no consequence which could arise which would be productive of danger to the country; but, on the contrary, I believe that every man in this country, with the exception of the noble Earl, has come to the conclusion that while the people of this country would willingly submit to the greatest sacrifices, the greatest privations, and the greatest losses, provided those losses and those privations, carried on and inflicted on the enemy by a Government of energy and determination, tended to bring this war to a speedy and honourable conclusion. But, my Lords, with regard to the Resolution itself, which the noble Earl says the Conservative party incur so great a responsibility in supporting, it appears to me to be very nearly approaching to what is called a truism. The Resolution simply declares,—That it is the opinion of this House that, in order to bring the war with Russia to a speedy termination, it is necessary to restrict the trade with that country by more efficient measures than any which have hitherto been adopted or announced by Her Majesty's Government.Well, therefore, the noble Earl talks of the Berlin Decrees, the adoption of the old maritime system, the danger of a conflict with the United States, and God knows what. Why, there is not a syllable 626 about any of these things in the Resolution. But what is the Resolution? I have already stated its terms, and I am ready to admit to the noble Earl—if he will accept any admission from me—that, more especially considering the circumstances of our alliance with France, which has been adverted to in the course of the discussion by some of Her Majesty's Ministers, I should be the last man to advise that we should place ourselves upon a footing with regard to belligerent rights which would be at variance with the course adopted by France. I am far from contending that in the present circumstances of the world it would be advisable or safe for the purposes of this war to adopt or to enforce the old maritime law of this country, which might expose us to serious risks of increasing the number of our enemies, and might place in opposition to us the neutral Powers of the world; but there is nothing of that kind in the Resolution of the noble Earl. I have been much struck by the variety and by the direct contradiction of the arguments which have been used by the various noble Lords who have opposed the Resolution. The noble Marquess, indeed, (the Marquess of Clanricarde), made a speech, from the greater part of which I thought that he was about to assent to the Motion of the noble Earl, for the whole point of his argument was that the blockade had hitherto been very imperfectly conducted—that the trade of Russia had in fact not been crippled as it ought to have been; that it was the duty of this country to cripple the trade with Russia to the utmost possible extent; that even now the blockade of the White Sea was insufficient in point of amount and too late in point of time; that we had done nothing to check the trade with Russia, and that it was going on with undiminished activity through Prussia. If, up to this time, however, the measures which have been taken have been inadequate—if the trade through Prussia is unchecked—and if it is admitted by the noble Marquess that it is an object of primary importance to cripple the trade with Russia—the natural conclusion is that he would agree with the noble Earl that it is an object to bring the war to a termination "by more efficient measures than any which have hitherto been adopted or announced by Her Majesty's Government." The noble Marquess concluded, however, by saying—It is quite true that nothing has been done; it is quite true that more effective measures ought 627 to be taken; but, inasmuch as I have so great confidence in the Government that, in spite of all I have seen, I hope that more efficient measures will be taken, I will not join the noble Earl in expressing an opinion that more efficient measures ought to be taken.But the noble Marquess is entirely at variance with the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade, who states that most efficient measures have been taken. He says—You do not know how much the trade of Russia has been crippled. You will see very shortly that the trade is stopped. You may fancy that produce is coming in, and that the markets of London are glutted with it; but, in point of fact, we have taken such steps that trade in Russia is at an end; and the people of Russia are suffering the greatest distress from the stoppage of their trade.That is a discrepancy between the noble Baron and the noble Marquess which I leave them to settle between themselves. Then comes the noble Earl who spoke last, and what does he say? He agrees with the noble Mover of the Resolution that the trade of Russia, through Prussia, is going on in the most flourishing manner, and with the greatest advantage to the latter Power; and he says that, in the first place, we cannot check it; and that, in the second, we ought not if we could; but he adds that it ought not to be checked. He says that to stop the trade through Prussia you must either resort to the principle of the old Berlin decrees and check and paralyse the whole commerce of the world—you must have recourse to a violation of the rights of neutrals and of the old maritime code, or you must interfere by means of the imposition of duties. Now, I will discard the first alternative at once; and I ask, what does the noble Lord say with regard to the imposition of financial restrictions? He admits, at first, that those financial restrictions are means which we have entirely within our own power—that there are no treaties of reciprocity which throw any difficulties in the way of the principle contended for by my noble Friend behind me of the imposition of differential duties upon articles of Russian produce imported from the Baltic or from the Black Sea. But he says, "How do you mean to carry into effect those financial restrictions?" He treats with great contempt certificates of origin and all regulations of that kind. I do not mean to say that those cretificates of origin may not be evaded and falsified, and rendered comparatively ineffective; but I say that every obstacle which you place in the way of the trade of the enemy 628 does so much the more towards obtaining your object of putting a pressure upon your enemy. But what does the noble Earl say to the proposition, or rather the suggestion, of my noble Friend of imposing differential duties upon produce of particular descriptions coming from those two quarters. He says—You will only drive them to take their produce a little further by land, and they will in future take it through Prussia, from Prussia to the ports of Holland and Belgium, and from those places they may import it into this country.True, they may; but does the noble Earl, who has calculated so closely the disadvantages and consequences of raising the price of the raw material, think that that further land passage and further transhipment and more extended voyage would not have a most material effect in checking the import of that produce, and of so increasing its cost as to place it at immense disadvantage in competing with produce of the same kind, which the noble Earl (the Earl of Albemarle) has shown could be supplied from other countries even more extensively than from Russia. No doubt, if of tallow, of hemp, and of flax Russia had the exclusive monopoly, instead of supplying only one-tenth, we should be inflicting a grievous injury upon ourselves by excluding all importation; but when the Russian produce, consisting of one-tenth, is brought into