HL Deb 20 February 1860 vol 156 cc1320-50

rose to inquire what Steps Her Majesty's Government intend to take to carry into effect the 20th Article of the Treaty of Commerce with Franco; and said: My Lords,—Though I have only given notice of a Question to Her Majesty's Government with regard to the manner in which they propose to act on the 20th Article of the Commercial Treaty with France, yet the subject is one of such vast importance, and involves such serious constitutional questions, that I hope I shall be excused if I preface my inquiry by a few observations, and conclude with a Motion, on which, however, it is not my intention to take the sense of the House, but which will have the effect of putting myself and others in order, so that we may he enabled to discuss this important question. The Article to which my question refers, is one, I believe, of a somewhat unusual character. It is as follows:— The present Treaty shall not be valid unless Her Britannic Majesty shall be authorized by the assent of Her Parliament to execute the engagements contracted by Her in the Articles of the present Treaty. Now, when I first read this Article, I thought that it was inserted for the purpose—certainly a very proper and desirable purpose—of giving to this and the other House of Parliament the fullest opportunity of discussing the Treaty in all its provisions and all its parts; and to enable us to enter on that discussion without the apparent inconvenience of a want of consideration for the dignity of the Crown, if Parliament should discuss the propriety of assenting to that which Her Majesty had already personally ratified. That difficulty was altogether, of course, avoided, if in the Treaty itself Her Majesty had stipulated merely that she would recommend to Parliament the terms of the Treaty, and that it was not to be valid unless Parliament signified its assent. But, on looking into the correspondence, I find that the Article is to be understood, not in the English but in the French sense; and I find the reason assigned by Lord John Russell for its insertion. The noble Lord says:— It might probably be arranged that these proposals should be made to Parliament, and that the Treaty should be communicated to Parliament, at the same time that the Emperor should, under the French law, announce to the Legislative Body the conclusion of that engagement. But if the conditional form of the stipulation on the side of Her Majesty's Government should appear to the Government of France to require any corresponding form on its own side, then the engagements made by France might, in the body of the Treaty itself, be made contingent on the adoption of the proposals by Parliament. But whatever may he the object or intention of this Article, the fact is, that it not only gives to Parliament an ample opportunity, but confers upon it the absolute right and duty of discussing and giving absolute assent to the Treaty as it now stands. My Lords, I am not on this occasion about to enter into the merits of the Treaty. The object for which I rise is to obtain from Her Majesty's Government the assurance that the most ample opportunity will be given to Parliament, in conformity with the 20th Article, of considering and discussing the Treaty in all its details. Nor am I at all concerned to say whether or not the Treaty is in accordance with the theoretical principles of free trade. That question was very ably discussed on the first night of the Session by a noble Earl whom I see opposite (Earl Grey), who en- tered very fully into his views on that subject. and who said, in hi3 judgment, the Treaty was entirely at variance with the principles of free trade. But whether it be at variance with those principles or not, there is no question that it is entirely at variance with the principles laid down by some of the leading members of Her Majesty's Government some three or four months ago. Nay, my Lords, your Lordships will recollect—for it is not so long ago—that on the 21st of July last Mr. Bright, a very distinguished Member of the other House of Parliament, suggested to that House the course of policy which he would recommend to be pursued with regard to France, not with reference, however, to any commercial advantages, but with reference to the preservation of peace, and with the view of obviating the necessity of continuing our great armaments. This is what Mr. Bright said:— I would not commission Lord Cowley to make a great demonstration of what he was about to do; but I would make this offer to the French Government, and I would make it with a frankness that could not be misunderstood; if it were accepted on the other side it would be received with enthusiasm in England, and would be marked-as the commencement of a new era in Europe. I would say to the French Government, 'We are but twenty miles apart, the trade between us is nothing like what it ought to be, considering the populations of the two countries, their vast increase of productive power and their great wealth. We have certain things on this side which now bar the intercourse between the two nations. We have some remaining duties which are of no consequence either to the revenue or to protection, which everybody has given up here, but they still interrupt the trade between you and us. We will reconsider these and remove them. We have also an extraordinarily heavy duty upon one of the greatest products of the soil of France—upon the light wines of your country.' He goes on to say:— The only persons whom the French Emperor cannot cope with are the monopolists of his own country. If he could offer to his nation 30,000,000 of the English people as customers, would not that give him an irresistible power to make changes in the French tariff which would he as advantageous to us as they would be to his own country?"—[3 Hansard, civ., 202.] I must do Mr. Bright, therefore, the justice to say that he does not propose a Commercial Treaty. He recommends that the overture should be made for the sake of peace, and in the belief that France would be disposed to make corresponding advances. How stands the question as stated on that occasion by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and by the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Treasury? The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs says:— My hon. Friend says that we should make some proposition to France as regards the duty upon French wines. I should be very loth to enter into any sort of correspondence or discussion with the French Government which should induce that party, not very numerous in this country, but still very powerful and numerous in France—I mean the Protectionists—to say, 'Our Government has been bargaining away our industry and the fruits of our toil in order to obtain some advantage for England.' The benefit conferred by free trade between two nations is mutual; so far from being a bargain in which one party gains and the other loses, both parties gain. I should therefore be sorry that this question should be made the subject of a diplomatic correspondence."—[3 Hansard, clv., 205.] Now, with regard to the last observation of the noble Lord, I may be permitted to correct a misapprehension into which the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) fell with regard to an expression of mine the other day, when I spoke of concessions being made by one country to another. He told me I was falling into the old fallacy of supposing that the advantages to be derived from free trade were limited to exports, and not considering the corresponding benefits to be derived from imports. Now, my Lords, I had not overlooked the point that in making concessions to other countries you might obtain some great benefit for yourselves; but the reason why I dealt with exports only, and spoke of them as a concession, was to show that if any advantage was to be derived to your own country by the reduction of duties and the consequent increase of consumption, that was a matter entirely within your own power, and with regard to which you might act just as you please without making any bargain about it whatever. But when you come to the question of exports, then the amount of your exports depends not upon your own action, but upon the action of another country; and it was in that sense that I made the distinction between imports and exports, the one being a matter entirely within your own power and the other being a concession which you make to another country, corresponding with some concession which is made to you. I now come, after this parenthesis, to the speech of the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Treasury. He says— I concur with my noble Friend near me in thinking that it is not expedient that England should enter into a treaty of commerce with any foreign State founded upon mutual arrangements of tariff. The country to which a proposal to enter into a treaty of that description is made very naturally supposes that some advantage is sought to be gained by those from whom the offer emanates. The wise course to pursue in such matters is to make for your own advantage such a diminution in your Customs' duties as you may deem calculated to promote your own interests. When foreign States perceive that you act simply from a conviction of the good which you expect to arise to yourselves from such a proceeding, and find that your policy has tended to the increase of your prosperity and has added to your revenue and your commerce, they will, in all probability, be more likely to imitate your example than if you were to ask them to surrender an advantage which they imagine they possess."