§ Order of the Day read.
§ LORD TAUNTON,
in rising to move that their Lordships agree with the House of Commons in the Address to the Crown on the Commercial Treaty with France, said he could have desired that some person of more experience in their Lordships' House had undertaken the duty; but as it was thought that the circumstance of his having been officially connected for many years with the trade of the country would be an excuse for his trespassing upon their patience, he had not felt himself at liberty to decline a duty which was so much in accordance with his personal convictions. He was entitled to say, he thought, in the first place, that this Treaty came before them under circumstances which entitled it to their favourable consideration. After having been concluded by the Crown it had received the sanction—the almost unanimous sanction—of the Lower House of Parliament; and he made bold to say that in giving that sanction the Lower House had done no more than reflect the general sentiments of their constituents. It was notorious that since the Treaty had been before the country it had met with very general approbation. This approbation was not confined to any particular branch of industry. In Lancashire and Yorkshire, the seats of the cotton and woollen manufactures, in the linen districts of the north of Ireland, on the banks of the Clyde, where so many interests were combined, in the great coal districts, and in the Staffordshire Potteries,—in all 549 these districts it had been received with unanimous approbation, and the people of those parts were now waiting with anxiety for the final sanction to be given to it, which would enable them to derive from it the benefits which they, who were the best judges in the matter, confidently anticipated it would produce. As to the objects of the Treaty, they were such as there could be no difference of opinion. In the words of the preamble of the Treaty, they were to "draw closer the ties of friendship which unite the two people, and to improve and extend the commercial relations between the respective dominions." These were objects which must entitle the Treaty to their Lordships' most favourable consideration. The statesmen in this country had long viewed with great concern the small commercial intercourse existing between two countries, united rather than separated by a narrow sea, which, by the difference of their soil, climate, and productions, and by the varied character of their industries, seemed formed by nature to be mutually beneficial to each other. He need scarcely remind their Lordships that at this moment our exports to France were less than our exports to Holland, and not much more than our exports to Turkey or Sweden. We must therefore rejoice at every opportunity which presented itself for extending the intercourse between the two countries; and all our great statesmen had never let slip a chance of effecting so desirable a result. In 1786, Mr. Pitt negotiated his celebrated treaty, which produced excellent effects while it lasted, but which was put an end to by the unfortunate events of the French revolution. The political and social objects of this Treaty were, he thought their Lordships would agree, of no less importance than the commercial objects. He did not go so far as to say that commercial treaties would prevent wars altogether, for the passions of mankind and the ambition of sovereigns, unfortunately, were not to be restrained by such bonds; but he had no hesitation in saying that commercial intercourse between two nations was one of the best modes of preventing wars and of bringing them to a speedier termination when they did occur. There was a striking instance of this in the relations between England and the United States of America. Their Lordships were aware that from time to time there had arisen very difficult and delicate questions between those two countries, which, if not managed with 550 temper and moderation on both sides, might have led to the frightful calamities of war; but the commercial relations of the two countries were so great, and the great body of the industrious classes on either side of the Atlantic were so deeply interested in the preservation of peace, that they would have called their rulers to strict account had they led the two nations into the crimes and miseries of a rupture, without being able to prove that it could not, by any possibility, have been avoided. This was a sufficient indication how desirable it was, with reference to promoting a good understanding, to im-improve our commercial relations with France.
Before proceeding to consider the provisions of the Treaty, he thought it quite necessary to call their Lordships' attention to the circumstances under which it was made. Ever since the free-trade policy of Sir Robert Peel had been adopted by this country, we had found it necessary to alter our policy with regard to commercial treaties. We had found it was no longer of use to go cap in hand to foreign countries and endeavour to frame commercial treaties with them on the principle of equivalents. The fact was that foreign countries imagined that we had some great interests distinct from theirs in making proposals of that kind, and the more we urged them to that policy the less they were disposed to reciprocate. In addition to this the more fully we carried out the principles of free trade the more we deprived ourselves of the means of treating on the footing of equivalents. Owing to these circumstances, though still desirous of promoting commercial intercourse with France, we had generally given up all idea of framing a tariff treaty with the French Government. But that suddenly occurred which was most unexpected'—overtures came from the Government of France itself for the framing of such a Treaty. In his opinion that entirely altered the whole question, and while he completely agreed with the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Grey) who stated his views the other evening with so much force and clearness, that the day of treaties, equivalents, and bargains was long passed, yet he should have deemed the Government very culpable if, when the French Government expressed their willingness to embark in a more liberal course, and only asked this country to give facilities to relax their prohibitive and highly protective system, they 551 had neglected so favourable an opportunity of accomplishing an object which all parties in England had had so long at heart. Those were the circumstances under which this Treaty originated.
He would now call their Lordships' attention to the main provisions which the Treaty contained. They were simple and few. The stipulations on the part of England—he would not say concession, for that was the phraseology of long past times, and there was not one of these engagements which it was not to our interests to do, and which in truth we should not have done sooner or later in following out a policy deliberately adopted and acted upon with entire success—the stipulations on the part of England were—the abolition of import duties on various articles of French produce and manufacture, involving a revenue of £1,190,000, the non-prohibition by an export duty on coal, and the "most favoured nation clause" by which we promised not to impose any duty on articles of French manufacture which were not also imposed on the manufactures of other countries. The present condition of the French tariff was highly protective and prohibitory. Our cottons, wollens, hardware, pottery, and linens, were either absolutely prohibited, or such high duties were levied on them as to amount in effect to prohibition. Now, the counter-stipulations on the part of France were, the admission of all English produce and manufactures at rates not exceeding 30, and subsequently not more than 25 per cent ad valorem, the reduction of duties on coal and coke, iron and machinery at certain dates, and the "most favoured nation clause." There was considerable latitude left to the French Government in arranging the scale of duties within the limits of 30, and ultimately of 25 per cent, and he admitted that a great deal of the benefit of the Treaty must depend upon the French Government carrying out their engagements—as he trusted they would—upon the liberal and just principles which they professed. But independent of that, he would remind their Lordships that it was possible to have a very extensive trade with countries which imposed high duties on our manufactured articles. He believed that the tariff of the United States, with which we had so large and advantageous a trade, varied between 20 and 30 per cent. It might be said that the circumstances of the United States and of France were not the same, and that while America was only 552 partially a manufacturing country, France was a manufacturing country to a considerable extent. But that was only true to a certain degree, because he believed the exports of France consisted of three-fifths of articles of manufacture, and two-fifths of articles of raw produce, and therefore that there was a great similarity between the trade of France and the trade of the United States. We had a great and valuable trade with the Empire of the Brazils, and there also the duties on articles of import varied from 20 to 30 per cent. He attached the greatest importance to the "most favoured nation clause," by which France stipulated never again to impose discriminating duties or imports to the disadvantage of English manufacturers. The history of commercial legislation showed how much injury was done to trade by discriminating duties. The most celebrated instance was the Methuen Treaty between this country and Portugal, the bad effects of which were felt to this day, and which succeeded in diverting from its natural channel the commerce which would otherwise have existed between this country and France. France had in recent times entered into a treaty with Belgium, which would not expire till next year, by which differential duties were placed on British goods, to the advantage of similar articles from Belgium. In this way iron, linens, and coals found their way into the French markets from Belgium, when, but for the treaty, better articles of the same sort could have been obtained from England; and France, while she did our trade no inconsiderable injury, undoubtedly did far more harm to herself. He had that confidence in the resources of Great Britain, in the ingenuity and enterprise of the manufacturers, and in the industry of the people, that he felt sure British trade, if it only got fair play, need not fear competition with any other trade in the world. He, therefore, attached great importance to that stipulation on the part of France by which she was prevented from entering into any treaties to our disadvantage with other countries. He ventured to say that we should get the lion's share of any trade under such circumstances. He contended that there was nothing in the counter engagements of England which, unless we had been mistaken in the commercial policy we had pursued of late years, we ought not, merely for our own interest, be glad to adopt.
It might be said that the present was 553 not a time for making a sacrifice of revenue, and that by the reduction of the duties on French wines and spirits a great loss of revenue would be incurred. But he believed it to be a matter of much importance to the people of this country to introduce French wines and spirits to a much greater extent than was the case at present; and to substitute them for those unwholesome beverages, the use of which was more increasing in this country. So great he thought would be the increase in the comforts of the middle and lower classes of this country that he thought the loss of revenue, if any, occasioned by this Article of the Treaty was not to be regretted. He would not enter into the general financial arrangements which had been proposed by the Government. The only part of them which they had then to consider was the loss of revenue connected with the adoption of the Treaty, and which would be £1,200,000—no inconsiderable sum he admitted, but still not such as should deter them from agreeing to so valuable a Commercial Treaty. No one could say that the financial resources of this country were in such a condition that, supposing the Treaty to be a valuable one in itself, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was neither called upon nor justified in accepting the loss of revenue consequent upon its adoption. He was quite aware that in "another place" the financial arrangements of the Government had not met with the same general consent as the Treaty of Commerce; but he did not see that the one question involved the other. No one would commit himself to approval of the Budget by approval of the Treaty. That part of the Treat which had perhaps excited the strongest opposition was the stipulation by which England engaged not to put any export duty on British coal for the next ten years. He wished to know whether those who raised that objection believed it was either right or possible for any British Finance Minister to lay a tax on the export of British coal? Such a tax had actually been tried and had failed. Sir Robert Peel imposed a duty upon the export of coal; but the experience of a few years showed that it not only failed as a financial measure, but caused great depression in the trade, coals being wasted in large quantities at the pit's mouth because the tax rendered it unprofitable to export them. He recollected the part the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had taken in opposing the tax, and he would leave it to the noble 554 Earl to answer the objections of those who advocated the policy of an export duty on coal. He could not conceive that it would be seriously maintained that we were depriving ourselves of a valuable financial resource by this Article of the Treaty. It was sometimes argued that as we possessed a great natural monopoly of coal we could afford to put an export duty on it, and make foreigners pay a good price for what they could not procure elsewhere; but that, he thought, was a very dangerous policy to pursue. It had often been tried, and had invariably failed. A single instance of its results occurred some years ago, when the Government of Naples, believing that they had a natural monopoly of sulphur, imposed a duty on its export. A great outcry was raised by our manufacturers. Our chemists at once applied themselves to ascertain whether sulphur could not be procured in other ways, and succeeded in obtaining a considerable quantity of sulphur from iron pyrites, while at the same time explorers, looking through the world, discovered various sources of supply elsewhere than in the dominions of Naples. The consequence was that when Naples at length reversed her policy and abolished the export duty, she found she had lost her monopoly by her greediness in attempting to make too much out of it. That was and always would be the result of a policy which was as narrow-minded as it was contrary to all sound financial principles. Another view of the matter was that the quantity of coal in the United Kingdom was limited, and that there was some danger of its becoming exhausted, not in our own days, but in those of our descendants. That opinion was entertained some years ago by many ingenious men, but he had thought it was now almost altogether exploded. Further investigations and the experience of all practical men had shown that this country had been blessed by Providence with an almost inexhaustible supply of coal. Another objection to this Article of the Treaty was, that it deprived us of the power of prohibiting the export of coal as a munition of war, which, for political purposes, it was necessary we should retain. Now in reply to that he would say that he held that the Treaty, being a commercial one, was to be taken simply in a commercial sense, and that it did not limit or alter the power of this country to prohibit the export of coal in the event of any great emergency. He did not think, however, that it was a point 555 of any great practical importance. Coal was no doubt essential to the manufacturers of foreign countries, but the amount of coal consumed by the military navies was very small. The total consumption in the navy of Prance was only 160,000 tons a year. He did not believe that this Article would be a ground for disagreeing with the Treaty. The noble Earl (the Earl of Hardwicke) had presented a petition from the shipowners praying that a stipulation might be made to place the carrying trade and the indirect trade with France upon the same footing. He might remind their Lordships that this was a Treaty of Commerce, and not a treaty of navigation. He should be glad to see the indirect trade with France placed upon the same footing as the direct trade, but the effect of this Treaty must be greatly to the advantage of British shipping. With regard to the direct trade between the two countries their Lordships were aware that British and French shipping were already on the same footing. The present Treaty referred only to that direct trade, and in the same degree, in which it promoted commerce between the two countries, it would benefit British shipping. The export of coal was, he believed, very much in the hands of the British shipowners, and as the coal trade between the two countries would doubtless receive a great extension under the Treaty, our shipping would obtain large and profitable employment in carrying coal from England to France. He wished to refer the noble Earl who had presented this petition to an able and interesting document, of which he would not dispute the authority— namely, a Report of the Board of Trade, under the Government of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby). This Report was written in answer to a memorial from the shipowners, complaining, in that day, in the same language as the petition now laid upon the table, of the depreciation of their property owing to the relaxation of the Navigation Laws. In this Report the subject was treated by a masterly and able hand, and it was proved that while the repeal of the Navigation Laws had increased the shipping of the whole world, it had, above all, and far above all, increased, the prosperity and amount of the British mercantile marine. The contrast between the progress of France under her restrictive system, and of England under her free system, was shown to be most striking. France, with the exception of Spain, had 556 the most restricted system of navigation of any country in Europe. In Spain differential duties were levied upon foreign ships engaged both in the direct and indirect trade. France admitted the ships of this country to compete with her own in the direct trade, but endeavoured to secure a monopoly of the indirect trade by high differential duties. The answer of the then President of the Board of Trade was to the effect that if a comparison were made between the amount of French and English tonnage engaged in the whole trade of France, including both the direct and indirect trade, it would appear that in the year 1857 the amount of British tonnage in French ports was two-thirds of the whole, while the French tonnage was only one-third. He believed that at present not less than 2,500,000 tons of British shipping were engaged in the direct and indirect trade with France, while in the whole British trade, direct and indirect, which was entirely open to free competition, and into which French ships were admitted on the same terms as our own, he believed the French tonnage had never exceeded 500,000 tons—the proportion being thus five to one. He had no apprehensions whatever that the shipping interests of this country would suffer from the effects of this Treaty, seeing how indissolubly connected that interest was with the general trade and commerce of the country. It was impossible that we could go on increasing our exports of manufactures to France and that British shipping should not share in that prosperity. Great and successful as had been the extension of our export and import trade, he believed it would be far more easy to make out a case for restricting commerce than navigation; and he believed it was a fortunate thing for this country that we had got rid of the Navigation Laws at a time when the commerce of the world was expanding, and when we were able to secure the inestimable blessing of cheap freights to all parts of the world. He knew that the shipping interest complained of great depression at the present moment. Ship-owning and shipbuilding were trades liable to great fluctuations; but the tendency of recent legislation had been not to aggravate but to limit those fluctuations. It would be, in his opinion, a most suicidal policy to return to that restrictive system, the abandonment of which had been most fortunate for the country at large, and above all for the shipping interest itself. He 557 did not doubt that the Treaty, in a commercial point of view, would produce very useful results. He did not desire to exaggerate those results, but he felt confident that if the blessing of peace were preserved and the Treaty allowed to develop itself, a greatly increased commercial interchange between the two countries would follow. The Treaty would also be fraught with great political and social benefits. He believed that all the tendencies of this Treaty were for good. He did not see any mischief in a political point of view that could possibly be caused by the Treaty; while, on the other hand, he saw great good likely to flow from it. It was a capital point in English policy by all honourable methods to cultivate friendly relations with the great nation of France, and he valued the ties of commerce especially because they were ties that connected not merely Governments, but, what was far more important—nations; and the extended commerce arising from this Treaty would give rise to a friendly feeling towards us on the part of the inhabitants of France. He devoutly prayed that it might be so. Not that he wished to see any exclusive alliance with France, for it was not the true policy of this country to cultivate an alliance with France in a spirit of hostility to any other country. While the present Treaty held out the hand of friendship to France it did the same equally to all other nations. If we took the wines of France at a low duty we took equally the wines of Spain, Italy, and Germany. In the debates on Mr. Pitt's treaty, statesmen of the highest authority—Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Francis—objected to it, that it tended to diminish the feeling of jealousy and alarm with which this country, they said, ought always to regard France. No such feelings would be manifested at the present day. The idea that France and England were natural enemies was now repudiated, as alike unchristian and impolitic. There was at the same time nothing in the Treaty to prevent this country from exercising at all times a proper degree of vigilance in defence of its interests. He was well aware that the political horizon was lowering with clouds at the present moment, and it was difficult to say how long peace might be preserved. But it should be the duty of this Government to endeavour by all honourable means to preserve peace with France in the first instance, and with the other countries of the world. Indeed, if the causes of dis- 558 union and discord amongst the nations of Europe were active it was surely incumbent upon us to do what we could to give activity to those better influences, the tendency of which was to cement nations, to prevent wars, and to increase the hopes of peace in Europe. It was because he believed that this Treaty had a very great influence in that direction that he ventured to recommend it to their Lordships. He could not make out that we had sacrificed any principle or made any concession that was not for our interest. On the other hand, we certainly gave facilities to France to enter upon that course which we had seen it our interest to pursue—that of a far more liberal policy. The influence of our example would be very useful to France. It was impossible for the intelligent ruler of France to see the effects produced by this policy in this country without being struck by the result—the welfare and comfort which it had secured to all classes—the loyalty and contentment which it had diffused—the diminution of pauperism—and all the blessed effects which had ensued, not wholly, but in a great degree, from our liberal commercial policy. He heartily hoped that this example might be followed by France; and not by France only; for, with such examples as France and England it would be very difficult indeed for the other nations of Europe longer to maintain a narrow and restrictive policy in matters of trade. Believing that the general diffusion of those principles would be one of the greatest advantages to mankind, would do more to promote human happiness, to diminish the chances of war, and to alleviate its violence when it did unhappily arise, he hailed this policy as one which, by all legitimate means, they were bound as far as possible to promote. The noble Lord concluded by moving to agree with the Commons in the Address to Her Majesty, and to fill up the blank with "Lords Spiritual and Temporal and."