competition with the other nine-tenths, and you increase the difficulties and expense of transit of the one-tenth, you put a most decided check upon Russia, and you encourage the cultivation and importation of the other nine-tenths. But the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade lays the greatest possible stress upon the application of that very principle. He says that it is by the more extended transit and lengthened passage that you practically do what he desires to do—and what ever one desires to do—always excepting the noble Earl (Earl Grey)—namely, cripple the trade with Russia as an effectual means of carrying on the war in which we are engaged. The President of the Board of Trade lays great stress upon that principle; but the noble Earl says—If you do that, what will be the consequence? You will raise the price of those articles to the people of this country; you will expose them to undue competition with foreign manufacturers, and will create a great amount of dissatisfaction among the population.But if that argument is good for anything, it is good for everything—it is as good 629 against blockades as against all restrictions of any kind soever. The principle is, that you must not raise by financial restrictions the price of Russian produce in this country—that you must not check Russian trade, but that you must foster and encourage the commerce with that country in spite of the war. Then, away with your blockades at once; do not let us go to the expense of blockading—or let us hear no more the argument in this House that you cannot prevent Russian trade, and that you ought not if you could. The speech and arguments of the noble Earl are absolutely destructive of the whole policy of the Government, in attempting to impose restrictions on the commerce of the enemy, destructive alike of the system of blockade and of the system of restriction, however you may attempt to check, thwart, or control the trade of Russia. Those are the doctrines of the noble Earl; those are not the doctrines of the House of Commons, or of the House of Lords; they are not, I will venture to say, the doctrines of the people of England; and to attempt, upon such doctrines and such principles, to conduct a great war with a powerful nation is of all conceivable absurdities the most absurd. One word, before I sit down, upon another point. What says the noble Marquess against the prohibition imposed by financial duties upon the transit trade of Russia? He says that it is a measure of all but direct hostility against Prussia, and that it would be next door to provoking Prussia to go to war. At the present moment the feelings and the sympathies of the people of Prussia are strongly in accordance with the Western Powers in spite of the opposition of their Government; but there is one principle, one question, which may exercise with the people of Prussia an influence adverse to the Western Powers and favourable to the continuance of the present state of things, that is the pecuniary interest derived by Prussia from the profitable trade which is driven in Russian produce arising out of the facilities offered her by the present state of the law respecting neutrals, and which may tend to destroy any sympathy that she might otherwise feel. Deprive her of that advantage, impose commercial restrictions that will take away that artificial stimulus, and destroy the profit she derives from the existing state of things, and so far, in my judgment, from that being a motive on the part of Prussia to a hostile feeling against you, you may depend 630 upon it that the result upon her, because upon the interests of the people of Prussia, will be, that they will feel that it is much safer to be on friendly terms with England; and feeling the screw which will be placed upon her by the ambiguous position she holds, and will continue to hold under the supposition of the noble Earl, she will be more likely to unite herself cordially with the Western Powers, than she will by continuing in her present position, by which she is obtaining great pecuniary advantages. I will not say in what particular mode, effect ought to be given to the Resolution of the noble Earl, but I do say my noble Friend behind me has suggested a course, safe, practicable, and I believe, effectual—one which is not open to the arguments and objections which have been raised by the noble Earl opposite, but is in accordance with the principles maintained by Her Majesty's Government and by the noble Marquess, and one which I believe would have a powerful effect without interfering with the commerce of the world, and without, except in a trifling degree, deranging the commerce of this country; for the noble Earl has shown that of all articles now of Russian produce we can probably obtain from elsewhere an abundant supply, and that we have abundant stocks in hand at the present moment. I say my noble Friend behind me has shown the mode in which this Resolution may be carried into effect, without being open to the objection of the noble Earl, and in accordance with the principles of Her Majesty's Government; and feeling that the facts which he alleges are almost undisputed, and that the present measures have not been effective, I cannot conceive upon what principle I can refuse to give my assent to a Resolution, the object of which is to carry on the war with vigour, and which states that to effect that object, it is necessary to restrict the trade with that country by more efficient measures than any which have hitherto been adopted or announced by Her Majesty's Government.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
observed, that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) had stated that the argument in favour of 631 further restrictions on their trade was an argument which, if true at all, told against the whole conduct of the war and the operations of the blockade; but everything depended upon, whether those restrictions resulted from the blockade or from differential duties, for inasmuch as the disadvantages arising from a blockade were disadvantages common to all nations, the disadvantages arising from differential duties were disadvantages under which the people of one country alone were placed. He could not imagine how it was that an argument, the fallacy of which was so apparent, could have been received with such a cheer.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
observed that, though he neither felt the apprehensions expressed by the noble Earl on his left (Earl Grey), nor agreed with the strictures of the noble Earl on the other side (the Earl of Derby), he thought the conduct of Her Majesty's late or present Ministers—who were almost identical—had been such as to impose upon him the necessity of voting in favour of the Resolution of his noble Friend, and he did so the more willingly because he believed it would stimulate the Government to throw off their inertness and prosecute the war by more energetic measures.
§ THE EARL OF ALBEMARLE
in reply, said, not a single argument he had used had been answered. True it was, that observations had been attributed to him against which the arguments had been levelled—the giants had been first raised and afterwards killed, but nothing had been urged against the Motion, which remained unshaken.
§ On Question—
§ Their Lordships then divided:—Content 31; Not-Content 47: Majority 16.632
|List of the CONTENT.|
|Malmesbury||Willoughby de Broke|
|Eglinton||Colville of Culross|
|List of the NOT CONTENT.|
|Somers||Saye and Sele|
|Yarborough||Stanley of Alderley|
§ Resolved in the negative.
§ House adjourned to Friday next.