—[3 Hansard, clv., 213.] Here are the doctrines laid down by the First Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the 21st of July, 1859; and yet in the course of December 1859, under the auspices of those two noble Lords, we find a very distinguished Member of Parliament engaged—unacknowledged but, I presume, not unauthorized—for some weeks in negotiating a treaty of commerce on the very principles repudiated by those two noble Lords, and upon those very articles of commerce and with that very country with regard to which that repudiation was specially made. I presume it will not be denied that the Treaty entered into between us and France is intended by Her Majesty's Government to be a treaty of reciprocity in the strictest sense of the word. That it is a treaty where one party gives and receives an equivalent from another for what it gives I am not prepared to contend; but that it proceeds on the principle—which has been so emphatically condemned by the two noble Lords—of saying to France, "If you will make such and such changes in your tariff we will make such and such changes," and that the action of the one is made to depend on the action of the other, I think on the face of these papers it would be difficult to deny. But, as I said before, I am not about to enter into any discussion of the merits of the Treaty. I wish to know what course the Government intends to pursue with regard to the opportunities to be given to this and the other House of Parliament to exercise the right which they possess under the Treaty itself, and giving the consideration to and expressing their judgment on this Treaty. There is a feeling in this country that there has been a good deal of unnecessary mystery and secrecy about the negotiation of this Treaty, and that an attempt has been made to surprise Parliament into a hasty decision upon its merits. I cannot imagine the reason why so much mystery should have been observed with regard to the share which Mr. Cobden has had in this matter; and yet up to the very moment when the Treaty was laid before Parliament Mr. Cobden's name had never been mentioned in connection with its negotiation. The correspondence with regard to the Treaty is of the most meagre character, and indicates an amount of haste in the framing and execution of the Treaty which I must say is not creditable. On the 23rd of December, Lord Cowley writes to Lord John Russell to say that confidential communications had been going on for some weeks past between Mr. Cobden, on the one hand, and M. Rouher, the Minister of Commerce, on the other, having for their object, with regard to exports from Great Britain, the suppression of the prohibitive system which prevails in France in respect to certain articles of British production and manufacture, as also a modification of the tariff in regard to others; and, with regard to exports from France, the admission into the United Kingdom of various articles of French manufacture free of duty, and the reduction of other duties now levied on French productions. Lord Cowley goes on to say:— Count Walewski having requested to see me, I waited upon his Excellency yesterday, when he informed me that he had had a long conversation with Mr. Cobden, which might lead to very important results, if, as he had reason to believe, Mr. Cobden had the countenance of Her Majesty's Government. I should see, however, from the sequel of what he had to say to me, that before going any further it was absolutely necessary for him to know accurately the views and intentions of Her Majesty's Government. On the 17th of January, only one week before the meeting of Parliament, Lord John Russell sends a letter which certainly, in point of form, is somewhat singular, beginning,— My Lord and Sir.—Having received from Earl Cowley an intimation that in an interview which he had had with Count Walewski on the 22ndult., that Minister stated the bases on which, according to the views of the French Government, a treaty of commerce might be concluded with England, I have now to acquaint you that Her Majesty has been pleased to appoint you jointly the Plenipotentiaries to negotiate such a treaty. With this power given on the 17th of January, 1860, accompanied with the directions which Lord John Russell thought it necessary to send, I find Lord Cowley writing to Lord John Russell on the 23rd of January, acknowledging the receipt of his letter of the 17th, by which powers were conferred on Mr. Cobden and himself to act as joint Plenipotentiaries, and stating that the Treaty had been that day signed. I must do Lord Cowley the justice to say that in this letter he washes his hands completely of the matter. He speaks in the most complimentary terms of Mr. Cobden, and the share that gentleman took in the matter; he intimates that he (Lord Cowley) had nothing to do with the Treaty; that it was really not his Treaty; that he was present at its negotiation as Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary, but that, in point of fact, he had nothing to do with it, and merely assumed the character of a sleeping partner. He says:— Since the receipt of that despatch, Mr. Cobden and I have been daily for several hours engaged with Messrs. Baroche and Rouher, the French Plenipotentiaries, in the performance of the duties intrusted to us. The way had been so completely cleared by Mr. Cobden's previous active exertions that the task which I have had to perform has been comparatively light. Powers to negotiate having been conveyed on the 17th of January, and everything having been completed by the 23rd, the Treaty was ratified on the 31st. I say there has been an appearance of haste in the concoction of the Treaty, and an apparent desire to take Parliament by surprise as to its articles, and I shall be glad to hear from the noble Earl opposite any explanation to show that those impressions are not justified. I think, however, it may be useful to compare the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government upon the present occasion with the course pursued under nearly similar circumstances by Mr. Pitt in 1787, upon the occasion of his negotiating a treaty of commerce and navigation with France. The objects which the present Government have in view in making this Treaty were precisely the same as Mr. Pitt had in view in 1787. In the Speech from the Throne on the latter occasion the Treaty is referred to in terms which I presume the present Government would not object to have applied to their own Treaty. The King said:— I have concluded a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with the Most Christian King. I must recommend you to take such measures as you may think proper to carry it into effect. I trust you will find the provisions contained in it such as will offer an encouragement to industry, and lead to an extension of lawful commerce in both countries, and, by promoting a beneficial intercourse between their inhabitants, be likely to give additional permanence to the blessings of peace."—[Hansard, Parl. History, xxvi., 211.] The objects for which this Treaty has been made are, I presume, the same. Now, what course did Mr. Pitt pursue upon that occasion? Parliament met in 1787 on Tuesday, the 23rd of January. In 1860 it met on Tuesday, the 24th of January. On the 26th of January, 1787, as soon as the Address was disposed of, Mr. Pitt laid upon the table of each House a copy of the Treaty that had been concluded with France. He did not think it necessary to wait until the Treaty could be heralded in and apologized for by an able speech, mixing up the Treaty with the Budget and general considerations of revenue and finance. Mr. Pitt trusted to the conditions of his Treaty as being in themselves mutually beneficial and satisfactory to this country and to France, and without any delay, immediately after the opening of Parliament he laid it before both Houses. But Mr. Pitt did more. That Treaty, like this one, was to be accompanied by a convention which was to carry out in detail some of the articles left uncertain in the Treaty itself. Before he called upon Parliament to enter upon a consideration of the Treaty, Mr. Pitt not only laid before them the Treaty itself, but also the convention which specified in detail the precise amount of duties that were to be imposed upon the entrance of British goods into France. We are now called upon to take quite a different course. In the first place, there was a delay from the 31st of January till the 10th of February before the Government ventured to lay before Parliament the conditions of the Treaty, and it was avowed by them that the delay was caused by their desire that the Treaty should be explained at the same time that it was made known, and that the country should have no time to consider it before Parliament was called upon to discuss it. Then, again, where is the convention by which we are to know what are the duties to which our goods are to be subject upon admission into France? I say nothing as to the periods at which they are to be allowed to enter France, but am only speaking of the duties which are to be imposed upon them, of which all we know is that they are not to exceed 30 per cent. Mr. Pitt, as I have said, accompanied his Treaty by the convention fixing the pre- cise duties to be levied upon our goods; and there was also this difference between the two Treaties, that the present Treaty stipulates for the immediate introduction of French goods into this country free of all duty, while, on the other hand, our goods are only to be admitted into France at an interval varying from twelve to eighteen months, and then we have the satisfaction of knowing that in no case (many of the articles being the identical articles we are to import free from France) shall a higher duty be levied upon them than 30 per cent. But the principle of Mr. Pitt's Treaty was that goods (with the exception of beer, upon which 30 per cent. was to be levied) should be introduced reciprocally into both countries at the same duties and at the same time; and the duties were specified and defined, in no case exceeding 15 per cent, and in some falling as low as 5 per cent. I can easily imagine that it would not have been very convenient