THE EARL OF CORK,
in seconding the adoption of the Address, said there would be no necessity, as there certainly was no desire, upon his part to trouble their Lordships at any undue length, nor to weary their attention by seeking to follow out this important subject into all its intricacies of financial details, as might, perhaps, have been fitting had the matter been in any way hastily brought before them, and had the country not been already and most ably led to the full consideration of all its 559 momentous bearings. Intimate, therefore, and, indeed, indissoluble as was the connection between the commercial and the political features of this Treaty, he might be held excused for preferring to pass lightly by the array of facts and figures with which they must have grown familiar in studying the subject, and to ask their Lordships rather to dwell with him a few moments upon the large, he might say immense results, which it promises in other respects. Precedent showed, and a very superficial knowledge of human nature and political history would suffice to teach them, that a Treaty such as this, involving interests so complicated, and pointing to results of such magnitude, is necessarily liable, in its first aspect, to be viewed with eyes of doubt and hesitation, if not of absolute disfavour. The apprehensions of the timid, the small jealousies of the mistrustful, the uncertainties of the wavering, and last, but not least, the antagonism of the unfriendly, were all prone to be awakened by this, as by any other such steps of progress, and all might appear to have on their side some share of plausibility, if not of actual reason. But if it was in the nature of such a Treaty as this to engender a hasty and over-ready opposition, it was no less, he believed, an intrinsic part of the Treaty to commend itself, upon reflection, to the approbation originally withheld; for even jealousy must be calmed, mistrust allayed, and confidence inspired by a careful revision of the advantages it was calculated to confer upon the country—advantages, which it was not too much to expect, might radiate from our country through the world at large. In 1787, the silence of the manufacturing interests was taken as an approval of the treaty concluded by Mr. Pitt; and might not this fact be deemed equally significant, that on the present occasion the representatives of both the manufacturing and mining interests had, by either their votes or speeches, borne unanimous testimony to their convictions, that the interests of their respective constituencies were not only in no danger of injury from the Treaty, but, on the contrary, that they anticipated benefits therefrom? For his own part he was firmly convinced that the advantages to be anticipated from the Treaty, far outweighed any disadvantages; and that Her Majesty's Government, in concluding it, had been actuated solely by the perception how much it tended to the benefit of this country. He would ex- 560 amine some of the principal objections which had been opposed to the details of this Treaty. One of the first to which he naturally recurred, was that raised by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) at the commencement of the Session, when he, in his usual forcible manner, protested against the spirit of a Commercial Treaty recognizing exclusive privileges as a retrograde step in the policy which, he justly remarked, had been wisely and soundly pursued in this country for a successive number of years—in fact, since the repeal of the Navigation Laws in 1849. He, for one, entirely concurred in the remarks that then fell from the noble Earl as to the general error of regulating changes in our home tariffs by concessions to us in those of other countries, when such concessions were neither required by, nor essential to, our financial exigencies. But, in the first place, he was at a loss to understand on what ground the imaginative superstructure of an exclusive engagement treaty was in this case based, believing it, as he did, to be ground quite untenable in reality, and the distinctive mark of our foreign legislation—namely, impartiality in our commercial relations to be in nowise affected or impugned thereby. Secondly, what we give to France by this Treaty she is perfectly aware we give to every other nation. He must equally deny that this act can be looked upon as retrograde; whereas, inasmuch as it enables the country to make a further step towards the entire removal of protective duties, and the simplification of the Tariff, its tendencies were decidedly the reverse. To show the immense impetus it gave in that direction in which we had been steadily going, he would quote some figures taken from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said, "The Customs' duties abolished under the Treaty will alone give relief to the consumers of £1,737,000. The number of articles which were subject to Customs' duty in 1746 was 1425; in 1842, 1052; in 1853, 466; in 1859, 419; and they will have dwindled down, after the passing of this Treaty, to 44 in number." Let them now look upon this question upon the French side. What was the state of our trade as regarded France? In 1854 our total exports were of the value of £115,321,000. Of this, the amount taken by France was only £6,391,465. In 1857" our exports were £146,174,301, and the amount taken by France was £11,326,823. Last year our exports were £130,440,000, and the amount taken by 561 France was £9,254,858. Could this state of things be deemed either satisfactory or natural between two countries, of which it had been well observed in the writings of Dr. Adam Smith:—Situated as Great Britain and France are, near to each other, and each possessed of much that the other wants, the one abounding in all the products that a fertile soil and a genial climate can supply, and the other in those that are the fruit of comparative excellence in manufacturing and commercial industry—it is obvious that if no restrictions were laid on the intercourse between them, the one would form the greatest and most advantageous market for the produce of the other; but their jealousy of each other has so fettered the commercial intercourse between them that we derive more advantage from our commerce with China, than from that which we carry on with our nearest, most opulent, and most populous neighbours.It was therefore time that this state of things should be radically altered; that a better and more friendly system should be introduced, and that both parties should be familiarized with the advantages resulting from a more intimate and extensive intercourse with each other. But these advantages, it had been urged by some of the opponents of the Treaty, were not settled on a strictly reciprocal footing; it was said we gave more than we received;—and to a certain, though limited extent, this was true. But was it not possible, by adhering too closely to the letter of a principle, virtually to damage the spirit? Their Lordships must bear in mind, moreover, the time it required to induce many of themselves to abandon their so-called protective duties, the ruin that was predicted, and by some of them sincerely apprehended, as the consequences of the policy originated in 1846. If, then, the growth of free-trade opinions was slow with us, could we expect that their growth should be otherwise than gradual in France? And pending their eventual development, which we might confidently anticipate, should we evince either wisdom or justice in refusing such concessions as she might now offer us, when, by their acceptance and the additional stimulus thus given to her commerce and manufactures, we might materially assist in the enlightenment of the public mind of that country, which enlightenment must in turn react powerfully upon our own interests? Exception had further been taken to the Treaty on a point of not minor importance in connection with the 11th clause; but as the merits of that clause had been twice discussed at great length and with 562 great ability in their Lordships' House, and as the Lord Chancellor had given what he considered to be a perfectly satisfactory opinion, he would not detain the House upon that subject. Had he, however, been at first disposed to question, on grounds of general policy, the wisdom of our binding ourselves not to prohibit for a fixed number of years the exportation of coals from this country to France, which was viewed by some as placing in her hands formidable weapons to turn against ourselves, he said—even if that idea could be sustained—his surprise would have been none the less at hearing that clause attacked upon economical pretences, and the authority of Dr. Buckland quoted in support of that theory. But when that statement was made in "another place," what was the reply to it by the Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Vivian), whose practical experience in coal was undoubted, and particularly with respect to that quality of coal which from its suitability to steam purposes was likely to be in the greatest demand for exportation to the other side of the Channel? Mr. Vivian said,—I have calculated the area of coal-field in South Wales at 640,000 acres; the workable beds on an average 60 feet deep; multiply 600,000 acres, the lowest estimate, by 60, and they would find they had 36,000,000 acres of coal in South Wales; that multiplied by the weight of an acre of coal at the rate of 1,500 tons to the foot, brought out the fact that there were in South Wales 540,000 millions of tons of coal, or enough, according to the present consumption of coals in England, to supply us for 750 years.He went on to say,—The production of coals in South Wales alone was 7,500,000 tons, a tenth part of the production of coal in the whole of England! So it followed that South Wales could support its present rate of production for 5,000 years. He found, also, that the Yorkshire coal-field from Bradford to Nottingham was 600,000 acres, averaging 70 feet thickness; therefore very nearly equal to the South Wales coal in extent. The Lancashire coalfield was 300,000 acres, averaging 60 feet thickness. The Bristol coal-field was 128,000 acres, averaging 80 feet thickness; and the Durham coalfield 400,000 acres, computed to contain 90,000 millions of tons. There was an enormous coal-field in the South of Scotland, which he believed had not been accurately surveyed, but was said to consist of 1,000,000 acres, and in one pit 59 feet of coal was found.He (the Earl of Cork) thought that should be a sufficient answer to those who had absurdly enough talked of the exhaustion of coal in this country. Passing, then, from the chief objections which had been raised against this Treaty, he came to the 563 consideration of a few of the benefits which we might fairly expect to reap ill a broad political sense from its enactment. Look at them as their Lordships might, those benefits could scarcely, in his opinion, be overestimated in their political results. It seemed difficult, indeed, to raise a country more surely and unalterably in the scale of surrounding nations than by perfecting the scheme of multiplying, as much as possible, the dispersion of our exports far and wide. These exports, it was to be remembered, were not to the recipients mere articles of luxury and superfluity, to be adopted to-day and discarded to-morrow, but the staple commodities of almost primary necessity, which must insensibly grow into their needs, till they formed an element in their daily existence, and elevated our national importance in the full proportion of their dependence upon us. It seemed strange, indeed, upon reflection, that at any time the mistaken idea should have prevailed, even temporarily, of judicious commercial concessions proving otherwise than profitable to the party conceding, and he, for one, must protest earnestly against the illiberality of guaging advantages to ourselves in the inverse ratio of good effected to others. Let them hope that the day was for ever gone by when that House would listen to remarks similar to those which in the course of the discussion upon the treaty of 1786 were uttered by a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Llandaff), who in all sincerity they mast believe, declared,—He was an enemy to this Treaty, from a full persuasion that it would in many instances interfere with the manufacturing interests of Great Britain, and from a caution that the wealth of France was the poverty of England, its strength our weakness, its dignity our disgrace.The right rev. Prelate said further—If France should ever cultivate manufactures and commerce in the same degree that we have done, and that we do, our ruin will be inevitable. There was no policy so good as that which would prevent her from doing so—none so pernicious as that which facilitated her endeavours and stimulated her exertions in that way."—[Hansard, Parliamentary History, xxvi. 550.]Their Lordships must bear in mind that the position we now gained was one from which it was next to impossible we could ever he driven. The people of another country once admitted to the enjoyment of cheap coal, once alive to the advantages of having our iron and machinery within their reach, would no more consent to 564 their prohibition or excessive taxation than would the people of England tolerate a return to the old corn law. Our connection with Prance would, in consequence, be dependent upon no adventitious circumstances, and every month— nay, every day—would see the increase of a powerful peace party among the people, and not the Government only of France. He did not deny that the suspension of the Treaty in the event of war would lay us open to considerable disadvantages, that our financial as well as our mining and manufacturing interests would suffer by the cessation of foreign demands, in addition to the inconvenience of our having to dispense with French wines and silks. But if those would be our share of the penalties of war what would be the position of France in a similar predicament? Look at the effect of this withdrawal of our supplies upon her naval and military resources. It would go nigh to paralyze them at the precise crisis when their activity was most needed. Consider further how it would affect her industries and commerce, and judge how erroneously it was argued that these supplies would render France more formidable to us and more able to take the initiative in hostilities. Was it not clear, then, that no territorial acquisitions she could gain in war would repay her in several years the shock to her financial system, and the distress of thousands upon thousands of her inhabitants which would be caused by the suspension for a few months only of the trade now fairly anticipated by us as a speedy consequence of this Treaty? We might make Treaties with one dynasty which the next might break; but extension of commerce, on the other hand, rendered the connection between all classes of the two countries so solid and intimate, and compelled them to cling so closely together for self-protection, as to make collision between their two Governments less likely, if not virtually, impossible. In conclusion, he must express to noble Lords on both sides of the House his earnest hope, that whatever differences they might entertain as to some of the details of this Treaty, they would be willing to admit that, on the whole, the acceptance of it would conduce more to the interests of this country than its rejection, and that they would at least concur in the words of Mr. Huskisson, who said—To be liberal in matters of commercial policy is to remove the difficulties and jealousies which 565 have hitherto prevented a free intercourse between different nations, to extend to each the advantages and enjoyments of the other, and to promote arts, sciences, and civilization; and when we speak with reference to the commercial interests of this country, the argument is strengthened instead of being weakened. Her wealth, her industry, her talent, her prosperity, are all so many inducements for us to liberalize the system. In short, I would be liberal to other countries, because, among other reasons, I feel that by so doing I best consult the interests of my own.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, having, in common with your Lordships, listened with great pleasure to the able speeches which have been addressed to us by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion, I regret that I cannot concur in the opinion they have expressed, nor give my vote in favour of the Motion they have submitted to the House. Let me first say that, in voting against this Motion, it is far from being my intention to offer any obstacle to this Treaty coming into operation, much as I disapprove it. It seems to me that it is now too late to attempt to resist carrying the Treaty into effect—matters have gone too far for that—but I say that this Address is not only not necessary, but is useless for the purpose of giving validity to the French Treaty. The assent of Parliament is undoubtedly required to certain parts of the Treaty, but that assent can only be given by Acts of Parliament sanctioning the reduction or abolition of duties which this country has pledged itself to reduce or to remit; and such, I conceive, is the "assent" required by the Treaty. Bills for this purpose will, no doubt, in duo course be brought before us, and I entertain no doubt that your Lordships, wisely following your usual practice of not interfering, except in extreme cases, with matters of that kind coming from the other House, will give your assent to those Bills. When you have done that you have done all that is necessary to bring the Treaty into operation. My Lords, I venture to appeal with confidence to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack to say whether I am not right in this view of the subject, and in affirming that this Address is neither required to give validity to the Treaty, nor can have any operation in doing so. Then, if the Address is not required to give validity to the Treaty, what is its effect? Its effect is simply to express in the most solemn and formal manner your Lordships' complete approval of the Treaty, both of its general policy and of its details. The question, there- 566 fore, we have now to consider is this —whether this House is not merely to abstain from opposition to the Treaty, but is to declare its approval, and thus share with the Ministers of the Crown and the other House the responsibility for the agreement entered into with France, by proclaiming that in our opinion the Ministers of the Crown have acted wisely in this matter. I, for one, as entertaining a directly opposite opinion, find it utterly impossible to give my vote in favour of an Address which, in such unqualified terms, expresses approval of the Treaty. I will give my reasons for that opinion; but, in the first place, let me say I do not think this Treaty can be considered by itself, but must be considered as a part—and an essential part—of the general financial arrangements of the Government. I am justified in so considering it, for after the fact of the Treaty having been ratified was announced, the Government refrained for several days from laying it before Parliament, notwithstanding the extreme anxiety of the country to know its terms; but they withheld it until it could be explained in the other House as an essential part of the general financial scheme of the Government. I do not complain that that course was taken, but, on the contrary, think it was quite proper, as the Treaty is inseparably connected with the Budget. The Treaty imposes upon us the necessity of making a large sacrifice of revenue, and before we can judge whether it was wise to make such sacrifices, we must know how the deficiency thus created is to be supplied, and what are to be the general financial arrangements of the Government; I need not therefore offer any apology to the House for venturing to trouble your Lordships with some remarks upon the general financial arrangements of the Government, and stating why it is that I object to the scheme they have laid before us. Let me assure your Lordships that, although I shall make some remarks upon the Budget, I do not intend to trouble you with a long array of figures and details, but shall confine myself to considering the leading features of the scheme; for I cannot but feel how wanting I am in that skill and eloquence which were so conspicuously displayed by the expounder of the scheme in the other House, and which made a long and complicated statement, dealing with a vast variety of subjects, and embracing a large mass of figures, so clear and interest- 567 ing to all who had the good fortune to hear it. The first remark that I must make upon the financial scheme is, that, in my opinion, it was very happily designated as "an ambitious Budget." It is eminently ambitious; for the Government having to deal with a state of things in which the ordinary balance between expenditure and receipts could not easily be maintained, it was bold of them to begin by increasing the deficiency and making a large reduction of taxation. The Government proposes that indirect taxation to the amount of rather more than £3,900,000 should be remitted. They calculate that by increased consumption of some Articles, the duties upon which are only reduced, by the imposition of new charges, and by a saving in our establishments that first loss will be reduced by £1,800,000, and that consequently the net loss to the revenue will be about £2,100,000. That loss arises mainly from the remission of duties upon wine, brandy, and paper; the loss upon other items of comparatively minor importance being balanced by new charges to which I see no objection. The Treaty, and the scheme connected with it, effect a reduction of duties to the extent of more than £2,000,000, mainly, as I have said, upon the articles of wine, brandy, and paper. "We have no surplus, and it is impossible at present to bring our expenditure much below the existing amount. Therefore, if more than £2,000,000 of duties be remitted, that loss must be made good in one of two ways. Either we must anticipate our resources, and effect, either directly or indirectly, some transaction in the nature of a loan, or we must create new taxes. Now, as to change of taxation, I was much struck by the force of an argument very well stated in some remarks on the Budget, known, I believe, to have been written by my noble Friend behind me (Lord Overstone), than whom no one has greater knowledge and experience upon this subject. He has observed in the paper to which I allude that change of taxation is always in itself more or less an evil, and that inconveniences arise from the mere fact of change, because the various interests of the country gradually get accustomed to their burdens, and know how to bear them, and make their arrangements accordingly; but when an old tax is removed and a new one substituted, even if the change is an improvement, yet it inflicts great hardship and inconvenience at first. The conclu- 568 sion to be drawn from this is that change of taxation ought not to be lightly undertaken. I know there are occasions when a change of taxation may be attended with very great benefit; and those who recommend the present scheme refer, as a striking instance of this, to the policy which was adopted in 1842. No man is more sensible than myself of the advantages which at that time arose from a change of taxes; but I would venture to ask your Lordships whether there is the slightest resemblance in the circumstances of that period to those of the present day? In the year 1842 we had a deficiency in the Exchequer; the indirect taxes had been increased, and the result proved that indirect taxation had been pushed beyond the limit at which it was most productive; at the same time, the indirect taxes we then had were highly objectionable, involving the principle of protection and imposing a burthen upon the country out of all proportion to the income they yielded. As a consequence of this the country, and every branch of trade and industry, afforded unmistakeable proofs that they were overpressed, that some relief was urgently demanded, and that measures must be adopted for that purpose, or the country would suffer severely. Most wisely, therefore, but at the same time, let me observe, most cautiously, the policy of removing indirect taxation by the imposition of a direct burden, in the shape of the income tax, was commenced. I need not tell your Lordships how successful that policy was. But that very success is an argument against the adoption of a similar course at the present time. I have reminded the House of the situation of the country in 1842;—what is it now? Has indirect taxation proved over-burdensome—has it passed the limits of productiveness? Has it crippled industry and trade? Far otherwise. Each succeeding year the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been enabled to come down to Parliament and to state that the extraordinary productiveness of the revenue has exceeded even the most sanguine anticipations which were entertained, and that the revenue was growing almost beyond what was believed to be possible. So much have trade and industry improved in all their branches, that we are congratulated not only by Her Majesty's Ministers, but on every side, on the extraordinary prosperity of the country. Trade and manufactures are not limited by any 569 want of demand, or by the difficulty of discovering profitable markets, but only by the difficulty of finding hands enough to work the machinery that is being continually added to what we already have, and raw material in sufficient quantity to keep that machinery employed. Is that, I say, a state of things in which it is necessary to hazard a great and