for the Government to lay Mr. Pitt's treaty and their own side by side upon the table without all the explanation and recommendation that could be given by the eloquence and ability of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Pitt, having laid his treaty on the table on the 26th of January, gave notice on the 2nd of February that on the following Monday he would move that the treaty be taken into consideration that day se'nnight. Thus a period of seventeen days elapsed after the treaty was laid on the table before it was discussed. In the debates which took place in 1787, I find Mr. Fox, among others, vehemently protested against the unparalleled short time allowed to Parliament for consideration of the treaty—the short time being no less than seventeen days. Now, mark the course pursued by the present Government, They said, "You shall know nothing of the Treaty until we have an opportunity of making a full financial statement," and accordingly on Friday, February 10th, this full financial statement was made and the Treaty was laid on the table of each House. A Motion was then made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—not after the Treaty had been a week before Parliament—not with a previous notice of three days—but the moment it was laid upon the table he moved that it should be taken into consideration—or rather that the House should consider the duties involved in the Treaty—on the following Thursday. By dint of much pressure the House of Commons did obtain an extension of time equivalent to that very short period of which Mr. Fox so bitterly complained in 1787. Now I must ask your Lordships to recollect that in the treaty of 1787 there was no such article as the 20th Article in the present Treaty—nothing specifically requiring the assent of Parliament to be given to the articles of the treaty, except in so far as such consent must be necessary to carry out the financial portion of the treaty. But Mr. Pitt's course was this:—He first moved three Resolutions affirming the main commercial stipulations of the treaty, and those Resolutions were separately discussed in the House of Commons. The Motion was made on the 12th of February. The first Resolution was adopted on the same day, the second was adopted on the 15th, and the third on the 16th; and the whole Resolutions were reported on the 19th. I find, then, that these Resolutions, involving the commercial points, having been reported, Mr. Pitt thought it necessary to move an Address to the Crown thanking His Majesty for having concluded the treaty, and signifying approval of its provisions. When these Resolutions and the Address had been adopted by the House of Commons, the next step taken by the Government of that day was to communicate them to your Lordships' House. I beg your Lordships to consider the great importance, in a matter of this kind, of your being able to exercise your deliberate judgment without being told that "you have no power practically to deal with this question, because it involves money considerations, and you have no power to make amendments." It is of the utmost importance that you should have a full opportunity for discussing this Treaty in its financial and political hearings wholly independent of the other House. When those Resolutions were communicated from the House of Commons, a species of protest was entered by Lord Stormont, and a Motion made to the effect that the Address and Resolutions of the House were not to bind the House in its legislative capacity, even with regard to measures which might be founded upon the Resolutions and the Address—that they were to be equally at liberty to discuss each and every portion of the Treaty as much as if the Resolutions and the Address had not been agreed to at all. Now, what was the objection made to that Motion? Not that it was improper, but that it was wholly unnecessary, as it could not be for a moment supposed that by agreeing to those Resolu- tions the House precluded itself from any further deliberation or decision upon the subject. Let me remind your Lordships who were the men who took part in those great and protracted debates—men great and eminent, although some of the opinions expressed may now appear to be unreasonable, and more particularly the language of Mr. Fox, which tended to excite hostility between the two countries, declaring the impossibility of our being on good terms with France, and that it was our duty to keep aloof from them. Mr. Fox held those doctrines, which I think were wrong; and in the discussions which took place it appears to me that Mr. Pitt had much the best of it. Those discussions are well worthy the consideration of any of your Lordships who can spare time to refer to them; and in many respects those discussions are particularly applicable to the present occasion. Among those who took part in those debates, and among whom there was no difference of opinion as to the propriety of the course that was adopted, and the necessity for giving the fullest consideration of Parliament to the provisions of the treaty, were Pitt, Fox, Burke, Windham, Francis, Grenville, Wilberforce, and last, but not least, my late venerable and respected Friend, Earl Grey, who upon that occasion, as Mr. Grey, made his first Parliamentary effort. The course which Mr. Pitt and the Government of that day took, after having given full time for the consideration of the provisions of the treaty, was to move Resolutions, and then to send them to the House of Lords, with an Address to the Crown approving of the treaty, in order that there might be a joint Address to the Crown from both Houses. Afterwards, undoubtedly, there was considerable objection taken to the course which Mr. Pitt pursued; because, when he came to deal with the commercial legislation which was found necessary, he introduced a very large and very extensive measure for the consolidation of the Customs and Excise duties; he repealed most of the existing duties, and re-enacted the whole of them in a consolidated form—requiring, I think, a series of about 3,000 resolutions, which were then moulded into one single Act. It was, therefore, complained, with some justice, by the House of Lords, that the duties affected and those not affected by the Treaty were all mixed up together, and that it was impossible to take them into consideration with a view to their bearing upon the en- gagements entered into between the two countries. Now I might have been spared from thus trespassing upon your Lordships' time if the Government had earlier been a little more communicative as to the course they intended to take. Up to the present moment we have not had the slightest indication of the process which they think necessary for obtaining the opinion of Parliament on the contemplated arrangements. On the contrary, so far from dealing with the Articles of the Treaty, as soon as the budget speech had been made a Motion was submitted that the House should go into Committee on the whole Customs' duties with a view to consider the commercial and financial policy involved. I am not about to discuss a question which I believe is at this moment undergoing discussion in the other House—whether it was right first to consider the financial portion of the question or the Treaty—whether the political should precede the commercial; but of this I am quite clear—that the course which Her Majesty's Government ought to have pursued was to deal with those articles of the revenue which were necessarily affected by the Treaty, and to take them into consideration in connection with the general bearing and scope of the Treaty; that the proper course would have been not to go into Committee upon the Customs' duties, but to go into Committee for the purpose of considering the provisions of the Treaty. In that manner the attention of the House would have been directed seriatim to the commercial and political considerations involved, and they would, as in 1787, have had an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon all parts of the question before proceeding to adjust the commercial system of the country so far as it must be affected by this Treaty. I would ask, then, whether it is the intention of the Government to follow the course pursued by Mr. Pitt; whether they will propose Resolutions respecting this Treaty, and then communicate those Resolutions to your Lordships' House; and whether they intend that the two branches of the Legislature should unite in a joint Address, giving their sanction to the terms of the Treaty. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) gives no sign; perhaps the views of the Government are yet capable of some little modification. But I may be permitted to say that if that course should be pursued, it will not, I think, meet the requirements and the exigencies of the present occasion. I have already pointed out that as to the Treaty of 1787 there were no specific articles requiring the assent of Parliament, failing which assent the Treaty would have been null and void. Now, I ask any lawyer whether the only mode in which the assent of Parliament can be given is not through the medium of an Act of Parliament?—And, consequently, it is not enough to pass Acts of Parliament affirming the commercial and financial portions of the Treaty, but you must have an Act reciting the Treaty, and in virtue of the 20th Article declaring the assent of Parliament thereto. Even with regard to those articles which are simply financial, it does not follow, because the House of Commons sanctions a reduction of the wine duties, and your Lordships concur, that therefore you consent to make the reductions of those duties a matter of stipulation binding for ten years, and from which, whatever inconvenience result to your revenue, you have no power of receding. The reduction of duties is one thing; to compel you to reduce them by virtue of a Treaty is another and quite a different question. There are, however, articles of this Treaty which are of a very different character, and which do not bear in the slightest degree upon commercial questions, but partake more especially of a political nature. I should be very sorry indeed to see the assent of Parliament given to the 3d and the 11th Articles. If you were to proceed in any way upon the principle of reciprocity—if you were to require for your commerce advantages corresponding with those conferred upon French commerce—the first object which you ought to have attained was the equalization of the duties upon shipping, thereby giving fair play to the most important industry of this and the other country. But the 3rd Article of this Treaty does not pass over the question of the Navigation Laws; it impliedly recognizes and sanctions the permanence of those differential duties on the side of France which it is impossible to maintain with any pretext of fair and equitable dealing towards this country. Then there is the 11th Article, by which you stipulate with a foreign nation, which has nothing to give you in exchange, that under no circumstances will you prohibit or impose any duties on the export of one of our most important products—coal. Why, it is a mockery to say that this is reciprocity. Here is the stipulation:— The two high contracting Powers engage not to prohibit the exportation of coal, and to levy no duty upon such exportation. But it is notorious that France has no coal to export. It is notorious that she is mainly dependent, and in time of war would be still more dependent, on us for coal for warlike purposes. I am not speaking now of a case in which we might be at war with France. Of course, under such circumstances, any treaty would be broken through; but at this moment it is an undecided point whether coal may not be considered as contraband of war. My noble Friend (the Earl of Hardwicke) reminds me that in the case of the Baltic war, the Government, which consisted of many Members of the present Ministry, actually declared that coal was contraband of war, and as such prohibited its export. What, then, will happen, supposing, not that we are at war with France, but that France is at war with some other Power? By this Treaty, we being neutrals between two belligerents, we should be bound not to prohibit the export of coal, although it may be contraband of war. Your vessels, going out laden with coal, may be seized by one of the belligerents, and what is the course you must pursue? Either you must submit to the seizure of your vessels, though the terms of your Treaty prevented you from prohibiting the export of their cargoes, or you must avenge yourselves of the insult offered, maintain your perfect right to export coal in pursuance of the Treaty, and, in that way, very probably may be led into hostilities, and become a principal in the war instead of a spectator. Whether, however, coal be contraband of war or not, to preclude a Government from prohibiting the export or imposing duties on any article is a condition which never ought to have been introduced into any Treaty, more especially when the article is one of such vital and essential importance as coal. Now, there is a very curious point connected with this question. In his original letter of the 23rd of December, Lord Cowley says— British coal imported overland to be admitted at the same rate of duties as Belgian coal. Seaborne coal to be subjected to the present duty for five years, when they would be assimilated to coal introduced overland. Now, what does the Foreign Secretary say on the subject of coal? An allusion is, indeed, made by Count Walewski to British coal; but such is the market for that commodity both in this country and abroad that no public interest would be excited upon the question whether the duty charged on it in France is to be high or low, or whether the remission is to be immediate or postponed. Indeed, there still remains more or less of a disposition, which formerly was strong, to view the export of coal with jealousy, or even to subject it to fiscal restriction. Your Lordships will observe that the offer of France is to take in your coal at, comparatively speaking, low duties; to which the answer of the Foreign Secretary is, that it matters very little whether the importation of coal into France is subject to high or low duties, for the trade in this article with other countries is so great that the addition of the French market would make but little difference to us, and that there is even in England a feeling of jealousy as to the export of coal at all. Notwithstanding that such was the view of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the stipulation in the Treaty is to the effect that we shall on no account prohibit or put a duty on the export of coal. I am not going now to discuss the various Articles of the Treaty. There will be a more ample opportunity for considering the merits of the Treaty, the amount of reciprocity obtained by it, and the benefits which our commerce is to derive from it. I do not intend in the slightest degree to undervalue or depreciate the advantages—on the contrary, I rate them very high—of extending and increasing our commercial relations with France; but if this be effected by treaty at all, let it be done by a treaty which bears some appearance of equivalent benefit and reciprocity. The noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in a passage to which I have referred, laid down very distinctly, when arguing against a treaty, the danger there would be in the case of a treaty of the French being apt to consider that their interests were sacrificed to those of England. On the other hand, it has been impressed on us that the great object of this Treaty is, not to obtain harmony and good understanding between the two Governments, but harmony and good understanding between the two peoples, and to prevent the chance of their ever quarrelling. Now, it appears a strange mode of attaining that object to make a treaty which, according to the confession of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, would lead the French people to believe that their interests were sacrificed to ours. And what is the ground put forward for this being made a matter of treaty? Why, that the changes will be most unpopular in France, that large classes of the French people will be violently opposed to it, and so serious will be the objections felt, and so great the difficulty of recurring to the ordinary mode of legislation in France, that the Emperor, with all his power and appliances, would be unable to pass these reductions through the French Legislature; and it is therefore suggested that you should assist him, and make that matter of treaty which you yourselves have declared ought not in principle to be made matter of treaty. Then, in spite of your own principle and the ill-will created in France, you will enable the Emperor of the French, in accordance with a special law on the subject, by the execution of the Treaty, to give to his acts the power of law, that law being one which he would be unable to pass through the Legislature in the ordinary way. If there be any truth in these statements, the mode adopted certainly appears a singular way of conciliating the people of France, and of commending the Treaty to their approval. I wish now to be informed by the noble Earl opposite what steps the Government propose to take to give effect to the 20th Article of the Treaty. I think I have succeeded in showing that it is absolutely necessary that the assent of Parliament should be given to the Treaty, not impliedly, but positively and absolutely, and by legislative enactment, not dealing with particular parts of it, but reciting the whole Treaty and enacting the assent of Parliament thereto. In that way only can it be applied. I should be glad to hear from the noble Earl that the Government have made up their mind to adopt this course, for then there would be ample time for both Houses of Parliament to consider the Treaty in all its bearings; and I can assure the Government that there is no desire on my part, or on the part of those noble Lords near me, to act with any factious spirit or cause embarrassment to the Government. The first question which presents itself to my mind, as matter for the gravest doubt, is whether it was wise, with respect to any financial arrangements, to bind ourselves hand and foot for ten years; and the next question that occurs is whether, however desirable it may be to extend and increase—and I hope to see them increased and extended—our commercial relations with France, the present is the proper moment to make these alterations, when we have an enormous deficit in the revenue to meet, and when, to obtain the anticipated advantages of this Treaty, we must largely increase and, in point of fact, make permanent a system of taxation which has hitherto been reserved for periods of emergency and war, but which if you impose at 10d. in the pound in time of peace, you are establishing as a portion of the ordinary revenue, never to be got rid of, and are thus depriving yourselves of a most powerful engine for raising an extraordinary revenue in time of any great and sudden emergency. I object to some articles in the Treaty on their own merits, and to others not on their own merits, but because I conceive, that even should the agreeable anticipations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer be borne out, this is not the moment to enter into these stipulations; and if it were, I consider that the substitute you propose to provide the requisite revenue is most objectionable in time of peace, and should be reserved for cases of war or extreme emergency. The noble Earl cconluded by moving— That there be laid before the House, copies of so much of the Journals of the two Houses of Parliament as relate to the Proceedings in respect of the Commercial Treaty with France in 1787.