perilous experiment on the credit of the country? But then, we are told there is a reason for this change; and I must say that in all my experience in Parliament, which is now a pretty long one, I never heard a reason adduced for a great measure of this nature which is so entirely fanciful as that which has been brought forward in this instance. We are told, indeed, that the country has been long looking forward to the period when the Long Annuities should expire, in the hope and confident expectation that great relief from taxation would then be afforded, and that we are bound not to disappoint the expectations so entertained. I quite concur in thinking it natural that the country should have anticipated considerable relief from its burdens when these annuities fell in, and it is greatly to be regretted that those expectations should be disappointed. But want to know how, under present circumstances, it is possible that those anticipations should be realized? We are told that in the present year £2,100,000 of the charge for the debt will be struck off, but new charges for a very much larger amount have come upon us. We gain £2,100,000 by the falling in of the Long Annuities, but we have to pay £1,400,000 for additional interest on the loans contracted during the Russian war. This will swallow up two-thirds of the melting plum which the people have been so long looking forward to; and the remaining third will go a very small way indeed towards meeting the expenses of the increased establishments we are now maintaining, which have been considered so necessary that they do not appear to have excited any serious opposition in Parliament. If we compare our present expenditure with what it was a few years ago, it will be evident that the saving from the falling in of the annuities has been far more than absorbed by the new charges we have incurred. Under these circumstances, much as it may be regretted, I say it is impossible we can fulfil the expectations which have existed, and we are not in a 570 position to afford relief. To urge, therefore, that it is necessary to remit taxation because it was expected that we should do so in the present year, is not an argument, but a mere fancy. Let me ask your Lordships what would be thought of a man acting on this principle in private life r I will suppose a gentleman with a good estate, but burdened with a heavy life annuity; he has long groaned under the burden, and has promised I himself that whenever it expired he would; make some additions to his establishment; which would contribute very greatly to his comfort. No doubt, to a person in this situation it would be a view great disappointment if, when the life annuity fell in, he found that from other circumstances new charges to a large amount had come upon him. But what should we think of the good sense of such a man who in this situation was to say, "I have always promised myself, when I got rid of this detested annuity, that I would indulge I my fancy for something on which my heart was very much set; the time has now come, and, though it is perfectly true that from other causes my means have diminished instead of being increased, and I am less able to afford myself this gratification than at the time when I formed I the resolution to do so, still I cannot and will not refuse myself the indulgence, and I will provide for the increased expenditure by some arrangement as to my property, which I have hitherto declined as imprudent." Yet that is precisely the course which Her Majesty's Ministers have I advised us to adopt. These wine and paper duties have over and over again been brought under the consideration of Parliament. Successive Chancellors of the Exchequer, and among them the distinguished Gentleman who now holds that office, have concurred in earnestly pressing on Parliament that they ought not to meddle with these taxes; not because they were free from objection—for my part I never yet heard of a tax which was free from objection—but on the ground that the revenue could not afford to sustain the loss, and that no less injurious tax could be imposed in their stead. And yet we are told by one of those very Chancellors of the Exchequer that now, forsooth, when we are less able than formerly to repeal these duties, because it happens that the Long Annuities have fallen in, which have been more than counterbalanced by new expenses, we are bound to please the na- 571 tion by a large reduction of indirect taxation. My Lords, I confess it seems to me that to deal with the people of this country on such a principle is to treat them like children, and not like sensible men who are capable of forming a sound view of their own affairs. Let me ask your Lordships to consider the real effect of that arrangement which is proposed on such fantastic grounds; and, in considering the effect of these measures, you must forgive me if I do not confine my view merely to the financial year. If we would form a sound judgment on this subject we must look a little further forward. On the year which is about to open, it is quite true that a small balance over expenditure is shown on the Ways and Means. I am afraid that balance will neither be large nor certain, for if we look in the most cursory manner at the estimate of future expenses, I think we must admit that it is taken, to say the least, in a most sanguine temper. For instance, I find that in making the calculation which gives us a small surplus on the opening year the Vote for the expedition to China is set down at only £500,000 beyond the provision which, to a certain extent, is made in the Army and Navy Estimates. I am told that already votes of credit have grown to £850,000, and I think none of your Lordships, who have considered the question, will believe that their growth will stop there. "We are all too well aware of the manner in which such calculations are exceeded in practice: and from what I know of expenses now going on, from what I hear from the north of ships being taken up to carry coals to China at freights of from four guineas to 90s. per ton, which will bring the cost of the coals you burn out there to about £5 per ton; from the fact that you have sixty pennants in the Chinese seas, for which you will have to find fuel at this extravagant rate; and when you remember, too, what a tendency hostile operations carried on at a distance have to become far more expensive than you calculated, I think the country may be congratulated if, instead of £500,000, the cost of this war is not more than tenfold that amount—if it stops short of £5,000,000. Then, again, this Budget makes no provision for the national defences. We are told that the Commission on this subject has recommended that a very large sum should be expended for this purpose, and that the expense should be incurred at once; but it is scarcely 572 possible that there is any truth in another report which is current, that this expense is to be provided for by a loan. Surely it never can be possible that this ruinous and improvident mode of providing for expenses of this description during peace should be recommended by the same Chancellor of the Exchequer who so eloquently and earnestly impressed upon Parliament the duty of providing for the greater part at least of the enormous expenses of an European war within the year in which they were incurred. Assuming, however, that there is a real, and not a nominal balance of expenditure and income at the end of the year, I wish your Lordships to observe the manner in which it is obtained. It is provided partly by imposing for one year only the income tax at the high rate of 10d., partly by re-imposing for little more than a year the high duties on tea and sugar, and, lastly, by availing ourselves for the service of the ensuing year of about £1,400,000 derived from taking up the malt and hop credits, which course, I contend, is as much an application of the capital of the State to the purposes of income as if a loan to the same extent were raised. Suppose the expenditure and income for the year 1860–61 do balance, what will be the case in the following year? Of course, this last sum, £1,400,000, will have been drawn and spent; you cannot reckon on that coming in; your taxes on tea and sugar will expire unless you re-impose them; and it will, therefore, be the duty of Parliament in 1861 to deal with a deficiency of not less than from £10,000,000 to £11,000,000. [Lord MONTEAGLE: £12,000,000.] My noble Friend is much more experienced in such matters than I am, and he says £12,000,000. That is surely a serious prospect to look forward to. And how is this deficiency to be met, and by whom? This Budget cuts you off to a great extent from indirect taxation. The bargain you are making with France includes so many articles that it will be impossible for the future to devise any mode of raising a considerable revenue from Customs' duties. Again, with regard to the Excise, the old staple articles upon which the largest revenue has always been raised are already burdened, I am afraid, to their full extent, and when you are repealing the Excise duty on paper, acknowledging deliberately at the same time that of all Excise duties it interferes least of all with the manufacturer and with 573 industry, and that, instead of showing signs of falling off, it is a growing revenue, and that any objections that may exist may be easily removed—yet you are, nevertheless, surrendering it. Where will you be able to discover any new source of revenue at the same time so profitable and so unobjectionable? How are we to pro- I vide, then, for this deficiency? A part, no doubt, will be met by retaining the war duties on tea and sugar; but still there will be a large sum remaining, and almost the only resource left to you will be to re-impose the income tax, which, with the additional demands coming on you next year, will have to be imposed at the rate of 1s. in the pound, in order to answer its purpose. I ask any of your Lordships who have been in the habit of paying-attention to financial matters, whether it is desirable that an income tax of that amount should be raised? For my own part, I look forward to the future with the utmost alarm, and, if anything were wanting to increase that alarm, it would be the ground on which it is argued by Her Majesty's Government that these taxes ought to be levied for one year only and the question left open for the future. We are informed that a House of Commons chosen by a new constituency is likely to be returned, and we are further informed that it is right that the whole question of what is to be the character of the future taxation of the country should be left to that body with its constitution so altered. Assuming that it really does happen that a new House of Commons is returned next year, elected by a far larger proportion than at present of those who do not pay direct taxes, is it wise or prudent, for the sake of peace, for the sake of good feeling between different classes of society, to leave a question of this kind to be settled by them at the first moment? The present Budget is defended in newspapers, at public meetings, and in the other House on the ground of its likeness to the policy of 1842; but I put it to your Lordships whether this was the policy adopted by Sir Robert Peel. Did his arrangements create an enormous deficiency without pointing out how it was to be filled up? On the contrary, before a single step was taken to remove even the most obnoxious duty, the income tax was imposed for three years, in which time it was calculated the deficiency would be covered, from the stimulus given to consumption and production by reduction of 574 duties. The repeal of indirect taxes in those days was invariably preceded by the imposition of direct taxes which were calculated to entirely fill up the void. The course now pursued is exactly the reverse. No man can believe that the void now created will be filled in the time contemplated. In the first place we take off the paper altogether, so that cannot be recovered at all; and with regard to the wine duty the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his more prudent days—in 1853 —while he said it was a bad duty, told the House very fairly that although he believed it ought to be reduced whenever we could spare the income, it would take some years before the revenue would recover. We know it is an affair of time for the habits of men to change, and, therefore, we cannot calculate that the revenue, in the case of the wine duty, will soon recover. I have now stated part of my objections on mere financial grounds to the policy of Her Majesty's Government; I could go further on this head, were it not that I have promised to your Lordships to abstain from details; but abiding by that engagement, I will merely ask your Lordships whether this general and cursory statement is not sufficient to show that the Budget is a dangerous measure, and that the Treaty, which renders the most dangerous of its arrangements indispensable, is not entitled, on financial grounds alone, to our approval? I now turn to another branch of the question. In that part of the able speech of my noble Friend who moved the Address, where he described so forcibly the great advantages of improved intercourse between this country and France, I cordially concur. But the fallacy in my noble Friend's argument was that he confounded the advantages of increased intercourse with France with the advantages of the Treaty, and that he omitted to show that the Treaty was the best mode of securing increased intercourse. I ventured on a former evening to state the reasons which induced me to believe that it is far from being the case. I will not abuse the very great indulgence which your Lordships have shown me by going over again the same ground; but I must be permitted to say that my noble Friend has said nothing which tends to shake my conviction that the Treat is not the best means of arriving at that end, and that, on the contrary, it is calculated to keep up the fears and apprehensions of the French people. 575 Let me remind your Lordships that the obstacles to increased intercourse are almost entirely on the side of France; English legislation affords few or none; and what are really protective duties might still be removed, without incurring the financial difficulties which this Treaty entails, without any Treaty at all. If the Government had opened the doors as wide as possible to French produce without any Treaty, or looking for any concessions from France in return, I can assure your Lordships no man would have applauded the proposal more heartily than I should. But I say that this Treaty is calculated to increase the indisposition of the French to a change in their commercial system. France, by this Treaty, makes a very, very small approach to the adoption of a liberal system. She comes to about the point where we were when the first proposals of Mr. Huskisson for mitigating our old restrictions had been carried, and perhaps hardly so far. I rather think Mr. Huskisson regarded thirty per cent as the maximum to which protection could be carried, because beyond that the smuggler stepped in and the duty did nothing. I believe that is exactly what this Treaty will do. It will interfere with the smuggler, but for every other purpose it will have very little effect indeed. I have said that in my opinion this Treaty is calculated to increase the apprehensions in the mind of the French producer, which are the great obstacles to extended intercourse. I was much struck by a fact of which we were reminded by my noble Friend who seconded the Address. He pointed out how sincere and strong were the apprehensions entertained by a numerous body of our own countrymen that on the abolition of protection ruin would come upon them. No doubt they feared such would be the result. But I ask whether your Lordships do not think that the intensity of the opposition to these changes would have been greatly increased if it could have been represented in this country at that time, that the changes were made, not for our own benefit, but to bribe some foreign nation to agree to certain political arrangements? If Mr. Chowler could have said that foreign wheat was to be let in, not for the benefit of the country, but to bribe Russia and America to assent to certain political objects which we had much at heart, I want to know whether his speeches at market dinners would not have been increased in vehemence and effect? I 576 believe that the apprehension that French industry is sacrificed for political objects will increase the opposition in France to any real reform, and that this Treaty will be an obstacle in the way of establishing that extended intercourse between the two countries which I and my noble Friend equally desire. I adhere to my opinion that there should be no bargains of this kind; but I say if we are to have a Treaty there ought to be some approach to fairness. England has already done so much for France, and what still remains for us to do is so completely accomplished by this Treaty that we have left France nothing more to ask for. We agree to make a very large, and at the present moment, a very inconvenient sacrifice of revenue on wine and brandy, while we had given complete equality to French shipping in our home and colonial ports. If we were to appeal to France and say, "Is there anything more which we can possibly do to favour your trade?" I am persuaded the most intelligent of French Ministers would be puzzled to point out any further concessions. We debar ourselves, under any possible circumstances, from reimposing the duty on coal for ten years. I agree that it is highly improbable that we shall wish to do so, but we deprive ourselves of the power of making any alteration. In return for our concessions what is France to do? Not a single article of English produce is to be admitted free. The most important of those articles are still to remain subject to duties as high as the smugglers practically will allow them to levy. Our shipping is to remain subject to all the existing restrictions. The only articles on which any considerable concession is made are those for which France has immediate occasion, for her manufactures or otherwise; and it is remarkable that during the negotiations we never appear to have asked for the free export of the raw materials of two of our important manufactures—silk and paper. Raw silk is still to remain subject to an export duty; and, as far as the negotiations of the Treaty were concerned, rags would have remained subject to prohibition. A few days ago we were told that the prohibition was to be removed, and were congratulating ourselves on the concession, when our joy was damped by the announcement that the removal of the prohibition only meant the substitution of an export duty, which on so cheap an article as rags was only prohibition under another name. I ask, is that 577 free trade or is it not? Is it just to our paper manufacturers that they should be debarred from purchasing rags on equal terms with the foreign manufacturers with whom they are to be brought into competition? It seems to me it is in nowise fair. But we are told this is a wrong view to take of the matter, and that we have made no bargain with France, because she receives from us no boon which is not a still greater benefit to ourselves. The exports of rags and raw silk were subjects, it is said, quite unfit for negotiation, because to have negotiated on the principle of bargain, demanding an equivalent for every concession, would have thrown the greatest obstacles in the way of the progress of free trade. Well, these are very sound doctrines. They are precisely the arguments I have myself frequently used to show that it is inexpedient to make the reduction of duties on each other's produce matter of bargain between two nations, and that the proper way is for each to regulate her own tariff according to her wants and interests. But the Government ought to make their choice between the one and the other of these two opposing doctrines—that a bargain is a good thing or a bad. If they say that a bargain is a good thing, and that is politic for us to make one with France, then they are bound to see that the bargain is a fair one, and have no right to turn round and accuse ns of taking a narrow, mean-spirited view of the matter. If we do not get concessions, let us keep our hands free. Do not let us fetter ourselves by any engagements for the future. Let us reserve the power of re-establishing the duty on wine in case we should find it desirable to do so, and of imposing a duty on coals in case our supply should run short. Do not let us enjoy the disadvantages of being at the same time bond and free. The next point which I have to notice is one which I feel great delicacy in approaching, especially after the intelligence that has reached us this forenoon, but which it is impossible for me to pass over—I allude to the question of Savoy. I cannot but think the Government are greatly to blame for having signed this Treaty without first obtaining from France a formal disavowal of the intention to add Savoy and Nice to her Empire. We now know what was not admitted at first—that before this Treaty was signed, the Government were well aware that this question was in agitation. They had a distinct warning that, in the 578 event of certain arrangements taking place in Italy, France would think herself entitled to take possession of Savoy; and, knowing that, the Government incurred a heavy responsibility in consenting to sign this Treaty without obtaining a formal disclaimer from France of that intention. I regard the annexation of Savoy to France as a misfortune, not only to England but, to Europe—to the whole civilized world— I believe it to be pregnant with mischief; and I say that while that design was in agitation we ought not to have given France so signal a proof of our confidence and support as is conveyed by the signature of this Commercial Treaty without requiring from her the abandonment of the project. But, further than that, I say it was impossible under those circumstances, and with the knowledge of what was impending, to sign that Treaty without inflicting a stain on the honour of England in the eyes of Europe. How is the matter regarded on the Continent—in France especially? I have the testimony of a gentleman, on whose judgment I place the greatest reliance, that the manner in which the subject is viewed in France is this:—They believe, as foreign nations have long believed, that our whole policy is directed to the one object of selling our cotton, that all other considerations are as nothing in comparison with that, that that is all we think of, and that the key to our policy on every other question is to be found within those narrow limits. Regarding us in this light, they imagine that the Commercial Treaty has been conceded to us as a sop to induce us to submit with patience to the annexation of Savoy. They believe that our resistance is all a sham. I know they are wrong. I will not do Her Majesty's Government the injustice to belive for a moment they are incapable of such baseness as that of writing high-sounding despatches unless they really wished to oppose the arrangement, and with no other view than to have them laid before Parliament. But that is what is imputed to us, and is gaining ground in the minds of the people of France, and I fear not only of France but of Europe. There can be no doubt that such an opinion is calculated to lower the character of England, to bring her down from the high position she ought to occupy, and to degrade her in the eyes of the world. I am confirmed in this view by the Report upon the Commercial Treaty by the French Minister, published a few days ago, in which there is an elaborate argument to show 579 that the Treaty has been based solely on industrial and commercial reasons, and that there are no political objects in the background. There is an old proverb, and a very true one—Qui s'excuse s'accuse; and I believe that the elaborate excuse of the motives of the Treaty put forward by the French Minister is only a proof that he knows it is differently regarded by the people. My Lords, we all know that the annexation of Savoy is a most dangerous step to the future peace of Europe. We know this by the proof it gives us that the old appetite of territorial aggrandizement, which in the beginning of the present century made France such a curse to Europe and to herself, is not extinct, and that the feelings which directed the policy of the first Emperor are not alien to the second. We know that questions of natural boundaries and the natural limits of Prance are rising into alarming proximity—that the confidence which a few years ago existed cannot for years and years be again established, and that Europe, from one end to the other, will feel the effects of the alarm that has been created. While that state of things continues it will be impossible for this country, with a due regard to its own safety, to diminish its naval and military defences. This annexation of Savoy imposes upon us an enormous charge for military and naval expenditure, and our Government had a right to say to the French Government, "We will not sign a treaty by which we throw away £1,000,000 of revenue, while you by this act increase our present burthens." I say that is the reply which it was the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to have given. I will pursue this subject no further. I beg to acknowledge the great indulgence of the House, and I will ask your Lordships whether I have not shown good reasons why this House, without attempting to interfere with the execution of this Treaty, should yet decline to share with Her Majesty's Government the responsibility of so objectionable a measure.