was understood to say, that during the late war with Russia two vessels belonging to a Danish port were seized and confiscated as carrying cargoes contraband of war, such cargoes being coals.


My Lords, the charge against the Government of having shrouded their proceedings with regard to the Treaty in secrecy may he retorted against the noble Earl; for on this occasion secrecy appears to have marked his own conduct to a very noticeable degree. On Friday the noble Earl comes down to the House, and gives a notice regarding the Treaty which no one could have regarded but as the notice of a casual inquiry as to the intended mode of proceeding. But, if the noble Earl intended to open up the whole question of the principle and details of the Treaty and of the policy that had dictated it, and to favour your Lordships with a speech an hour-and-a-half in length, criticising it, it would have been just as well for the noble Earl to have given such a notice as would have been convenient to the Government and the House; for I dare say that many Peers are absent who would have liked to be present had they imagined that the noble Earl meant to make a long speech. Judging, however, from the brilliant audience in the side galleries, the noble Earl's secret appears to have become known to some parties. I admit that the questions put by the noble Earl are perfectly fair and Parliamentary, and the Government have no desire whatever to withold the fullest information, not only upon the course of proceeding they propose to adopt, but as to all the facts of the case. The noble Earl at the outset of his speech stated that he was not going into the merits, yet the whole hour and a half over which that speech extended was occupied in criticising and objecting to it. He (Earl Granville) denied that the charge of secrecy brought by the noble Earl against the Government was maintainable. It was obvious that in cases of this sort it would lead to inconvenience, and embarrass negotiations, if public notice were given that a Treaty of Commerce was being negotiated; but in this instance it was impossible for the Government to give notice, for they were not only not committed to the Treaty, but up to the date of the despatch from Lord Cowley which has been mentioned to-night the Government was not in the slightest degree committed to any negotiation whatever. They knew, indeed, that a distinguished public man had been in communication with influential members of the French Government, and had found a great disposition on their part to remove the commercial restrictions which existed between the two countries. But Mr. Cobden at that time had no authority from us—he never pretended that he had—to negotiate a treaty; and it was not until Count Walewski made a formal request on the subject, that Lord Cowley and Mr. Cobden were empowered by the Government to commence negotiations. Although the noble Earl discussed the Treaty at considerable length, I observed that during the whole of his speech he carefully avoided committing himself on the question of reciprocity. Whether he is in favour of reciprocal treaties, as he was a short time ago, or whether he has adopted those more liberal opinions which are now in vogue, I am at a loss to know. The noble Earl next entered into come criticism as to the wording of the correspondence, the object and bearing of which I confess I am at a loss to understand; but with regard to the mode in which the despatch was addressed to Lord Cowley and Mr. Cobden, I do not see how it could very well be addressed otherwise than it was. The noble Earl proceeded to accuse the Government of having departed from the precedent set by Mr. Pitt in 1787, and of having interposed unnecessary delay in producing the Treaty; but the noble Earl omitted to state that Mr. Pitt's treaty was known a considerable time before the meeting of Parliament, whereas it was impossible to produce the present Treaty immediately after the meeting of Parliament, for the simple reason that it was not ratified. The only delay which occurred after the ratification was caused by the illness of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and arose from a desire on the part of the Government to have all its provisions and bearings explained at the same time. The noble Earl, when describing the course pursued by Mr. Pitt, adverted to the debates which took place in both Houses of Parliament, and even quoted some of the observations of Mr. Fox. I frankly confess that it is a matter of great regret to me, who have always entertained a traditional and historical respect for Mr. Fox, and also, I may add, for the late Earl Grey, who was one of the most practically liberal of men on all the great principles of civil and religious liberty, to find that in the debates of 1787 upon subjects of commercial policy, they were as completely in the wrong as they possibly could be. The noble Earl has told us that Mr. Fox opposed Mr. Pitt's treaty because it was made with our "natural enemies" the French. Some members of the Opposition went even further, and objected to the treaty, because, if carried, it would compel Parliament to act upon the objectionable doctrine of free trade with Ireland. The debates of 1787 show that the greatest men are not well informed upon every subject, and that—as Whig historians have admitted—Mr. Fox and Mr. Grey were inferior to Mr. Pitt with respect to the principles of commercial legislation. But certainly this is no ground for quoting their opinions against the course which Her Majesty's Government propose to take upon the present occasion. The noble Earl was quite correct when he said that the first step taken by Mr. Pitt's Government with the view of obtaining Parliamentary sanction to the treaty with France was to submit it to a Committee of the whole House; but the noble Earl did not point out the difference which exists between the two cases. Mr. Pitt's treaty and the measures which he founded upon it related only to France, and did not affect our general Customs' duties, whereas our treaty and the corresponding repeal and remissions of duties are applicable, not to France alone, but to the whole world. We cannot, therefore, follow precisely the course adopted by Mr. Pitt. The noble Earl says, that Mr. Pitt embodied in the Resolutions he submitted to the Committee all the important clauses of the treaty. That is not strictly correct. What Mr. Pitt embodied in his Resolutions were those clauses of the treaty which affected our Customs' duties, with the addition of that "most favoured nation" clause which in 1787 was without precedent, but which has since been repeatedly adopted without any reference to Parliament whatever. With regard to the intentions of the Government, they propose to proceed in strict accordance with what was stated in "another place" last week. Our wish is to give the most ample information to Parliament, to afford ample opportunity for discussion, and to obtain its assent to the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then to ask the assent of Parliament to the whole Treaty in the regular way. In the House of Commons a discussion will be taken in the first instance upon all those Customs' duties which either directly or indirectly are connected with the Treaty. If the Resolutions are passed, the House will then be asked to agree to an Address to the Crown on the subject of the Treaty. When that is done—though I am not sure it is in accordance with any modern Parliamentary precedent to submit Customs' Resolutions to this House—the Resolutions and Address passed by the Commons will be communicated to your Lordships, and your Lordships may then proceed, in the same way as in 1787, to consider the Resolutions, and to concur in the Address to the Crown. The noble Earl wants us to go even further than Mr. Pitt, and, relying upon the 20th Article, he calls upon us to embody the whole of the Treaty in an Act of Parliament. But the 20th is not the only clause which relates to this point. The 14th, which follows a series of engagements on the part of Her Majesty, states that "the present Treaty shall be binding for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland so soon as the necessary legislative sanction shall have been given by Parliament." Then follow several Articles in which the Emperor of the French makes certain engagements to Her Majesty. It seems to have occurred to the French negotiators at this point that, while the French Government was bound firmly enough, the British Government was not bound except in a certain eventuality—namely, unless they were authorized by the assent of Parliament. Hence the following Article:— The present Treaty shall not be valid unless Her Britannic Majesty shall be authorized by the assent of Her Parliament to execute the engagements contracted by Her in the Articles of the present Treaty. Observe the words are "the assent of Her Parliament," not, as in the 14th Article, "the legislative sanction" of Parliament. In the latter case Parliament means Queen, Lords, and Commons; in the former it means the two Houses only—which cannot pass an Act of the Legislature. I submit, then, that we shall meet all the requirements of the Treaty by agreeing to an Address to the Crown, and by passing the Customs' Bill, which must be introduced to legalize all that is inconsistent with the present law. The noble Earl divided the Treaty into two parts—one commercial, the other political; but I must confess I do not know where the political stipulations of the Treaty are to be found. The noble Earl, I am aware, referred to Clauses 3 and 11. As to Clause 3, I certainly regret that the French Government should have desired its insertion. It does not add the slightest force to existing legislation, and was only admitted in order to prevent all possible misconstruction of the previous clauses. I regret the introduction of that third clause, because it is to a certain extent injurious to our interests, and also because it is, undoubtedly, infinitely more injurious to their own. Its effect will only be to stand in the way of their reaping the full advantages of free trade by taxing themselves in a circuitous manner. But, said the noble Earl, if you had only retained your navigation laws, what a powerful lever you would have had now to bring the French to reason. When we repealed the navigation laws, we repealed them for our own interest. I am disposed to believe that we could not have retained those duties even if we would, but I think that when we found it was for our own interest to repeal them the Government were right to do so at once, even though France was not ready to make any agreement on the subject. I am thankful and delighted that we did repeal those duties at that time instead of waiting till now. As to the 11th clause, relating to the export of coal, it has already been fully discussed by your Lordships, and I think the noble Earl has not been able to make out any case against it. And I do not like to weary your Lordships by going over the same ground again. That clause might be objected to on the ground that, for the sake of giving ourselves a differential advantage over the French manufacturers, we ought to retain the power of putting an export duty on coal; but I believe no one here will he inclined to argue in that way. Then, again, it might be said that for fiscal purposes it might be desirable to tax the export of coal, and that we ought not to exclude ourselves from such a cause for ten years to come. That is a more plausible argument, certainly, than the other; but the difficulty which has been conjured up is quite imaginary. After the former humiliating failure to keep up such a duty, and after the strong evidence then adduced as to difficulties and complications to which it led, I think it is utterly impossible to impose an export duty on coal. I quite admit that under certain circumstances a moderate export duty for fiscal purposes may be as good as an import duty, but you must recollect what the subject is which you are going to tax in the present instance. You must bear in mind that it is a commodity of which we are the producers, and that any tax upon its export must act against our sale of it when it comes into competition with the production of Foreign mines in the markets of the world. As to the noble Earl's argument against the abandonment of a prohibitive duty on coal in the event of war, I have only to say that at the time of the Crimean war we did issue a proclamation prohibiting the export of contraband of war to countries north of Dantzic, but that we did not extend it to coal. There is no positive decision of our courts of law upon this point, but there can be no doubt that in certain cases where the destination and use of coal are obvious, coal is contraband of war. In Mr. Pitt's treaty there were two clauses specifying what was to be regarded as contraband of war and what not, and coal was distinctly specified as not contraband. Of course, at that time, nobody thought of coal being used for the propulsion of large vessels of war, and hence there was no reason why it should be held to be contraband. But I find that sail cloth, cables, anchors, and everything essential for the navigation of a man-of-war, such as were afterwards pronounced by Lord Stowell to be contraband of war, did not figure as such in Mr. Pitt's treaty. The noble Earl has also alluded to the difficulty likely to arise when two nations being at war we, as neutrals, should have to prohibit the exportation of coal to other countries. I believe no one will deny that there are, by the laws of nations, belligerent rights which may be exercised by States in anticipation of and previous to war—such as embargoes and the like. The Customs Act of 1853 gives power to the Crown to prohibit the export of various munitions of war. Now, either these are affected by a commercial treaty, or they are not. I apprehend no one here will assert that it would have been wise to omit from the French Treaty the "most favoured nation" clause, previously inserted by the late Government in the commercial treaty with Russia. The only difference between that clause and the 11th is that by the former you cannot prohibit the export of coal to France without prohibiting it at the same time to the rest of the world; and that, by the other, you cannot prohibit it at all. The noble Earl argued that when there was a prohibition, on our part, of the export of contraband of war, it must be extended, if the 11th clause held good, to all the rest of the world. But here the facts are quite the other way. During the Russian war the Government, acting on the advice not only of the law officers of the Crown, but also of the learned Lords of the Council, issued, as I before mentioned, a proclamation six weeks before the war commenced, prohibiting the exportation of all articles contraband of war—coals not included—to any ports north of Dantzic, leaving them perfectly free and open to the rest of the world. Now, is it probable—is it possible—that those nations, to some of whom we were bound by "the most favoured nation" clause, as it is called, would have uttered no murmur, raised not the slightest objection to the course we took, if they had not held, as I believe it ought to be held, that no such stipulation in a mere commercial treaty does infringe the belligerent rights of the States contracting? The noble Earl spoke of the one-sided nature of the Treaty, and in illustration referred to the fact that the English duties were to come off sooner than the French ones. The truth of the matter is, that France was perfectly willing, and, indeed, proposed that we should delay as long as herself the advantages or disadvantages of the Treaty, whichever the noble Earl may call them; but Her Majesty's Government, having once made up their minds that the changes which they were called upon to make would be highly benefica to our country, declined to accept of any delay, and resolved to take the only right and wise course—that of making the remissions at once, without waiting for any corresponding remissions on the part of France. As to this question of one-sidedness in the Treaty, it is very strange to observe some of the most eminent statesmen in France deploring the formation of the Treaty in the strongest possible language, as all for the good of England and absolutely ruinous for the best commercial and manufacturing interests of their own country; and at the same time to hear it said in England, though not in quite such strong language, that the Treaty is all for the advantage of France and that the bar-gain is a very bad one for ourselves. It is a logical impossibility that both these opinions can be correct. For my own part, if I were a Protectionist—I recollect indeed it having been said by one of your Lordships that the animal was only to be got at by digging down into a deep substratum of the earth; but I am not sure of that, for I believe that a few specimens may be found on the surface of the earth in a state of suspended animation—but if I were a Protectionist I might logically hold that a treaty of this kind would be injurious to both