said, he quite agreed with the noble Earl that it was necessary to show that the measures which Her Majesty's Government had recommended to Parliament were good in themselves, without reference to the Treaty. With this view he would endeavour to follow the noble Earl upon some of the financial considerations of the question. The noble Earl declared that the Budget of the present Government 580 was a dangerous and ambitious Budget. He had, however, overlooked the fact that the Budget of 1842 was open to the same objections. In 1842 Sir Robert Peel, finding a very large deficit of £2,500,000, remitted duties to the amount of £1,270,000, making a deficit of near £3,780,000, to cover which he imposed new taxes bringing in £4,380,000. By these means he changed a deficit into a surplus. In 1845 Sir Robert Peel took a step still more remarkable, for having a surplus of only £1,200,000, he made remissions to the amount of upwards of £4,000,000. In 1853 the present Chancellor took the same course. The object of both was the same —to remove burdens from trade, that it might have room for more elastic expansion, and thereby to restore the revenue of the country to its previous prosperous condition. In the present year the Government had to face a very large expenditure; and, therefore, according to the noble Earl, this was not the time for a reduction of taxation. But he would contend that the very best course to take was to lighten the springs of industry when they were about to impose heavy burdens upon the people. The noble Earl did not appear to remember in regard to wine that the importation was not greater in the last five years than it had been in the five years preceding 1790. He did not understand how the noble Earl could call that a revenue of an elastic kind. Considering the high protective duty upon brandy, he did not think the Government had acted unwisely, even with an eye to the revenue, in reducing the duty on that article. With regard to the very important article of silk, there was no article in the whole range of Customs' revenue the duty upon which was more indefensible than that upon silk. Before 1826 the importation of foreign silk was virtually prohibited:— the duty was then reduced to 15 per cent, and now the manufacture of silk had immensely increased. The noble Earl had made the comparison of a gentleman whose expenditure was increasing, and who was, nevertheless, indulging in luxuries that he had no right to enjoy. But he would rather compare the circumstances of the country to those of a gentleman of a large estate who had expended considerable sums in its improvement, which gave him an increasing return. When the moment of large expenditure came, the gentleman, according to the noble Earl, ought to starve his estate; 581 while, according to the Government, it would be better for him to carry on the successful system of outlay and improvement which would enable him to bear his burdens. The noble Earl, in the course of his speech, adverted to the China war, and said that the vote of credit of £500,000 was really a vote of £800,000. But the noble Earl must remember that of the £800,000, the sum of £300,000, was a vote of credit for the next year— the vote for this year was, in fact, only £500,000. His noble Friend complained of the arrangement as to the tea and sugar duties, and used rather strong language as to the impropriety of leaving to a reformed Parliament next year the task of dealing with the deficiency that, he said, must arise. Now, the noble Earl know that one Parliament could not fetter the discretion of a succeeding Parliament; therefore, whatever course the Government had adopted it would clearly have been open to the succeeding Parliament to adopt or reverse their policy; and he could not help thinking that, if they were to show distrust of the new Parliament that might meet next year, the effect would be to suggest to them a suspicion that the measures now adopted were not such as they ought to approve of. His noble Friend objected to treaties of this kind altogether, because he said they were bargains, and the present he characterized as a bad bargain; but he (Lord Wode-house) did not see what possible objection could be taken to our engaging ourselves to a certain course for a period of ten Years, if mutual advantage was to be the result. His noble Friend spoke lightly of the French concessions and said we should derive no advantage from them; but if he took the Returns that had been aid on the table, and observed the high duties hitherto levied on British goods imported into France, and compared them with the reductions now effected, he must surely admit that great advantages would in future accrue to our trade. He would see that at present the duties on iron, cutlery, cotton manufactures, &c, were so high as to put trade in those articles almost entirely out of the question; while under the present Treaty the duties would be from 25 to 30 per cent, and surely under such very great reductions, a very large increase in our trade to France might be anticipated. We carried on a very large trade with the United States, though the tariff of that country imposed import du- 582 ties as large as would be imposed under the new tariff in France; and from this it might be inferred that we should be able to carry on a large trade with the latter country also. The state of our trade with France was exceedingly unsatisfactory, and, in point of fact, it had been falling off during the last two years, and even of the articles exported, a very small proportion consisted of manufactured goods. He thought, therefore, that nothing could be more wise or natural than to attempt to bring about a new state of things. His noble Friend said we had already removed the restrictions from all the principal articles of commerce, and that there was nothing to complain of in the existing state of things. But the principal articles produced by France— such as wines, silk manufactures, and brandy, were still subjected to high duties in this country. The noble Earl said we should not have proceeded by treaty, but placed our dependence on France and other countries imitating the example we had set. Now, he had heard it said in foreign countries that we had not taken the duties off those articles in the production of which those countries excelled—that we had kept high duties on French wines, silks, and brandies, which we could not ourselves produce, and only taken the duties off those in the production of which our superiority was undoubted. He did not say that was a just argument, but it was put forth as a reason why our example was not followed in regard to the reduction of duties. His noble Friend argued that this Treaty, instead of promoting friendly feelings between the two countries, would render friendship more difficult; and he based this on the belief that the French people were adverse to the Treaty. He did not put any faith in that statement. They knew that protected interests always cried out loudly when assailed; but he believed that in France the great body of the consumers, the wine-growers, the silk-manufacturers, and all who were interested in getting cheap iron and coals, hailed the Treaty with satisfaction. Did they suppose that the French Emperor was not aware of the feelings of his own people? The position of the Emperor of the French was that of a monarch whose throne was based on universal suffrage, and he, of course, knew well what the opinions of the mass of the people were on this subject. To his surprise, the noble Earl had 583 imported into the discussion the delicate and important question of the annexation of Savoy; but he (Lord Wodehouse) submitted there was no connection whatever between the Treaty of Commerce and that annexation. The noble Earl had said that he would not impute to Her Majesty's Government the base idea of selling this country for the sake of commercial advantages. That was scarcely called for, seeing that no one of their Lordships, to whatever political party he might belong, would ever think of accusing his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of entertaining for a moment the idea of sacrificing the honour of the country in anyway. Her Majesty's Government had taken the course they had done in this matter of the Treaty because they thought it was based on good grounds of policy with reference to the general interests of the country. In concluding this Treaty, they had endeavoured, not to obtain any exclusive advantages for ourselves, but such as would be as manifest for the French people as they would be for our own. Such a policy carried its own defence with it; and he was satisfied that, whatever might be the opinions of political parties in this country as to the annexation of Savoy, they would not believe that Her Majesty's Government wrote despatches on that subject merely for the purpose of being published in a blue-book, and that at the same time they were concluding a bargain with France by which they sold the honour of the country; but, on the contrary, that they would rather believe the Government had concluded this Treat on commercial grounds, and on those grounds alone. The noble Earl had said that we ought not to have concluded this Treat of Commerce at a period like the present. It was true that a feeling of jealousy had existed for many years between the two nations; but in no way was that mere likely to be removed than by extending commercial intercourse between them. Her Majesty's Government wanted to see a similar feeling established between England and France as existed, for example, between this country and the United States, and if they could create that feeling, it would result in an alliance, not only of Governments, but of peoples. Mr. Pitt was not deterred by any angry feelings which then existed between the two nations from concluding a commercial treaty in 1786. The edifice which Mr. Pitt then constructed had for forty years been left in ruins, and he 584 (Lord Wodehouse) thought the day had come when we might begin to reconstruct it. He regarded this Treaty as a step towards that reconstruction; and if, as he sincerely hoped, reasonable and patriotic men on both sides of the Channel would assist in its completion and consolidation, he believed, in spite of anticipations to the contrary, that the friendship between the French and English people, and with it the peace of Europe, would rest on a more solid and durable basis than ever they had done in the history of the two nations.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
—My Lords, I am anxious to state in a few words why I shall support the views of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey), and to express my regret that I cannot join, in approaching the Throne with the Address now under the consideration of your Lordships. I think the noble Baron (Lord Wodehouse) who has defended the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in this matter has not been happy in the allusions he made to two great men. In the first place, the noble Baron said, that the conduct of Sir Robert Peel in 1842 was precisely the same as that of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman, like Sir Robert Peel before him, had created a deficit. But there is this great difference between the two,—the one created a deficit from a surplus, and the other adds a considerable deficit to one already existing. The noble Baron referring to the Commercial Treaty with France made by Mr. Pitt in 1786, as a ground for entering into the present Treaty, stated that Mr. Pitt grounded that Treaty on the hope of thereby ensuring peace and amity with that country. If Mr. Pitt did found his Treaty on that basis, he must have been grievously disappointed, for I believe not three years passed after its conclusion before a war between England and France broke out. For myself, I should be glad to see a good Commercial Treaty concluded between England and France. Nay, more; the Government to which I had the honour to belong seven years ago did enter into negotiations with the French Government with the view, if possible, to conclude a Treaty between the two countries; but I am free to confess that we thought the terms offered by the French Government were not sufficiently satisfactory to induce us to proceed further in the matter. Our object was simply to establish some arrangement with France by which the commerce of the two coun- 585 tries might be extended. The noble Baron has said that the present Treaty was not intended as a bargain; but how, let me ask, can it be otherwise? Every Treaty must necessarily be a bargain. It is an agreement, or a convention, or a covenant — call it what you will — between two parties. One says, "I will do this if you will do that;" and I am utterly unable to understand what in the English language is called a bargain if a treaty is not one, and if, therefore, this Treaty was not a bargain between this country and France. My Lords, it was not only a bargain, but a very bad one on our part; and it is because it is a bad one that I cannot join in the farce of complimenting Her Majesty on such an arrangement. Furthermore, political reasons add to my difficulties in concurring in the Address which is now proposed to be made to the Throne. There can be no doubt that the duty placed by France on the importation of our manufactures will amount very much to a prohibition; and that, indeed, is what the French newspapers assure the French Protectionists. I am unable to discover why Her Majesty's Government were in such extreme haste to carry this Treaty out during the present year, instead of deferring it to another year. In another year the hands of the French Emperor would have been free, and France would have been able to advance pari passu with this country. But, although the French Government offered to give Her Majesty's Government another year before Her Majesty's Government sought to give practical effect to their own stipulations, they refused that offer. How is that explained? I will tell your Lordships how it is explained by the French newspapers. They say that France gives you this Treaty as a boon, not to the country, but to the Palmerston Government, that it is a great advantage to the Palmerston Government, that advantage consisting in the support of a certain body in the House of Commons of whose support they did not feel sure. That is the French explanation of the hurry with which this Treaty has been concluded. My Lords, there are some other trifling points which induce me to object to the Treaty in a commercial point of view. One which has not been referred to by the noble Earl opposite is this:— It appears to me a most fair and natural proceeding that if you admit the native beverages of one country, such as the wines of France, that country should in 586 return accept the beverages which are manufactured in this country better than in any other. I should like to know why the Government did not press upon the French Government and even insist upon the necessity of their admitting our malt liquors free, or at a reduced duty? But it seems that nothing of the kind was spoken of, and certainly nothing of the sort was obtained. There was an additional reason for pressing that point upon the French Government, because a most anomalous and enormous tax is levied upon our national beverage—the malt tax, which is condemned by all financiers and political economists, and is only to be justified upon the ground of necessity. But when an article grown by your own agriculturists and manufactured into a beverage be your own countrymen is an article so highly taxed, surely the least that could have been done would have been to ask the French Government to accept it on the same terms as we accept their native beverages. The least that should have been demanded was perfect reciprocity in this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that the loss to the revenue will be only £700,000. That may or may not be so. I prefer arguments to prophecies, unless I am sure of the prevision I of the prophet. I must say I have not that great confidence in the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman as respects the future, although no one can more admire his talents than I do; but from Iris past conclusions in 1853, I cannot be quite sure that the loss will not be more than £700,000 One thing is quite clear, that if the vacuum caused by the reduction to one-half of the duties on French wine is to be filled up it must be from the English drinking twice as much French wine as they do now. But we may conclude that if they do drink twice the quantity of wine then they will drink less English beer, and if so there will be a proportionate diminution in the proceeds of the malt tax. Therefore, in order to fill up the vacuum that will be caused by the reduction of the duty on wine, and also to fill up the consequent vacuum in the malt tax, the people of this country must, in order to satisfy the Chancellor of the Exchequer, drink twice as much wine and half as much been again as they drink now. I shall say no more upon the commercial aspect of the Treaty; but I must say I was astonished to hear the noble Baron (Lord Wodehouse) 587 declare this was not a political but a commercial Treaty—that it had been entered into upon commercial grounds alone. I will not quote my own crude opinions upon this point, but I will refer to the words of his noble chief, in a despatch to Earl Cowley, dated Jan. 17, in which he says, speaking of the Commercial Treaty:—Its significance at the present moment, when the condition of some parts of the Continent is critical, would be at once understood, and would powerfully re-assure the public mind in the various countries of Europe.If that he not a political view of the Treaty, I am at a loss to understand the force of the English language. Those are remarkable words. In what part of the Continent will they be of significance at the present moment? Is it Italy, or is it Savoy? This Treaty, as I have said, was one between the noble Viscount at the head of Her Majesty's Government and the Emperor of the French. It is not a Treaty between the English and the French peoples. To prove that I will tell your Lordships what is the opinion of one of the most distinguished French journals as to the history of this Treaty. The Journal des Debate, your Lordships will recollect, was a journal that used to delight Europe with the harmony of its principles, its consistency, and its writings; but I am afraid that "now are the mighty fallen," and that that once important and influential journal is now only playing second fiddle in the large orchestra of the great maestro of Europe. In that case its opinions are doubly valuable. The Journal des Debats of the 10th of March says: —The policy of the Emperor's speech on the 1st of March is no rupture with England, nor is it a reaction against Italy. It is simply a policy not so far English as to maintain the Palmerston Government at any price. It was no doubt very fine for Lord Palmerston to tell England, Our policy has triumphed without spending an English shilling or an English drop of blood; our good friends the French have undertaken to pay both in blood and money.' This doubtless would have secured the Palmerston Administration. Must it, then, fall unless we do all it asks? We sustain it by the Treaty of Commerce, of which we have made it a gift; while we weaken it by Savoy, que nous revendiquons.That word "revendiquer" is worth translating. According to the best French dictionary—namely, Le Dictionaire de L'Academic—it means, "Reclamer une chose qui nous appartient et qui est dans les mains d un autre." The article goes on to say:— 588Whence it follows that between the force we give it on the one hand and which we withdraw from it on the other the Palmerston Government remains on its own natural legs. What we have done serves English interests; what we do against it shocks English feelings, Lord Palmerston's Government ought to stand; it represents a real gain and a moral check.That is the opinion of one of the organs of His Imperial Majesty. I cannot deduce from that any hope that the Commercial Treaty will produce that perpetual friendship and amity which Lord John Russell speaks of. But what is its significance in the eyes of the rest of Europe? It can only be in relation to Italy, or to Savoy. Europe knows that long ago the noble Lord was aware that, under certain circumstances, Savoy would be annexed, and yet he was the very man to propose to bring about that state of circumstances. He knew that a large independent kingdom in the north of Italy would bring about the annexation of Savoy, and yet that was what he recommended to the French Emperor. It is no wonder that for a long time he said nothing about the annexation of Savoy. He must have expected it as a natural consequence of his own advice; but at the eleventh hour, being probably roused by the English press and Parliament, he did speak, as I must do him the justice to say, in a very proper tone. But, I am free to add, I do not think the noble Lord quite sees things as they are. I do not think he looked at the matter with the eyes of a statesman, or of one conversant with the laws of Europe, or of nations. He does not appear sensible of the international obligations involved. What is Sardinia? What is England, or Russia, or Prussia, or Austria? They are co-trustees to guard the Treaties of Vienna, and among them that which cm-braces the neutrality of part of Savoy and of Switzerland. I cannot but think when an English Minister saw a serious intention to annex Savoy, when he saw the French Emperor nibbling at the frontier out of which he is about to take so large a bite, it was his duty to call upon our co-trustees of the treaties of 1815, and ask what they thought of the matter. I know the French Emperor would have been very much angered at any appearance of being threatened by a new coalition. We ought to be careful not to excite jealousy on that account. But, on the point of duty, when a whole population is about to be transferred like cattle from one sovereign to another, when frontiers most 589 important to the safety of Europe are about to be changed, when landmarks are about to be altered, all of which were guaranteed by the most important treaties of the age, of which, as I have said, we are not only co-signatories but trustees— that the noble Lord should have satisfied himself, as a British Foreign Minister, with solely and singly addressing some not very strong remonstrances to the Emperor of the French, is to me utterly unintelligible, and I think most reprehensible. It is the opinion of Europe that the Government has been indifferent on that point; and if any significance attaches, in the eyes of Europe, to this Commercial Treaty, it is, I believe, the significance described by the noble Earl who opposed the Address, that we think it of less consequence to defend Savoy by argument, by remonstrance, and by protests, than to sacrifice the chance which is thrown out to us of selling a certain additional quantity of cotton and other manufactures. I cannot sit down without expressing, in common with the noble Earl, my very great apprehension at what has taken place. I have a greater right, perhaps, than any man to remember the promise given by the French Emperor when he established his Empire and mounted his Imperial throne. At the time the Government of my noble Friend, who sits beside me (the Earl of Derby), was in office, and I had to conduct a correspondence of great importance on that very point—the question was one which alarmed the whole of Europe—namel, the title of which the Emperor of the French had made choice. Significant, indeed, was the word which was well used to express the ideas that arose in the minds of all when the Emperor called himself Napoleon the Third. It was necessary to ascertain whether, in adopting that title, he assumed it in direct descent from Napoleon I., as having obtained his throne by inheritance, or whether he stood on it by the election of the people; it was indispensably necessary to ascertain whether, as Napoleon III., he recognised the present authority of Europe, and all the acts which had passed between the fall of his uncle and his own accession. Most frankly, candidly, and loyally he came forward and said he accepted and would observe the Treaties of 1814 and 1815, and all the public acts of Europe, which had taken place in the interval. And I will add that until this moment he has kept his word most faithfully. I 590 repeat, that I know no instance in which he has diverged from that promise. It is, therefore, with the deepest regret and the greatest apprehension that I see him, for the first time, step out of the straight and honourable path he has pursued—a path which, if he still chose to pursue, would ensure to him the respect of all Europe, and the strongest desire on the part of this country to retain his friendship and alliance.