countries; but as a freetrader from the beginning of my public life, as one who has watched the glorious effect of every restriction removed from commerce, I believe we shall find the result of this Treaty most beneficial to both of the nations concerned. The noble Earl spoke of Mr. Cobden's having been brought forward to bear all the obloquy of the arrangement, and of Lord Cowley having washed his hands of the business. I can assure your Lordships that such a conception can only arise from the modest language which Lord Cowley uses when speaking of his exertions in order to give all the credit to Mr. Cobden; but on the other hand Mr. Cobden wishes it to be known that her received the greatest possible advantage from the experience, sagacity, and judgment of Her Majesty's Ambassador at Paris. I do not consider this the establishment of free trade in France, but only the beginning of free trade, and when the noble Earl says that this measure of free trade is avowedly forced upon the French people against their will, I say that is not a fair way of putting the question. [The Earl of DERBY was understood to explain that what he had said was, that the Emperor of the French had taken the present course because he would have found great difficulty in passing the Treaty through the Legislative Chamber.] I think the noble Earl will not deny that upon the whole the Emperor of the French has a pretty clear perception of what is agreeable to the nation he rules over, and there is the greatest possible difference between doing what is distasteful to the whole people and finding a difficulty in dealing with certain Chambers in which the influence of great protected interests—as had sometimes happened in this country—is sure to he loudly hoard. And your Lordships may depend upon it that if the Emperor had not seen that the Commercial Treaty, when it comes into operation, will he of great advantage to the people of France, and be popular among the great mass of the consumers, he would not have proposed such a negotiation. I entertain no doubt that the more free trade is adopted in France, the more it will be extended, and the more the necessity of breaking down the artificial restrictions that now exist upon French commerce will be seen. For my own part, I feel the greatest satisfaction that this Treaty has been negotiated under Her Majesty's present Government.


My noble Friend (Earl Granville) does not, it appears to me, estimate fully the importance of the question put by the noble Earl opposite. That question is one of great importance—namely, in what manner this Treaty is to be brought under the consideration of Parliament. In order to explain my views, I trust that your Lordships will permit me, as shortly as I can, at an hour which I know is inconvenient, to point out what I understand to be the difference between the course which Her Majesty's Government propose to take and that which was taken by Mr. Pitt. In 1787 Mr. Pitt moved for papers relative to the convention, and then in Committee of the Whole House he moved Resolutions affirming the main provisions of the Treaty. My noble Friend says it is not necessary to do that, because in 1787 Mr. Pitt proposed to legislate with reference to France only; whereas in the present year the reductions of duty are general, and apply to every country in the world. Let me point out that my noble Friend has fallen into a mistake, and a very important one. The Resolutions moved by Mr. Pitt in Committee on the commercial treaty were not the foundation of any legislation at all. If your Lordships refer to the Journals it will be found that the Chairman of that Committee was not instructed to move for leave to bring in a Bill founded upon those Resolutions. The only proceeding founded upon those Resolutions was an Address to the Crown in favour of the provisions of the Treaty, in which this House was asked to concur. The reductions of duty under that treaty were afterwards included in a great number of other reductions of duties—embraced in 2,500 Resolutions—forming an entire alteration of the whole of our Customs, Excise, and Stamp duties. When the Resolutions relative to these duties were reported the Chairman was instructed to move for leave to bring in a Bill founded upon them, and these Resolutions, and not the others relative to the treaty, were the foundation of the whole proceeding. In the present year Her Majesty's Government do not propose to have a Committee of the Whole House on the Commercial Treaty; they intend to ask the House to go into Committee on the Customs Acts, and then they propose in that Committee to move Resolutions for the reduction of duties. Now, my Lords, how will this operate? By the usual practice of Parliament, Resolutions agreed to in Committee of the Whole House in favour of reductions of Customs' duties come into operation as soon as they are reported to the House. Take wine, for example, which is the most important concession under the Treaty. If the Resolution in favour of this reduction is agreed to in Committee of the Whole House on the Customs Acts, upon the Resolution being reported to the House the reduced duty comes into immediate operation. Therefore, when Parliament afterwards comes to consider the Treaty, it will find the most important part already carried into effect, and you cannot without disturbance of trade retrace your steps. In a Committee of the Whole House on the Commercial Treaty any question may be raised which any hon. Member may think important with reference to the Treaty; but in Committee on the Customs Acts any discussion upon the Treaty will be irrelevant and out of order, and no Resolution can be proposed whereby the sense of the House may be taken upon the various matters provided for by that Treaty. The effect of this course of proceeding, as contrasted with that taken by Mr. Pitt, is that Mr. Pitt's Government gave to Parliament an anterior opportunity of discussing the various questions contained in the Treaty before they proceeded to carry them into effect. Mark how the present course of proceeding will operate. I will not go into the merits of the present Treaty. I have already had two opportunities of expressing my opinion upon the general policy of that Treaty, and this is not a fit occasion for fully discussing the details. I may, however, point out to your Lordships some of the questions that must necessarily arise in discussing the policy of that Treaty—not questions of the reduction of Customs' duties, but well worthy, notwithstanding, of the consideration of Parliament. For instance, we shall have it suggested to us that it is not politic for this country to bind itself for ten years not to impose any duty on coal exported to France. From the language that has been held in this House that opinion appears likely to receive considerable support from some of your Lordships. Is it not very probable that we shall also have our silk and paper manufacturers saying, "It is not equal justice that we should be bound for ten years to give French silk and paper manufacturers access to our coal, to cheapen their produce, while France either lays a heavy duty on or entirely prohibits the exports of various important articles or raw materials"? France, for instance, prohibits the export of rags; and imposes a duty on the export of raw silk, and our paper and silk manufacturers may very well contend that it is not just to furnish coal to facilitate French manufactures, while France does not allow these important materials for ours to be exported to us. We may not feel any great objection to the export of coal to France; but when France obtains a right of free access to our coal for ten years, English shipowners ought, think, to have a fair share of the carrying trade of so bulky an article. The third Article of the Treaty, however, maintains all the differential duties now in force in favour of French shipping, and the differential duty upon coal imported in English bottoms remains nearly, if not quite, prohibitory. The brandy manufacturers, too, may say that they consider the original duty of 10s. proposed by the Government on the 17th January to be a fairer one than that of 8s. 2d. agreed to in the Treaty. Is it not probable that the English silk manufacturers will represent to your Lordships that, while they are exposed to a very considerable inconvenience in the introduction of French silks free of duty, they are forbidden to enjoy the equally free introduction of their silks into France? In a certain description of silk goods, in which the artistic skill and taste of the French give them an advantage, our silk manufacturers cannot compete with their French rivals. But there are silks of a plainer and stronger pattern, in which our mechanical skill and the perfection of our machinery give our manufacturers a great advantage; and if these goods were admitted into Franco, an advantageous business could be done in this description of goods, and their admission into France at the same time that finer French goods are admitted here, would afford employment to many of the hands likely to be thrown out of work by the inability of our manufacturers to sustain the competition with France in fabrics of this description. In like manner it would be for the advantage of France that the admission of those British silks which may supersede some of their own, should take place at the same time that a great increase of employment was afforded to another branch of the French silk trade by the opening of our market. Thus, it would be for the interest of both countries that an interchange of their silk goods should take place in a manner which the provisions of the Treaty will not admit. Our manufacturers will, I think, have much to say in support of this view of the subject and against the provisions of the Treaty as it stands. I do not say whether the case they will be able to bring forward will be capable of being made out. This is not the right time for entering into that question, but I do say that the parties ought to be heard. All I now ask is that this and the other House of Parliament should have an opportunity of fully considering these questions, and of discussing how far it is right to accept the arrangements made by the Government in the negotiations with France before we actually make the concessions that are asked of us. If you had followed the course pursued by Mr. Pitt, the difficulties now experienced would have been obviated. If that precedent had been followed, Resolutions to carry the Treaty into effect would have been moved by the Government in a Committee of the House of Commons upon the Treaty, and not upon the Customs Act. In a Committee on the Treaty, Resolutions pointing to its amendment might have been moved, and, if adopted, would have afforded grounds for moving an humble Address to Her Majesty asking Her to reopen the question with France, and to endeavour to obtain such modifications of it as are necessary. This course, I say, would have been open to either House of Parliament to pursue, if the precedent of Mr. Pitt had been followed. But the effect of the course taken by Her Majesty's Government is to deprive Parliament of this opportunity of deliberation. The House of Commons, in a Committee on the Customs Acts, cannot consider any Motion tending to a revision of the Treaty—it can only decide whether it will or will not consent to the reductions of duty promised to France which will be proposed to it; and if it adopts the Resolutions proposed for that purpose as soon as they are reported to the House and agreed to, they will come at once into operation, so that when it afterwards proceeds to consider the Treaty, and when the Treaty is brought before this House, as we are promised that it shall be, the time will be past for discussing it with advantage, since all the advantages accorded to France will already have been granted, and it will be impossible to recall them without extreme inconvenience to our own trade. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) has expressed his opinion that a distinct Act of Parliament is necessary to give effect to the Treaty in consequence of the manner in which one of the clauses is worded. On comparing the words of this part of the Treaty with those of the corresponding provisions in that of 1787, I admit there is some awkwardness in the expressions now used, but still I do not think they have the effect the noble Earl supposes. The assent of Parliament which the Treaty requires for its coming into operation will, I think, be sufficiently given by the passing of the Acts for reducing the several duties which it stipulates for repealing. At all events, if there is the slightest doubt upon this point, it can be removed by a convention between the two Governments declaring this to be all the Treaty was intended to require.


thought his noble Friend (Earl Grey) exaggerated the difference that existed between the mode of dealing with this Treaty and the mode a doted by Mr. Pitt. The difference of treatment arose out of the different natures of the two transactions. The two transactions were essentially different in their nature, and there was no change in the mode of dealing with the present one that was not made absolutely necessary by the difference that existed. The Resolutions moved by Mr. Pitt had reference to a Treaty that related exclusively to France. Now, the present Treaty had a general operation, affecting all other countries, and not France only. It affected the wines, not of France merely, hut of Spain and Portugal and the rest of Europe; and it would, therefore, be impossible to follow literally the precedent of Mr. Pitt in regard to it. Moreover, the Resolutions which would be proposed in the other House of Parliament, were Resolutions which would affect the importation into this country of numerous articles from all parts of the world. There might be many faults found with the Treaty, but he thought his noble Friend very greatly underrated the magnitude of the change in regard to France. He believed the change effected by France under this Treaty was infinitely greater in degree and more important in principle than any change we stipulated to make in our own country. We were only taking one step forward and that a short one, in the same path on which we had been proceeding since 1842; whereas France was taking a step involving a far greater change than was taken by Mr. Huskisson when he commenced his commercial reforms. The noble Earl opposite referred to the third Article relating to shipping. No one could deny that it would have been more satisfactory to this country if the Treaty had also been a navigation treaty—but it did not profess to be so; it was a commercial treaty only. We could not under this Treaty, and did not ask France to alter her navigation laws. France offered to us certain changes in her commercial code which were beneficial to us, and we accepted them: but we did not insist upon other changes which would have been more beneficial to the French than to ourselves. With regard to the export trade in coal, the House would perhaps be surprised to find that last year the export of this article to France alone exceeded the whole amount exported in 1842 to the whole world; and of this trade more than two-thirds was carried on by English coasting vessels. He did not believe, as had been alleged, that the stipulations of this Treaty would in any way interfere with our rights as a belligerent power, should we unfortunately be engaged in war, or in the least degree fetter our action previous to war breaking out. Great pains had been taken to connect the increase of the income tax with the operation of this Treaty; but he denied that the Treaty had anything more to do with the increased income tax than had our large naval and military expenditure, which was not objected to by any party in that House. It was incorrect and unfair to speak of the operation of this Treaty and the increase of the income tax as being specially connected with each other That, however, was a point which ought to be argued at great length; and he only said, in the meantime, that he could not assent to the interpretation that the two questions were inseparably connected.


said, that the main objection which he made to the course pursued by the Government was, that they had tied this country for ten years to come not to make any change whatever in reference to those duties which bore on the intercourse of shipping. One point seemed to have been entirely omitted in this debate in reference to the condition of the shipping of the two countries, and it was this, that at present the produce of Asia, Africa, and America, could only be imported into France in bond for re-exportation; but if this Treaty were passed, the Emperor could admit these goods from Asia, Africa, and America in French ships for consumption, by protecting them by differential duties. This would give a great advantage to France, and place her in a position so vastly superior to that which she had hitherto held, that the interests of our own country must suffer extremely.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.