EARL DE GREY AND RIPON
said, he would not follow the noble Earl who had just sat down into the question of Savoy, because no one who did not entertain opinions identical with those of the noble Earl, and of the noble Earl who had previously spoken, and who did not believe Her Majesty's Government capable of enacting mere shams, and his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary of writing despatches without feeling the sentiments which they expressed, would consider that Her Majesty's Government could be indifferent on this important subject. It was fortunate, as far as regarded the foreign aspect of the question, that no difference of opinion existed on either side of the House; but, although it was natural that the name of Savoy should rise to the lips of any one who spoke at the present moment, the subject with which they bad to deal that evening was the Commercial Treaty with France, to the consideration of which he would endeavour to recall attention. Those opposed to the policy of the Government were apt to lay great stress on the word "bargain," and to contend that, as every treaty must be a bargain, the present ought to be looked at solely in a financial and commercial point of view; and then, shifting their ground, the House was reminded that other countries believed this Treaty to be a bargain of another description, and that for the advantages which we were to obtain under it we had tacitly agreed to the annexation of Savoy. He denied that Her Majesty's Government had been parties to the agreement in any such sense. The case was not one in which the advantages given to France by a reduction of duties being placed at one side of the account, and the amount of the reductions made by France on the other, and, a balance being struck, it could be held that the bargain was a good or a bad one for this country. From such a point of view the terms might be disadvantageous. But the sound and intelligible principle on which the Government took its stand was, 591 that the reductions proposed were in themselves beneficial, and that the advantages given by France were merely in addition to those which were conferred on the people of this country. The Government, he contended, had followed most accurately in the steps of the great finance Ministers who had preceded them, and had acted on the principles which had guided the commercial policy of England for the last eighteen years. The noble Earl who had just sat down had referred to the financial policy of Sir Robert Peel; but whatever ground there might have been for his remarks as applied to 1845 they certainty did apply to the year 1842.
EARL DE GREY AND RIPON
Sir Robert Feel, in 1842, found a deficit of £2,000,000, and he effected remissions which made the total deficit £3,500,000— a process very similar to that pursued by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. With regard to the opinion of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, the noble Earl, not unnaturally, had been led into a statement which was not borne out by the facts. Having seen it stated that the opinion of that influential body was unfavourable to the Treaty, and being connected with Leeds himself, he had thought it worth while to look into the matter, and he found that the Chamber of Commerce had signed a petition expressive of their hearty approval of the Treaty concluded by Her Majesty's Government; but they did express a fear that, if the duty levied in France on certain articles in which they were interested were raised to the uniform rate of 30 per cent, it would exercise a prohibitive tendency. But the general tone of the petition, as well as the speech of the able representative of that constituency, were strongly in favour of the Treaty concluded by Her Majesty's Government. The House had been told that France regarded us as a nation of shopkeepers, and the noble Earl (Earl Grey) said they ought to pause in the course which they were pursuing, because foreign nations had long been accustomed to declare that we looked solely to our pecuniary, and commercial interests and were deaf to the higher considerations of national and European interests. He was aware that numerous persons in foreign countries had entertained those foolish and erroneous opinions; but, as they had been expressed with total in- 592 justice on many occasions and with regard to many subjects, and the persons who once entertained them had on nearer acquaintance discovered their fallacy, so he thought it would be on the present occasion. At any rate they afforded, in his mind, no argument against the present proposals of the Government, and this country might very fairly disregard them. The noble Earl assumed that what was said in the despatch of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary as to the significance of the Treaty, referred to Italy and Savoy. But it was obvious that it referred to the effect on Europe of the indication of a peaceful disposition on the part of France I and England. In reference to the article from the Journal des Debats which the noble Earl had read, he (Earl de Grey) was astonished to hear it suggested that the only object the Emperor of the French had; in concluding the Treaty was to keep the Palmerston Ministry in office. The suggestion was more far-fetched even than usual, but attempts were always being I made to attribute the conduct of the Emperor of the French, not to ordinary motives, but to some deep-laid policy. Surely it was easy to find plain, simple, commonsense reasons for the Emperor's conduct in regard to the Treaty without resorting to the ingenious speculations in which the noble Earl had indulged. A now market would be opened for a staple French product, and the French people would be admitted, to a limited degree certainly, to the benefits of the free trade. Teace would be promoted by the spread of commercial relations, and the Imperial revenue would be increased by the reduction of duties. All these were very satisfactory reasons why the Emperor should have negotiated the Treaty, without assuming that he was always pursuing a mysterious inscrutable policy. He denied altogether that the Treaty was a bargain in a financial sense. Neither nation sought any advantage over I the other, and both nations profited greatly by the extended intercourse it would bring about between them. He could not understand the course proposed by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) who said that if the Address were rejected it need not prevent the Bills from passing. If the Treaty were as bad as the noble Earl described it—if, indeed, it were tinged with something like a forgetfulness of England's honour, then the simple rejection of the Address would not be sufficient—it would behove their Lordships to take a more vigorous course— 593 to pass a vote of censure on Her Majesty's Ministers and reject the Treaty altogether. But he hoped that the noble Earl would not succeed in inducing them to separate themselves from the career of commercial legislation in which they had so long been joint-labourers with the House of Commons, but that, on the contrary, by giving a cordial assent to the Motion, they would vindicate for themselves a share in contributing to bring about the benefits which the Treaty must confer on the cause of peace and civilization.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, that if he were inclined to find any fault with the speech by which the noble Lord had introduced this Motion to their Lordships, it would be only with the latter part, in which his noble Friend had seemed to intimate an opinion that those who might find fault with the policy of the Treaty were on that account insensible to the importance of maintaining a friendly understanding with France. He yielded to no man in the value which he placed on the maintenance of friendly relations with France, and his great objections to the Treaty proceeded from a doubt whether it really would have that effect. Nor did he express that doubt without strong testimony in that direction. He had received many letters from persons of great eminence in Erance—some, no doubt, unfavourable to the existing Government in that country, but others who had always been its supporters; and judging from these letters, there seemed to be a very general opinion at Paris that the first effect of this Treaty, at least, would be to produce in France a feeling of alienation in regard to England. Many classes considered themselves aggrieved by the removal of the prohibitory and protective duties; and, instead of blaming their own Government, there was an inclination to throw the blame on the English people and Government. For this reason he should have preferred to see these changes effected by the respective Governments without the intervention of a treaty at all. He thought it a matter of great regret that there should be on this account, as he understood that there was, a renewal of the old cries of "encroaching England," and "perfidious Albion." He had the highest authority for saying there was no necessity for the Treaty, because the Emperor in his Speech to the Legislative Assembly on the 1st of the present month, recommended it upon the ground that the French protective 594 system must, under any circumstances, very soon come to an end. All the changes which were desired would then have been accomplished without any risk of alienation between the two nations, which he deprecated, but which he firmly believed the Treaty would excite. He thought it was a great misfortune that treaties of commerce should ever be concluded when the nations were not ripe for them, and he thought, moreover, that a long period of time must elapse before a change of opinions of this kind could be brought about. Of this fact our own History records an instance. When in May, 1713, immediately on the con-t elusion of the Peace of Utrecht, a treaty of commerce with France was laid before the House of Commons. There was very general dissatisfaction on that account in England. The Treaty was rejected by the House of Commons, and then, as we are told, there were bonfires and illuminations in consequence through the whole of London. But now, supposing a different course had been taken by that House of Commons; supposing that in spite of the popular dissatisfaction the Treaty had been still maintained, would not then, in all probability, the popular dissatisfaction have grown into an angry feeling with the neighbouring nation? Would it, then, have been possible, shortly afterwards, for those two wise statesmen, Sir Robert Walpole, in England, and Cardinal Floury, to maintain, so much to the advantage of both countries, a peace of twenty years? But with regard to treaties of commerce generally, he confessed he thought that the period for them was past. He confessed he did not think that they ought to be entered into at the present day; and when his noble Friend who had just spoken said that this was not a treaty of a common kind, he confessed he did not see in what respect it was an extraordinary treaty, or how it was not a treaty of commerce like the rest. The noble Earl who spoke on that side of the House (the Earl of Malmesbury) said, he thought very justly, that a treaty of commerce was a kind of bargain. Why, it could not be otherwise. All treaties were of the nature of bargains; the Treaty of Villafranca was a bargain, by which the Austrians, having been defeated in several engagements, ceded a province as the price of peace. Then, judging from this point of view, he asked why, if the argument were good for a 595 treaty of commerce with France, should it not also be good for attempting a treaty of commerce at the same time with other countries? He alluded particularly to Spain. They were about, not certainly by, but in consequence of, this Treaty, to make a large reduction of the duties on Spanish wines. He asked, then, if the principle were good as regarded these protective duties for France, why did they not apply to Spain, than which a better field for commercial reform could not be found, or one more important to the interests of this country? There was no country in which higher protective duties existed, or a more absolute system of protection than in Spain. Of this he would give the House only one instance. It is stated in MacGregor's Commercial Tables that the tariff of Spain enumerates seventy-seven articles under the head of manfacturers of wool and hair, and of these seventy-seven there are absolute prohibitions on the import of no less than sixty-three. He (Earl Stanhope) felt considerable objections to the treaty in regard to the coal duties upon export and in several other respects, but he would not enter upon these further points in detail, after the able and comprehensive speech of his noble Friend below the gangway (Earl Grey)—a speech which seemed to exhaust the whole question. There was, however, a point to which his noble Friend did not advert, upon which he wished to add an observation. The point was one which he remembered to have mentioned before to his noble Friend. It was with regard to the wording of the third Article of the Treaty in the English and French versions. The treaty seemed to him to signify one thing in the French and quite another thing in the English version. From the use of the words droits établis in the French version, it was plain that the Treaty was intended to protect duties then subsisting, and no others. But in the English version the word "established" did not occur at all; the expression was only "the differential duties in favour of French shipping." But this was not all. In the English version a further clause was added, "with which duties they shall not interfere;" and of this clause, would it be believed? there was not the smallest trace or vestige in the English. It really looked as if Mr. Jobden—if Mr. Cobden was the person who negotiated this Treaty— had never taken the trouble to compare together the Earl Stanhope 596 French and the English versions. The result, as he (Earl Stanhope) apprehended, was, that if the Emperor Napoleon did desire at any future time to increase the scale of these differential duties, he was free to do so according to the English version, but not according to the French. If that opinion were correct, the two versions were susceptible of totally different meanings. He did entertain great doubts as to the policy of the Treaty, and whether it was really calculated to advance the friendly relations of the two countries; but though entertaining these doubts, and with every wish to do justice to the able speech of his noble Friend, he also felt very considerable doubts as to the propriety of the course his noble Friend was adopting. He had great doubts as to the propriety of dividing the House against the Address. His noble Friend advocated a division for the singular reason that it would have no effect upon the Treaty. Was it consistent with the dignity of the House to pass a vote which, even if carried, would avowedly have no effect upon the Treaty? He, therefore, ventured to appeal to his noble Friend. The question before the House was not whether, in the first instance, it was wise or politic to conclude this Treaty; the question before the House was whether, in the state to which this question had arrived, having passed the House of Commons by a large majority, and when, as he understood, a new scale of duties had already been established at the Customhouse, it was desirable to put the House into the disadvantageous position of refusing to assent to the Address, when no practical result could follow. To that vote he (Earl Stanhope) would therefore not be a party.
My Lords, I never rise to address your Lordships without great reluctance; but this feeling becomes peculiarly painful on the present occasion. I find myself called upon to discuss and criticise the terms of a Treaty which must, after all, become the basis of the inter-commercial relations of this country and France; and to place myself in opposition to a Government towards which I entertain the most friendly feelings, and the permanent success of which I believe, under present circumstances, to be associated with the best interests of the country.
My Lords, I cannot take the favourable view of the Treaty now before us which would justify me in supporting the pre- 597 sent Address. The terms of the Treaty, in my judgment, afford ground for much criticism, and may give rise to some reasonable apprehension. I entertain great doubts of the expediency of having entered into any Commercial Treaty whatever. I thought that that description of commercial arrangements had been deliberately abandoned by this country, under a conviction, founded upon experience, that they are invariably fraught with embarrassment and danger; with embarrassment as regards our own internal affairs; and with danger in reference to our relations with the other contracting party. The true policy I believe to be this:—Let each country consult its own interests exclusively, under an enlightened view of what those interests really are. Let it repeal whatever Customs' duties it can properly part with, regulating its own tariff according to its fiscal necessities, and giving every practicable facility for the introduction of foreign commodities. Had we made the same reductions in our tariff without a Treaty which we have made under that now entered into, our imports of French products would have been as great as they will be under the new system; and they must have been paid for, directly or indirectly, by an equal increase of our exports. Whilst each country thus pursues its own interests steadily and wisely, it will soon be found that their mutual interests become coincident. Hence will arise a commercial intercourse beneficial to both countries, free from mutual jealousy, and forming a sure foundation for permanent good-will and friendly relations. Treaty obligations, on the other hand, I fear, will never be found to be the efficient means for tying the true lover's knot between great and jealous nations like England and France.
Such treaties must necessarily fetter our free discretion in the management of our own internal affairs and fiscal interests. It is not difficult to point to examples illustrating this principle in the present Treaty. Take, in the first place, the question, which has been already so pointedly alluded to in this discussion, of the suggested duty upon the export of coal. I cannot concur in the view upon this point of the noble Lord who opened the present debate (Lord Taunton). It is not necessary for my present argument to contend positively that we ought to impose a duty upon the export of that article. It is sufficient for me to say that the question is one 598 of great importance, and that our power to exercise a free discretion, now or hereafter, upon that point ought not to have been surrendered. The danger of an absolute exhaustion of coal may be of a chimerical character. But it is not in reference to that consideration that the expediency of imposing a duty upon the export of it is to be maintained. Whenever any country has a peculiar advantage in the production of a commodity, either as regards the cost or the quality of the article, a duty upon the export of it, cautiously imposed, may be amongst the best possible sources of revenue. It is legitimate on the part of this country—indeed, under certain circumstances, it may become our duty—to take care that any fiscal advantages to be derived from our superior opportunities should be secured for our own Exchequer, and not be permitted to go to the advantage of foreign nations. If it be the fact that we have the means of supplying coal more abundantly, better in quality, or at a lower price than other nations, the benefit of that advantage may be secured to this country by the imposition of a moderate duty upon the export of it; whereas, in the absence of that duty, that benefit will pass to the foreign consumer. The Chinese, for instance, impose a limited duty upon the export of tea; and there can be no doubt that that duty is really paid by the foreign consumer; and were the Chinese to repeal that duty, the benefit would accrue not to them but to the various nations of the world which purchase their product. He again with respect to opium; the large amount of revenue raised by our Indian Government upon that article becomes a charge which is really paid by the foreign consumers of opium; and the abandonment of that duty would be a loss to the Indian Exchequer, and a benefit to the foreign consumer. This principle, no doubt, applies more strictly to the case of an absolute monopoly; but, nevertheless, clear superiority in the production of an article, as regards price or quality, partakes for this purpose more or less of the character of a monopoly.
As to this particular article, coal, we must further recollect that although the supply may be apparently without limit, still it is a quantity, however great, absolutely fixed in its amount. It is a mineral. There is no re-creative process to fall back upon, as in the case of agricultural or manufactured products; and at the same time, whilst the supply, however vast, is abso- 599 lutely limited, the demand is annually increasing at a rate beyond all possible calculation. It is, moreover, an article which may be looked upon as the raw material of manufacturing competition; whilst it has unquestionably become a most important munition of war. I think, therefore, that the proposal to impose an export duty on coal is one entitled to the most serious consideration, and which ought not to have been precluded, as it is, by the provisions of the present Treaty.
I will now take the question upon broader and more comprehensive grounds; and I will beg your Lordships' attention to the question of Customs' duties generally. I doubt whether any valid objection can be urged to the imposition generally of a moderate Customs' duty upon all articles of import, excepting those two great classes of import, the raw materials of industry, and the prime articles of food. By this means a considerable revenue might be raised in a manner to which little serious objection could be made, and the pressure of which would be scarcely perceptible. Considering the heavy demands on the Exchequer of the country, and the large amount of revenue which it has now become essential even for our safety that we should raise, the propriety of levying a moderate tax on all articles of foreign import, with the exceptions I have already stated, becomes a grave and important question; one at all events the decision of which ought not to have been closed prospectively regardless of any emergency which may arise.
But, my Lords, if this Treaty be objectionable when we look to its effects upon our internal arrangements, it seems to me equally so if we proceed to consider the probable influence it may exert upon our external relations. The tendency of such Treaties must be to excite mutual suspicion and jealousy between the contracting parties, each country thinking that she had been overreached by the other. Hence danger may arise to our amicable relations from this cause more serious than the countervailing strength to those relations which we can venture to anticipate from increased commercial intercourse. This apprehension is not merely a matter of anticipation; the effect has already been produced. For example, in one of our more early discussions upon this subject, when it was urged that the present Treaty was one-sided and unfair as regards this country, the noble President of the 600 Council replied that similar objections were urged, with at least equal pertinacity, on the part of France; and in the same spirit the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, observed, "It is said in France that this Treaty is entirely a one-sided Treaty; that it makes France the slave of England." This, my Lords, is an illustration of the tone of international feeling, the jealousy and mutual irritation, which not unnaturally arise out of compacts of this nature.
But I may take a still stronger case. A very remarkable letter has recently appeared with the signature of a distinguished person, who has probably been the prime mover in this matter, M. Chevalier, who first endeavours to prove that France is entirely independent of England as regards the supply of coal, and that any duty upon the export of that article imposed by England would, be an act on her part of purely suicidal folly; and he then proceeds, nevertheless, to declare that such is the feeling of the French people upon this question that they would regard any modification of the Article in the Treaty which has reference to the export of coal with great dissatisfaction; and that, were such a modification suggested or sanctioned even by the Emperor himself, it would still be received by the French people as an injustice and an affront on the part of this country.
I will now beg your Lordships' attention to the terms of the Treaty. I think they bear the marks of haste and want of sufficient care and deliberation. A negotiator on the part of France, knowing that he was about to treat with a country possessing coal, iron, and machinery, articles which constitute the raw material of manufacturing industry and warlike armament, important in the highest degree to his nation, would endeavour to obtain the removal of all obstructions to the export of those articles from England. He would at the same time know that the means which Franch possesses of paying for these and other articles of import consist in her brandy, wines, silks, and various lighter articles of taste, for which he would be anxious to secure greater facilities of export. These objects the French negotiator has fully and completely secured.
On the other hand, the negotiator on the part of England would naturally remember that he had many concessions to make that would be eminently beneficial to France; and that the one equivalent 601 which it was desirable for him to secure was a more free and extended market for the manufactured products of his own country. All that has been obtained in this respect is the abandonment on the part of France of absolute prohibition, and the substitution of a protective duty which may for years to come be maintained at 30 per cent. I cannot look upon these terms as characterized by that degree of reciprocal fairness which we were entitled to look for in this Treaty, if it were entered into at all.
All credit to the negotiator of this Treaty for his former services. As an eloquent and successful agitator against a great national grievance, he deserved his country's gratitude and all the honour which he has received. But the very qualities which fitted him for that purpose,—that strenuous and uncompromising one-sided-ness, which led him entirely to discard all qualifying considerations, and to fix his exclusive attention upon one great principle in agitating against a great grievance, —seem to me necessarily to disqualify him for the delicate discrimination and cautious estimate of conflicting claims requisite in a negotiator.
This Treaty, we are now told, does not partake of the character of a bargain. Whether this be so or not must, of course, depend upon the sense in which that term is used. In what light, however, was it viewed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself when he first submitted the Treaty to the consideration of Parliament? "They think there is a chivalry in free trade which is degraded if it becomes a matter of bargain; whereas, it appears to me, that bargain is the true end and aim of the whole. The only reason why we have not made bargains similar to the present in former years, was simply because we could not make them."
Let us now, my Lords, turn our attention for a few moments to the effects of this Treaty in a fiscal point of view. It has compelled us to give up much revenue that we could ill afford to part with; to surrender taxes that were singularly unexceptionable, and to impose other taxes as a substitute which are open to the most serious objections. We are about to repeal duties on French luxuries; brandy, wines, manufactured silks, gloves, clocks and watches, and articles of Parisian fancy and taste; whilst, instead of these, we maintain high duties on tea, sugar, and beer, the prime articles of consumption of the classes living upon wages.
602 This leads me to some points which have been alluded to this evening, but which have been brought into more prominent notice in discussions upon this subject out of doors. The principles of "free trade," "differential duties," "development of the policy of Sir Robert Peel;" those phrases have been paraded before the public like the dancing lights of a magic lantern. But let us endeavour for a moment to fix our attention upon them, and ascertain what they have of reality and sound reasoning. It is important that the country should clearly understand what is the true meaning of free trade. It means trade freed, not from those necessary duties which are raised only for purposes of revenue, but trade freed from all charges or duties which arise either from an ignorant jealousy of other countries, or from an equally foolish impression that it is our interest to foster unnatural productions in our own country, rather than to receive them from other countries whence, being produced under more favourable circumstances, they can be obtained in larger quantities, of better quality, and at a lower price. This I apprehend to be the true meaning of free trade. It was so understood and described in the celebrated petition of the merchants of London, presented to Parliament in the year 1820;—As long as the necessity for the present amount of revenue subsists, your petitioners cannot expect so important a branch of it as the Customs to be given up, or to be materially diminished, unless some substitute less objectionable be suggested; but it is against every restricted regulation of trade not essential to the revenue, against all duties merely protective from foreign competition, and against an excess of such duties as are partly for the purpose of revenue and partly for that of protection, that the prayer of the present petition is respectfully submitted to the wisdom of Parliament.My Lords, are not the duties now proposed to be repealed, in the full sense of the words, "essential to the revenue?" And can we consider the substitute suggested, namely, a heavy income tax, as less objectionable? Every one of the duties proposed to be abolished in consequence of this Treaty might be retained without any violation of the principles of free trade.
But we are told that this Treaty is a development of the policy of Sir Robert Peel. If there be, indeed, any connection between the arrangements now under consideration and the policy of Sir Robert Peel as developed in his Commercial Tariff of 1842, it is, I submit, a connection of 603 contrast and not one of imitation or development.
In the first place that statesman encumbered himself with no commercial treaties. He looked exclusively to the interest of his own country, and the necessities of her financial position; and repealing those duties which he felt could be surrendered consistently with the interests of England and for the safety of the British exchequer, he trusted to the success of that experiment and the force of the example gradually to exorcise their legitimate influence over the policy and the measures of other Governments.
Sir Robert Peel entered upon his commercial reforms in consequence of the distressed state of the country. Commodities were passing out of consumption through the poverty of the people. The revenue returns indicated a lessened consumption of articles of popular comfort. Something-was necessary to relieve the pressure which then weighed down the labouring classes, and to restore elasticity to the springs of industry. Is there any similarity to this state of things in the present condition of the country? Are we not in a state of unusual, indeed of unexampled prosperity? Has there ever been a time in our history when those who live by wages were in so prosperous a condition as at present? Is not the buoyancy of revenue, and its continuous improvement, year by year, the subject of universal remark and surprise? Can any one say that there is now any unnatural or alarming pressure upon the springs of industry? Has not our trade wit hin a vry moderate period increased threefold, fom £45,000,000 of exports to about £13,000,000? And is there not every indication that this progressive increase is still in operation? In what, then, consists the similarity between the present period and that at which Sir Robert Peel entered up n his commercial reforms?
But, again, my Lords, upon what principle did Sir Robert Peel proceed? He proposed to remove two classes of duties; duties upon the raw materials of industry, and duties upon the prime articles of the food of the people. Are we proceeding in this course at present? Are we not taking off duties upon the lighter luxuries which are derived from Prance, and maintaining the duties upon articles of general consumption by the people? The object of Sir Robert Peel was to relieve the physical wants of the labouring classes, by cheapening the cost of provisions and clothing, and 604 to raise their wages by giving increased facilities to manufacturing industry. The taxes which it is now proposed to reduce are not levied upon the necessaries of life, not upon the raw materials of manufacturing industry.
My Lords, there still remains one consideration; that which has been already alluded to with so much gravity and force by the noble Earl (Earl Grey), the connection between this Treaty and the general financial arrangements of the year. I speak not my own feelings and conviction alone, but those of many intelligent and reflecting persons, friends to the Government and to liberal principles, who entertain serious alarm at the effect which the financial arrangements of Government for the present year must, in their judgment, produce on the permanent financial condition of the country. We are about to surrender large sources of revenue which the country can ill spare, and which there is no necessity for sacrificing. We are contracting the area of indirect taxation, which is at once unwise and dangerous. We are proceeding to levy Customs' duties, heavy in amount, on a few articles; instead of lighter duties spread over a greater number of articles. And what are the articles upon which those heavy duties are to be levied? They are articles of prime necessity with the mass of the people. It is fortunate, indeed, that tea and sugar are not the natural products of Prance; otherwise, I presume the duties upon those articles must have been abandoned, and we must have parted with those important sources of revenue.
It has, indeed, been made a subject of boast in the course of this debate that we are accumulating our indirect taxation upon a few articles only. Let me entreat your Lordships to consider for a moment what is necessarily involved in this system. Why is so large a revenue raised from these few articles of taxation,—tea, sugar, coffee, tobacco? It is because these are articles of prime necessity with the great moss of the people, and therefore productive of a large revenue. Consequently, if we persist in the principle of raising a large revenue by Customs' duties upon a few articles, these must necessarily be the articles of general consumption with the people; on the other hand, if were peal the duty upon all articles which yield, but a limited amount of revenue, the repeal must fall, for the most part, upon those articles which are in reality consumed only by the 605 comparatively rich classes. To levy a large Customs' revenue upon a few articles, at the same time repealing Customs' duties upon all articles which yield only a small revenue, necessarily involves the principle of taxing the consumption of the people generally, and removing the taxes which press more peculiarly upon the richer classes. The luxuries derived from France are to go untaxed, whilst from tea, sugar, coffee, and tobacco (articles of almost absolute necessity to the mass of the people) a large and heavy amount of revenue is to be raised. Is this a safe system upon which to proceed? Or can we expect that the people at large will tolerate such a system of Customs' revenue?
Let us now take another view of this question. It is surely the duty of statesmen to recognize future responsibilities, and to satisfy Parliament and the country that the measures which they proposed are not only sufficient for the emergencies of the moment, but that they tend to place our financial system upon a permanently sound and safe foundation. I must say that I share with the noble Earl (Earl Grey) the apprehensions which he has expressed with regard to the fiscal condition of the country at the end of another year. We are now abolishing duties which can never be replaced; and for those we are substituting a tax which is imposed only for a single year. What will be the balance against us at the beginning of another year? It is difficult, no doubt, to form a correct estimate upon that point, so complicated are the financial arrangements for the present year. But I believe that the probable deficit has been understated by the noble Earl, and that it will be, according to all reasonable probability, incumbent upon the Government to propose for the next year a very heavy income tax. My Lords, a reduction of estimates is a pleasing dream, the realization of which, I fear, no reasonable person will venture to anticipate with confidence. Is there anything in the political prospects of the country to justify it? Consider the expenses of the Chinese war, very insufficiently provided for in the present Budget. Consider the fortification of our dockyards and coasts, for which no provision has been made. Consider the expense which must be incurred in the improved armament of our military and naval forces; in gunnery and in musketry. Consider the expense which must necessarily attend the establishment of an efficient naval reserve. 606 Consider the large amount brought to the credit of the present year's account from sources which are not really revenue, and which will therefore disappear in the account of the ensuing year. Looking to all these considerations, it can hardly be doubted that the sources of revenue which we are now voluntarily abandoning must be supplied by the permanent imposition of a very heavy income tax.
But, my Lords, how many delicate, difficult, and dangerous questions beset the assessment of an income tax? And what financial provision do we reserve for the emergencies of war, if, during a period of peace, we press thus heavily on our great resource, the income tax? To meet the necessities of the last year, we imposed temporarily a heavy income tax; and we proceeded to collect the whole of that tax upon the last half of the year. By this step, an injustice, perhaps the greatest and most palpable that has ever been perpetrated in any financial arrangement, was inflicted upon one class of persons. At that time, one final payment of the Long Annuities remained to be made. That payment was in reality a repayment of capital, and not of income. Nevertheless, on that payment the Government levied a whole year's income tax. That was a special case of unquestionable hardship and injustice. It was, however, accidental; it could not recur, and therefore it was acquiesced in without murmur. But the repetition of similar cases of injustice, which must arise under an income tax liable to annual variations of amount, will not be borne. These questions, as regards terminable annuities and precarious annuities, the profits of professions and of trade, salaries, &c, will rise up in endless variety. I have been told, and I believe upon good authority, that when Sir Robert Peel first proposed the income tax, he sat up night after night consulting with mathematicians, actuaries, and financial authorities, to ascertain whether any modification of the tax could be safely made with regard to the different classes of incomes. He found, however, that it was impossible to do anything of the kind; that every provision by which it was attempted to meet one difficulty would create a greater difficulty in its stead; and he, therefore, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to impose the same rate of tax upon all descriptions of income. I believe to that conclusion every inquiry upon the subject must inevitably lead. 607 There is but one mode by which the income tax can be made to approach to equality or justice; that is, by making the tax permanent and invariable in amount; so that the character of the tax will assimilate itself to the character of each varying income. In this form, a moderate income tax may become a steady and fixed element in the financial system of the country, susceptible of sudden increase only in the emergency of war.
There remains another question with regard to the income tax of very serious import, namely, the question of a graduated income tax. In the accounts which have recently reached this country from India, it appears that the Government there are about to impose an income tax of two per cent on incomes up to a certain amount, and of four per cent upon all incomes above that amount. Is this one of those cases in which coming events cast their shadows before? Is there now rising in the East the ill-omened star which is destined shortly to shed its disastrous influence over the financial system of this country? A graduated income tax is one of the plausible and dangerous forms under which the principle of confiscation makes its first insidious approaches.
My Lords, I feel that I have too long trespassed upon your attention. For what purpose, let me beg the House to consider, is it found necessary to bring forward these large Estimates? And for what purpose is it that the country so cheerfully bears the heavy weight of taxation? It is for the greatest of all considerations,—the national security. But for this end there are three great requisites; first, the tone and temper of the people, the feeling of loyal attachment to their Sovereign, and a readiness to devote their property and their lives to the defence of our institutions. In this respect the country is sound; and could any doubt have been entertained upon this point, recent events have given us a most assuring demonstration. Second, the complete and efficient condition of all our defensive armaments. To this state I believe we are surely and rapidly advancing. But beyond this there is a third requisite, a sound and solid condition of our financial system. How much of national weakness, how much loss of moral influence throughout Europe, must arise from any impression that the finances of this country are in any respect in an unsettled or doubtful condition r It is, my Lords, because I 608 fear that the Commercial Treaty, in connection with the financial arrangements which have arisen out of it, have shaken the solidity of our financial system, that I am compelled to withhold my assent from the present Address.
At the same time I feel myself placed in a painful embarrassment. The Treaty before us must now come into operation, and by its provisions the commercial relations of France and England must henceforth be regulated. It has been concluded by the Governments of the two countries; it has obtained the sanction of the other House of Parliament; it has been adopted by the country. Is it then wise, it may be asked, or consistent with our best interests, to disparage the terms of the bargain into which we are about to enter, and by which we must henceforth be bound? I have felt the force of these considerations, and I would gladly have evaded the duty which I am now endeavouring to discharge. But, though I cannot give my concurrence to this Address, I may nevertheless offer my hearty good wishes for the success of the Treaty. Most sincerely and unreservedly do I hope that the apprehensions which have been expressed upon this subject may prove to be unfounded; most earnestly do I hope that all the good results anticipated by the friends of this measure may be fully realized; that it may be the means of substituting the virtuous relations of commerce for the discreditable feelings of international jealous; that it may extend friendly intercourse between the two great nations by whom it has been contracted, that it may widen the field of industry, and thus augment the comforts and extend the prosperity of our own country.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he was not inclined to complain that the scope of this debate had extended far beyond the immediate subject of their deliberations, and that it had embraced the whole financial scheme of the Government, because there might be Members of the House who were willing to approve the Treaty, but who retained in their minds certain objections with regard to other portions of the financial scheme; and he was willing to admit that this was an occasion when they had a right to enter into a discussion of the whole question. He therefore accepted the grounds of discussion raised by his noble Friend who had just sat down, and by his noble Friend who first addressed their Lordships in opposition to 609 the Treaty, and would endeavour to give some answer to the main arguments which they had used. In the first place, he complained of his noble Friend who had just spoken, that while he had been charging carelessness against the Government and Mr. Cobden in the framing of this Treaty, he himself proved that he had never read the Treaty with even tolerable care. The noble Lord said he would give an instance—a crucial instance, as he called it—of the carelessness of Mr. Cobden— and that was in respect to the article of rags. It was evident the noble Lord spoke under the delusion that the abolition of the paper duty was part of the Treaty with France. But it was no such thing. The only stipulation in the Treaty having any reference to paper, was that the duty on French paper-hangings should not exceed the amount of excise duty leviable in this country. Mr. Cobden, when he negotiated this Treaty, was not even aware of the intention of the Government to propose to repeal the duty on paper. The repeal of the Excise duty on paper was a separate transaction, and even if Mr. Cobden had been aware of it he could not know whether it would receive the sanction of Parliament. This crucial instance of carelessness on the part of Mr. Cobden and the Government therefore fell to the ground. Another noble Lord had quoted as an in stance of carelessness the article on shipping. But though he admitted that there seemed to be some diversity of language beween the French and English versions of the third clause in the Treaty, they were in spirit identical, and he maintained that the interests of British shipping were amply protected in the clause. He gathered from the speech of his noble Friend that there was some misunderstanding as to the real facts of the case with respect to the effect of the changes that were made by the Treaty and the other fiscal arrangements connected with it. The noble Lords, in criticising the financial arrangements of the Government, spoke of the Government increasing unnecessarily, by their remissions of duty, the existing deficiency, and thereby necessitating an increase of the income tax. Now, that was not a correct statement of the facts of the case. The whole amount of remissions that was effected by the Government scheme was not greater than the amount of remissions which would arise under the operation of the existing law. The deficiency arose first from the total lapse of the 610 income tax, and next from the lapse of the tea and sugar duties. By a mistake in the wording of the Act the tea and sugar duties were to lapse altogether this year. The intention of Parliament was, that what was called the war tax on tea and sugar only should fall; but, by a mistake in the wording of the Act, the whole of the duties fell. In estimating the deficiency of the year, Mr. Gladstone assumed that Parliament, as a matter of course, would rectify this error; but he did not assume that Parliament would maintain the higher scale of duty which it was intended should cease with the present year. £2,100,000, the produce of the war tea and sugar duties, was therefore included in the deficiency of £9,400,000, to which his noble Friend referred. The Government had not increased that deficiency in any way. But instead of making remissions on tea and sugar they made them on a series of other articles, which would give to the country an additional advantage by opening the trade with France. He had carefully listened to the speeches of the two noble Lords (Lords Grey and Overstone) with a view to discover what sort of Budget they themselves would have been disposed to recommend. It must have been one avoiding the evils which they had pointed out as arising out of the plan of the Government. And what were they? First, there would have been no sacrifice of revenue—which means no remissions of taxation. What a position the Government would have been in if they had followed this advice! The first step they would have had to take would have been to bring in a Bill to maintain the war duties on tea and sugar; secondly, they would have had them continue the income tax at 9d. at least; they would have had them announce to Parliament that they had absorbed in their expenditure of the year all the advantages arising from the falling in of the Long Annuities; that they had postponed all obligations of payment of debt; and, lastly, that they proposed to give no relief whatever to trade or industry. Those were the steps which must have been taken by the Government to avoid the evils of which his two noble Friends complained. But he ventured to say that the Government would not have been able to pass such a Budget through Parliament. The income tax was already complained of as being too high. It had been the experience of every Government that unless they continued to connect the income tax with re- 611 missions in favour of trade and industry they could not succeed in continuing it for any lengthened period without danger. Again, his noble Friends complained that the Budget of the Government had rendered necessary a considerable increase of the income tax. He (the Duke of Argyll) ventured to say that the general cause of that increase was not to be found in the remissions the Government were making, but in the large amount of military and naval Estimates which they had been compelled to sustain. The House would recollect that during the Russian war the income tax stood at 16d., and after its conclusion there was a considerable portion of the year in which the war income tax continued. At the opening of the Session of 1857 the whole pressure of the Opposition, and of many others not in the Opposition, was to induce the Government to reduce their Estimates, and to take off what was called the war 9d. The Government conceded that point; but it was further contended, with great ability, by Mr. Disraeli and others, that even after the war 9d. had been abandoned the Estimates were still much too high, and that a large deficit was in prospect for the ensuing year. It so happened that Mr. Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer before the period when that said deficit was to arise; and what was the course which the Government of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) took in that state of things? Why that Government adopted the naval and military Estimates of Lord Palmerston's Government, with some little alteration. But in the course of that year the Government of the noble Earl found it necessary to raise very considerably the naval and military Estimates; but before making that discovery they had announced that they would allow a further drop in the income tax from 7d. to 5d., which, of course entailed a further loss of revenue. In the meantime, towards the end of the year, they took energetic steps to raise the navy to what they considered a proper level; but before they came to provide the taxes necessary for the expenditure they had incurred they had gone out of office; and the consequence was that when Mr. Gladstone came into office he found the naval and military Estimates so very large that he was obliged, looking to the means at his disposal, to bring back the income tax to 9d., and to raise the whole of it in half-a-year. That was the necessity imposed— 612 he did not say wrongly imposed—upon the present Government by the policy of their predecessors. It was idle to say, then, that the high income tax was due to the remissions now propoposed by the Government. He would state how the naval and military Estimates had stood since 1857. In 1857–58 the army and navy Estimates amounted to £20,699,000. The income tax was then lowered to 7d., but with half year of the war 9d. still to be collected. In 1858–59 the army and navy Estimates had risen to £21,610,000; in 1859–60 they were increased to £26,082,000, and in the present year they had risen to the enormous sum of £29,700,000. He (the Duke of Argyll) contended that in the face of those enormous Estimates it was impossible for the Government to avoid a large income tax. His noble Friend (Lord Overstone) next complained that the measures of the Government tended to alter, in a very dangerous degree, the relative proportions between direct and indirect taxation; but, unless his noble Friend could show that there were essential differences of principle between the remissions of taxation now proposed and those formerly proposed by Sir Robert Peel and by several succeeding Governments, he would fail to prove that the remissions now contemplated could materially alter the proportions between taxation direct and indirect. The produce of the indirect taxation of this country, since 1842, had been increased by no less a sum than nearly £8,000,000, by a process which he (the Duke of Argyll) maintained was identical in principle with that which the Government now proposed to adopt. There had been remissions in the Customs' duties alone to the amount of nearly £11,000,000. But the policy had been one not of remissions only, for there had been additions in the Excise. His noble Friend had adverted to the different circumstances under which Sir Robert Peel, on the one hand, and the present Government on the other, had propounded their financial schemes, and argued that Sir Robert Peel's remissions were only proposed in periods when relief was required by national distress. But although in 1842, when Sir Robert Peel commenced his commercial reforms, there was a considerable deficit, yet in 1845, when Sir Robert carried his measures to an extent almost identical with that proposed by the present Government, there was no public distress. Sir Robert did so 613 from a conviction that his measures would not only promote industry, but would also benefit the revenue. And Sir Robert Peel was right, for in 1845 he did not confine himself to reductions, but proceeded also to abolition of duties upon a very large scale, and yet the revenue recovered itself. His noble Friend (Lord Ovorstone) had said that the abolition of duties now proposed was not such as Sir Robert Peel would have proposed; but he (the Duke of Argyll) ventured respectfully to dissent from that opinion. A very large number of articles, the duties upon which were abolished by Sir Robert Peel, were strictly analogous to those which were now to be dealt with. Many other articles entering into the consumption of the people, such as butter, he did not deal with, because he had enough on his hands for the moment, but he left them to be considered at a future period. The noble Lord had dwelt with much force on one charge against the Treaty which applied to all treaties; that it fettered our action for the future, but that evil was reduced to a minimum, when care was taken that we should not prevent ourselves from doing anything which there was any probability of our doing, and not to promise to do anything that would be injurious to our interests. The question, therefore, came back to this—whether the remissions and abolition of duties proposed were of themselves evil, or whether they were not only innocent, but beneficial alike to England and to France. When his noble Friend argued in favour of an export duty on coal he propounded an opinion which no English Minister would venture to act upon. The plan of an export duty had been tried by Sir Robert Peel, and had failed, for it was found that the duty, although moderate in amount, was almost unproductive, and seriously interfered with the coal trade. By the Treaty we had not undertaken to abstain from doing anything which it was morally possible we should ever think of doing, and as to the Article respecting coal, although objections had naturally arisen at first, he ventured to hope the House would now regard the Article as one which showed a sincere expectation on the part of the French Government of a long continuance of peaceful intercourse between the two countries. Coal was used far more for commercial than for warlike purposes; for, although France might be out of coal for commercial use, yet we might be sure she 614 would always obtain enough for her naval purposes. When the manufacturers of France found that the Emperor was about to expose them to competition with England they naturally asked him to secure for them, as far as he could, a supply of English coal. The reply of the English Government, no doubt, was that there was no intention of reviving an export duty which had already failed; but the French manufacturers required a guarantee that they might not at some future time be suddenly deprived of a supply of coal; and thereupon the English Government said it was willing to promise not to do that which it had already tried and abandoned. He contended, therefore, that this stipulation, perhaps more than any other in the Treaty, indicated a belief on the part of the manufacturers of France in a long peaceful intercourse to the mutual benefit of themselves and of us. Coming to the question of the wine duties, he would observe that some persons spoke of wine as a luxury. It was true that former reductions of wine duties had been ineffectual to increase largely the consumption; but that arose from the fact that the reduction had never been carried low enough to reach an entirely new class of consumers. If the duties were reduced to an extent that would bring wine within the reach of the better classes of artizans and the lower middle classes, he thought there would be a great prospect of the revenue sustaining no loss, and of a great boon being conferred upon the people, both in point of comfort and of health. He was informed by one of the largest employers of labour in Manchester that the working classes exhibited a strong desire to have the best articles of consumption — the whitest bread and the whitest sugar—and, in fact, to have the same articles of food as were enjoyed by the richer classes. The Treaty was objected to as a bad bargain. He (the Duke of Argyll) heard that charge with pleasure, for it meant that France, whatever benefit we might derive from it, would certainly derive great benefit. But what did that imply? It meant that France would send us a considerable amount of imports; and if so, whether or not we sent them a corresponding amount of our goods, the intercourse must be beneficial to both countries. It was possible that France might send us more goods than we should send them in return; but that would be a gain to England, and not a loss. The noble Lord seemed to hold to the old 615 exploded error in respect to the balance of trade. After all, who were the best judges of the character of the bargain? Had Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, or any other manufacturing town objected to the Treaty? No! such a pressure had been brought to bear by the constituencies on their representatives in Parliament that this measure had not been carried by any mere party strength of the Government, but by a very large adhesion from those who were ordinarily their political enemies. It was no party victory, but the noblest triumph which could attend the measures of a Government. He would not conceal that Ministers had entered Parliament at the commencement of the present Session with the prospect of no very great Parliamentary strength; They were obliged to depend, not on party organization, but on the character of the measures which they might produce. And so powerful had been the effect of these measures on the public mind, so rapidly had they gained acceptance in all the great centres of our commercial industry, that the Treaty, and every portion of the financial scheme, so far as it had yet been considered, had been carried by majorities unprecedented in our recent Parliamentary annals. Great as was the importance which he attached to the opinion of his noble Friend, he preferred in this instance to rely on the opinion which had been so unmistakeably expressed on an appeal to the verdict of the country as to whether Her Majesty's Government had, or had not, made a good bargain for the people of England. Whatever difference of opinion might exist in regard to the financial scheme of the Government, he hoped the House would not be persuaded to divide against the adoption of an Address which he could assure their Lordships there had been every anxiety to word so that it might not commit the opinion of any Member of that House, in an unnecessary degree, to the measures of Government, or even to the character of this Treaty. The first sentence expressed the desire of the House "to approach Her Majesty with sincere and grateful acknowledgments for this new proof of Her Majesty's desire to promote the welfare and happiness of her subjects;" and in the second paragraph the House intimated that they would "proceed to take such steps as might be necessary to give effect to a system which they trusted would promote the beneficial intercourse between Great Britain and 616 France." His noble Friend (Earl Grey) seemed certainly to have adopted the most extraordinary line of argument. He said he did not want to defeat or interfere with the Treaty; he was perfectly willing to take the steps requisite to give effect to it, but he would not express his hope that those steps might be successful. Other noble Lords, however, would not, he hoped, give to the Address a grudging or a reluctant assent. He was not willing to speak with bated breath, either there or elsewhere, of the financial policy of the Government, which he believed to be sound in principle. It proceeded not on matter of experiment, but on the result of actual experience. Measures precisely similar to those which they were now recommending had contributed in past years to the comfort and contentment of the people, to the simplicity and productiveness of the financial system, to the creation of new rewards in every branch of industry; and by adding to the wealth of England, they had likewise increased her military power. Ministers, therefore, were prepared to recommend those measures to the adoption of the House, although they did not at present ask for the expression of an opinion upon them; and when the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) came to speak, though he would probably find many faults with the measure, and pass, perhaps, a severe censure on the conduct of the Government, he trusted that, so far as his influence and vote were concerned, the Address would receive the unanimous sanction of their Lordships' House.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, at this late hour of the evening I am very reluctant to trespass on your Lordships by any lengthened observations, more especially as I feel that the ground has been to a great extent occupied, and the subject entirely exhausted by the able and eloquent speech of the noble Earl who first opened the opposition to this Address, Earl Grey, and by the equally impressive speech from the noble Earl, whose great experience on subjects of this kind, more especially when speaking in opposition to a Government which he generally supports, deserves the most serious consideration on the part of this House. At the same time there are certain points which, it appears to me, have not been made very clear in the course of this debate, and some observations have fallen from the noble Duke who has just sat down which it would be 617 impossible for me to pass over in absolute silence. I do not grudge the noble Duke the little song of triumph in which he indulged when speaking of the large majorities that have supported Her Majesty's Government on questions connected with this Treaty, and which have especially signalized the present question; nor will I trouble myself to inquire to what cause these large majorities are to be ascribed— whether to a general concurrence in the financial policy of Her Majesty's Government, or to the general confidence reposed in the united counsels of Her Majesty's Ministers, or whether or not they are attributable in some degree to the skill and ability with which the various baits have been thrown out to the various specific interests through which those interests find themselves specially benefited by the provisions of a Treaty; and who, for the sake of obtaining advantages for themselves, are inclined to look with a somewhat indulgent eye on the remaining details of the Treaty. It is rather a singular thing that at this moment, when we are approaching the termination of the debate, it does not appear clear to the House what is the precise subject on which your Lordships' opinion is required. One thing, I think, the noble Duke will acknowledge—that whatever may be the political opinions of noble Lords on one side of the House or the other, there has been nothing, in the course or conduct of this debate, to indicate party policy or a party question. For I will recall your Lordships' attention, in the first place, to the state of the benches on this side of the House; and next—without in any way intending to reflect on my noble Friends behind me—to the fact that the most powerful and most eloquent arguments against the measure have proceeded not from political opponents but from political supporters of the Government. I said it was doubtful upon what point we are going to pass a vote this evening. We are not about to pass a vote on the finacial policy of the Government; we are not about to pass a vote on the general expediency or merits of extending our commercial intercourse with France; and we are not even about to pass a vote on the expediency or inexpediency, at this moment or in this manner, of extending our commercial relations with France; but we are asked whether we will take a course —undoubtedly an unusual one—whether we will, by this Address to Her Majesty which has been placed before us, volunteer 618 to signify to Her Majesty our approval of the Treaty, which we are at the same time to pass over with silent acquiescence. If what we are now asked to do does not—as the noble Duke has told us it does not—in the slightest degree bind us to approval or assent to the financial policy of Her Majesty's Government, what is the object of asking your Lordships to assent to it? I had thought that the ground on which the Government rested the necessity of an Address to the Crown was that particular stipulation in the Treaty which requires that the assent of Parliament shall be specifically given to enable Her Majesty to carry into effect the engagements she has contracted. I was prepared to argue that point; and I did understand that it was in consequence of the existence of that Article in the Treaty that Her Majesty's Government departed in this case from the usual course of not laying the Treaty on the table of the House for the consideration, judgment, or condemnation, if necessary, or for the tacit acquiescence of this, and of the other House of Parliament; that they felt there was something peculiar in the circumstances of the Treaty that rendered a specific acquiescence and not a tacit one required. But the noble Duke says that we have nothing to do with the Treaty—that this Address has nothing to do with the Treaty—that it does not call for our assent or our approval—that the Address is so carefully worded that it does not approve of the Treaty. Then why not be satisfied with communicating the Treaty, if the terms do not require the assent of Parliament? And if that is so, the inviting discussion on it is waste of time:—though I must say, that looking at the discussion that has taken place the time of your Lordships has been anything but wasted. I wish, however, to know precisely how the matter stands with regard to the Parliamentary assent to be given to this Treaty. The noble Earl who first moved the rejection of the Address had referred with great confidence to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, and was confident of receiving an answer from him, that in point of fact this Address, whether rejected or assented to, made not the slightest difference whatever with regard to the ratification or validity of the Treaty. I waited with patience; but I have yet heard no answer from the noble and learned Lord; but I still hope I shall hear one before the debate concludes. If the noble and learned Lord is prepared to say that 619 the rejection of the Address would be the rejection of the Treaty, then I think noble Lords may well pause to consider whether they will incur this consequence, notwithstanding their objections to the Treaty; but if, on the other hand, the noble and learned Lord is prepared to argue that so far as the Treaty is concerned, the Address is waste paper, then all the objections to the Address fall to the ground, and the objections lie against those who unnecessarily and gratuitously provoke and demand discussion on the question. I speak with all diffidence in the presence of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack on this subject; but having given my best attention to the terms of the Treaty as connected with the Address, it appears to me that this Address is, in any point of view in which we consider it, absolutely and utterly useless. It is mainly a question what is the meaning of the provision of the 20th Article, by which it is stipulated that the Treaty shall be of no validity, unless Her Majesty is empowered, with the assent of Parliament, to give effect to the engagements contracted under the Treaty. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) argued—and I believe quite correctly —that with regard to the Articles that touched the commercial question in this Treaty, the assent of Parliament would be sufficiently and adequately given by the concurrence of the two Houses on those legislative measures, which, originating in Resolutions of the Committee on Customs, will be then embodied in Bills carrying out the financial arrangements of the Treaty. If so, clearly with regard to these articles, this Address is wholly unnecessary. But there is another Article in the Treaty, to which I wish to draw your Lordship's attention, and particularly the attention of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, the terms of which cannot be said to be satisfied by the sanction of Parliament, conveyed by an Address of this kind. I refer to the 11th Article, by which Her Majesty binds herself, for the space of ten years, not to prohibit nor to place any duty on the export of coal. That particular Article in the Treaty is not in the slightest degree touched on by any Resolution or Bill that can be carried in the Commons and sent up here, in consequence of the recommendation of the Committee on Customs. If the assent of Parliament is to be given, in any form, to that Article, it cannot be given by the merely commercial Bills touching the com- 620 mercial part of the question. I think it is equally clear that the assent of Parliament cannot be given to it by an Address of the two Houses of Parliament, and the subsequent answer of the Crown. For how does the Crown possess this power, which it is advised to dispense with, or for a time abolish altogether? It is not a part of the prerogative of the Crown; but it is a power conferred on the Sovereign for the highest interests of the country by an Act of Parliament. The Crown is empowered, and consequently it is the duty of the Crown, under certain supposable circumstances, for the advantage and security of the country, to prohibit the exportation of a certain article, the export of which may be dangerous to the interests of the country. That authority is given to the Crown by Act of Parliament; and without the sanction of another Act of Parliament, I say the Crown cannot constitutionally dispossess itself of that authority which has been vested in its hands by Parliament for the good of the nation;—the Crown cannot will away to another Power that which has been entrusted to it for the defence and security of the country. Without, then, a word on the policy of the Treaty, without a word on the policy of prohibiting the export of coals—still further, without going into the question whether coal is a legitimate source of taxation—and still more, without the least idea of entering upon the vexed question as to the probable duration of the supply of coal, upon which, as we have heard from the noble Lord who seconded the Motion (the Earl of Cork), we have an abundant supply for the next 5000 years—and upon which I received this morning a paper from another source, satisfactorily proving that the supply of coal could not last 250 years, and between whom I am not prepared to give a decision at this moment—without arguing whether the export of coals at all be or be not desirable, or whether coals can be a legitimate source of revenue or not—I say it is not in the power of the Crown, in my humble judgment, without the sanction of an Act of Parliament to give away that power. In my humble judgment, it is only by an Act of Parliament that the Crown can dispossess itself of the power which Parliament has placed in its hands. With regard to the commercial articles of the Treaty, the Bills founded on Resolutions of Committees on the Customs' Acts, are sufficient assent; but, with regard to them and to this 11th Article, this Ad- 621 dress can have no effect either one way or the other. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) and the noble Baron who followed him on the same side (Lord Overstone) entered—as the noble Duke allowed they had a right to enter—into the circumstances of the Budget and the financial position of the country, as bearing upon the policy of the Treaty—because, be it observed that, independently altogether of the merits of the Treaty, and supposing that the arrangements with France were of the most beneficial character, there remains the further question—are the finances of the country in a position, is this the moment, and are these the circumstances under which it is wise, politic, or safe to give effect even to an ultimately beneficial arrangement with France? The case of the Budget has been put before you pretty clearly; and I thought there could be no difference of opinion with regard to the financial position of the country, calmly explained as it has been. But, to my astonishment, I find the noble Duke who has just sat down, has thrown a new light on the subject; he says that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not, in the slightest degree, increased the deficit he found on entering office. I listened with great attention to the noble Duke, and I am at a loss to know by what process of argument, by what train of thought, he has brought his mind to a conclusion absolutely contradicted by the facts of the case. He says—and I do not contradict him, though I was not exactly aware of it before he mentioned it—that by a clause in a former Act it was not the war duties merely on tea and sugar that fell to the ground, but the whole of the duties. That may be so, but it does not affect the argument at all; because the right hon. Gentleman's assumption of a deficit of £9,400,000 was not based on the supposition that the tea and sugar duties fell in altogether, but that the war duties merely fell in. His balance was the result of a comparison of the expenditure and income of the ensuing year; he took credit for the ordinary revenue on tea and sugar, and only supposed that the war duties fell in. I do not intend to trouble your Lordships with long statistics, for I have not them here. I speak merely from recollection; and here the noble Duke has the advantage of me. If I recollect aright, the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated the probable Income of the year at £60,700,000, and the probable expenditure at £70,100,000, 622 leaving, of course, a deficit of £9,400,000. Now, my Lords, I should be much gratified and no less surprised, to find that the right hon. Gentleman's calculations with regard to his deficit are correct. In the first place, I am afraid he takes credit for an amount of revenue which, I think, will hardly be realized; and, on the other hand, I feel confident that he has much understated the expenditure which is absolutely necessary for the service of the ensuing year. Without going so far as to calculate the expense of the Chinese expedition at £5,000,000, it must be obvious that for an expedition undertaken on such a scale a provision of £500,000 is ludicrously insufficient; and yet, if the expenditure for that service exceeds that sum—if it only exceed it by £450,000—the whole apparent balance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer disappears. But yet the noble Duke says, having found a deficit, the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not increase it. And what does the Chancellor of the Exchequer proceed to do: The first thing he does is to sacrifice £1,100,000 wine duty under the Treaty with France, in which he assumes that the loss to the revenue—or what he calls the gain to the consumer, but of which I believe the consumer will obtain but a portion—what he calls the gain to the consumer by lessening the prices he estimates at £1,700,000; but in consequence of an increase in the consumption of wine to the amount of 35 per cent, which, he says, will follow the reduction of the duties, he calculates a net loss to the revenue of £1,100,000, I should certainly have thought that £1,100,000 some addition to the deficit. Moreover, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer's expectations be realized, and, without diminishing the consumption of ale and spirits, the increase of the consumption of wines be 35 per cent, the Chancellor of the Exchequer underrates the deficiency he will have to make good. Next, he volunteers to take off £910,000 in other Customs' duties on articles which, individually, are of no great importance, but some of which contribute a respectable sum to the revenue. Then he takes off the paper duty, which he estimates at £1,000,000; and let me observe in passing, that although he estimates in the present year a loss of £1,000,000, he estimates upon next year a loss of £1,230,000. There will thus be in the revenue of next year an increase of deficit to the amount 623 of £230,0000. To the deficit which the Chancellor of the Exchequer found of £9,400,000, he adds a new deficit of £3,100,000, and in the face of that fact the noble Duke tells us that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made no addition to the deficit which he found. What is the course the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes to supply the deficit thus increased from £9,400,000 to £12,500,000? This £12,500,000 has to be made good by the Chancellor of the Exchequer next year. In what manner does he propose to deal with it? In the first place the Chancellor of the Exchequer reimposes the whole war duties on tea and sugar, and reckons on obtaining £2,100,000 from that source. He next takes an increased income tax, of which he proposes to receive this year three-quarters instead of one-half, at the unprecedented amount of 10d. in the pound. That amounts, according to the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to £8,400,000. This still leaves a considerable deficit; and after taking several thousand pounds of small additions in the shape of operations in commerce, penny stamps, and so on, he obtains a sum of money sufficient to meet his little chasm of £900,000. Still there was a considerable deficit. And how does he meet that? By taking in the present year the £1,400,000 of malt and hop credits belonging to next year; and, so by the various devices I have enumerated he supplies both the deficit which he found and the deficit which he creates. My noble Friend says there is a casual resource in the course of the present year; but that was included in the estimated revenue which left the deficit of £9,400,000—a receipt, I mean, which he obtained through the interference of my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Malmesbury) with the Spanish Government. Now, this cannot be calculated upon for the next year; and, therefore, for the service of the next year we should be left in this position—supposing all the Chancellor of the Exchequer's calculations to be fair and reasonable, suppose all to be borne out by the result, instead of having a surplus of £470,000, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own story, we should, at the expiration of the next financial year, have a deficit of certainly not less than £11,000,000. Now, I ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have carried their thoughts so far forward— 624 whether they have calculated in any way the means of meeting that vast deficit otherwise than by an increased income tax, rendered necessary by the course of policy they are now pursuing? The noble Duke and the noble Lord on the other side of the House have submitted that their policy is in accordance with that pursued by Sir Robert Peel in 1842 and 1845. I beg to dissent from that proposition. Although it is quite true that they are at the present moment taking off indirect taxes, and Sir Robert Peel also took off indirect taxes; that is the only circumstance of resemblance between them. The circumstances of the country, the views of the Government, the object for which the taxes are taken off, are as different as light from darkness. Sir Robert Peel reduced and abolished taxes; but he did so in the confident expectation that the relief so given would directly or indirectly give an increased revenue by a larger consumption of the articles on which a lower duty was made payable. But the noble Duke expressed his extreme astonishment that we could not imagine—that we could not conceive—they were pursuing the course of Sir Robert Peel, in the teeth of the fact that Sir Robert Peel lowered the duties on 400 articles of Customs, and the present Government are lowering the duties on 400 articles of consumption, and that Sir Robert Peel imposed a temporary income tax, and they impose an income tax. How, he says, can we see a difference between the course Sir Robert Peel pursued, and the course of policy they pursue? How can we argue, he says, that the course they are now taking will have any effect upon the permanent relations between the direct and indirect taxation of the country? I have not heard a hint from any Member of the Government that from the reductions of indirect taxation which they contemplate under the Treaty and the Budget they anticipate an increased revenue, which would enable them to get rid of the direct taxation, which temporarily they find necessary to place on the Statute-book. I must say, that with regard to the honesty of the course which the Government has been pursuing, and with regard to the Budget brought forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is strangely at variance with propositions made in former times by the same right hon. Gentleman. But it is more directly, and remarkably, and signally opposite to the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman who now holds 625 the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department, and who preceded the right hon. Gentleman as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir G. Lewis). What was the policy laid down by him as Chancellor of the Exchequer? It was "We cannot afford to take off the duties on French wines; the revenue cannot afford it. We cannot afford to take off the paper duty, because it is an increasing duty, and upon the whole not a bad duty, and the revenue cannot spare it. But, above all," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day, "I protest against the mischievous doctrine of concentrating all your Customs' duties upon a small number of articles of prime necessity, and contend, on the contrary, that it is expedient, in order that the burden may be lightly borne, that your Customs' taxation should be spread over a considerable number of articles, instead of being concentrated upon a few." But what says the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the present day, with his right hon. Colleague sitting by his side, and assenting to the propositions of his Budget? He says, "Take off the wine duties, though the revenue cannot bear it; abolish the paper duty, though the money cannot be spared; but, above all, the merit which we claim for our Budget is a merit dear to every Free-trader—that of having concentrated the whole of our Customs' taxation upon a small and insignificant number of articles." Look a little further forward, my Lords. The noble Earl who commenced this discussion (Earl Grey), referred to the advent of an alteration in the constitution of Parliament. I would ask the noble Duke, who I see is to follow me (the Duke of Newcastle), whether the Government have considered the course which may be pursued by a Parliament elected by those who, if the Reform Bill of the Government become law, will take part in future elections, when that Parliament finds that the whole customs revenue of the country, not amounting to hundreds of thousands but to millions sterling, is raised on articles that enter into the daily consumption of the labouring man—tea, coffee, tobacco, and the necessaries of life? I would ask the noble Duke whether the natural tendency of such a House of Commons will not be to reduce still further the indirect taxation, and to place the burden of taxation on those who are most affected by it in its direct form? I see in this Budget the first step to a permanent, large, and extensive income tax; and that I believe would 626 be full of serious danger in the country. I see serious danger to our system of taxation in a time of peace; but I see absolute ruin by a profuse and lavish expenditure of our resources when there is no need of it, of what ought to be our last and most powerful instrument for raising funds to a large and immediate amount in time of war. There is another and most material question, namely, whether, admitting the Treaty to be a good one, this is the moment which you ought to have chosen for increasing your deficit, and thereby rendering necessary a large amount of income tax. I shall not go into the question whether an increased income tax might or might not have been necessary in consequence of the additional naval and military armaments necessary for the defence of the country. Of this I am sure, that if Her Majesty's Government had been obliged to come forward with a proposition for an increased income tax rendered necessary by such armaments, they would have received no opposition on the part of even those most opposed to an income tax; because all parties would have considered that a proper application of an income tax, the time not being one of actual war, but a time "when the circumstances of the world rendered it necessary that our peace establishments should be put upon a war footing in order to provide for the security and independence of the country. The first ground on which I take my stand is this—Even supposing the Treaty to be as advantageous as I think it to be the contrary, it was an injudicious step on the part of Her Majesty's Government, for the purpose of obtaining the Treaty, to make the sacrifice of revenue which we are called upon to do. A noble Earl, the Under Secretary for War, has said, "If you think this Treaty so objectionable, why do you not oppose it? Why satisfy yourselves by opposing the Address on the Treaty?" The answer is that, so far as the fiscal arrangements are concerned, we have already incurred the loss. Already by its vote the House of Commons has thrown away the wine duties; already it has subjected itself to the loss of that convenient £2,000,000, which are to be sacrificed to the Treaty. Therefore, we are placed in a disadvantageous position, when we are asked to throw away the advantages which the Treaty confers on British trade, after the revenue which we derived on articles of French produce coming into this country has been given up. My Lords, 627 I cannot but think that there appears on the face of the Treaty manifest marks of haste. I shall not go into the question whether it was wise to make the Treaty: I shall not go into the question—though I have a very strong opinion on the subject —whether in the financial, position of the country we should have bound ourselves to those engagements from which we cannot escape for ten years; but I say that the Treaty boars on the face of it manifest marks of haste and of a want of due consideration. It appears from the statement of the noble Earl opposite that the negotiator was not responsible for the omission of an article to remove the prohibition of the exportation of rags from Prance; but how is it, I would ask, that the Treaty having been ratified on the 31st January, the negotiations by which it was entered into not being commenced till the 7th, Her Majesty's assent having been given to it on the 25th January, and the Budget, which but for an accident would have been brought forward on the 3rd February, having been brought forward on the 10th of that month—how is it, I ask, that in that Treaty there appears an article providing that on French paper which should thereafter be imported into this country the duty should be at the fixed amounts of the Excise duty on the paper of this country—namely, 14s. on one description of paper and 15s. on another—when this Treaty was signed on the day before, and ratified a few days after, the meeting of Parliament; and when on the production of the Budget the excise on paper in this country was to be entirely abolished. Although the noble Duke has successfully shown that the question of paper was not so hastily negotiated, yet he must see that there are other points which are not capable of the same satisfactory answer. Whether this Treaty is to be considered as a bargain or not, I take it I am right in assuming that whether France gains on the one side or England on the other, it was intended to place the productions of the two countries on the same footing. It was not intended to give an advantage to French manufactures over English, or to English over French; because there is a power reserved to each nation, by which, in case it should impose any Excise duty on any article of home manufacture, it was entitled to impose a Customs' duty to the same amount on a similar article the production of the foreigner. This being so, I should like to know on what principle 628 you can enter into an arrangement by which the silk manufacture of France is to be admitted duty free into this country, and by which British manufactured silk is, after a certain time, to be admitted into France not duty free, but subject to a duty of any amount up to 30 per cent. There is no stipulation whatever by which France is bound to admit any article of British manufacture at the duty at present charged on it. I do not mean to say that there are not advantages to the trade of England secured by the removal of some of the existing French prohibitions, the absence of which prohibitions will considerably increase our trade with that country; but, as to the exact conditions on which British articles are to be introduced into France, we are wholly in the dark. There is a supplemental convention to be signed by which the rates to be charged on British goods imported into France are to be set out. But we have already signed away our assent to the convention by assenting to the Treaty. We have already given our assent to those stipulations in the Treaty by which duties may be imposed on articles of British manufacture, so long as those duties do not exceed 30 per cent. We may lift up our voice, we may remonstrate, but we have no power to compel France to do any thing more or less than she likes within that margin of 30 per cent. At present there are a vast number of articles in the French tariff on which the duties range very much below 30 per cent. Very good care has been taken of the cotton manufactures. But what is the case with linens? What is the case with silks? The present French tariff on linens is charged on the hundred-weight, and is in some cases 11 per cent. On bleached goods it is in some cases eight. On the silk manufactures it is from fifteen to twenty. The present tariff varies very much, but on some articles it is as low as 5 per cent. Now, there is no stipulation in the Treaty that no additions shall be made to the existing duties. Therefore, as long as no duties are imposed exceeding 30 per cent, the conditions of the Treaty are fully realized, although articles now paying 5 per cent should be raised to 25, or even to 30 per cent. It is very important to bear in mind how the present duties are levied. Upon almost all articles it is by weight, and weight only; and the consequence is, that on the heavier and coarser articles a 629 duty is charged that amounts to absolute prohibition, while on the lighter and finer manufactures the duty is very light as compared with the intrinsic value of the articles. Suppose the French bring down their duties to an average ad valorem duty of 20 or 25 per cent, it may still be sufficiently high to be prohibitory on the coarser articles, but it will be raised to such an amount as that the finer articles may be excluded by an ad valorem duty infinitely higher than that charged at. present on the weight. We must rely on the good nature of the French Government, in construing liberally and largely the engagements into which they have entered, because our Government have placed us in the power of the French Government in the manner which I have just endeavoured to explain to your Lordships. I shall not at this hour enter at greater length into the several provisions of the Treaty. No doubt it will confer some benefits on the British manufacturers; but I think on the other hand that the Government have committed a greater error in binding themselves to it; because apart from the financial considerations, and apart from the time at which it has been entered into, there is another and most serious matter to be considered in connection with it, and that is its political significance. My Lords, I will not say—as seems to be considered by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey)—that it was the absolute duty of Her Majesty's Government to have made, as a condition to the adoption of the Treaty, that there should be an unequivocal declaration on the part of France that she would not annex Savoy. But I will say this, notwithstanding what has fallen from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I think it is impossible that this Treaty could have been considered solely in a commercial point of view. As it has been admitted by the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs, it had a political character. In the instructions for the framing of the Treaty the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord J. Russell) wrote—At the same time Her Majesty's Government wish the Government of France to understand that they are about to give, by the steps which they now authorize you to take, no small earnest of the value they set upon strengthening and extending their relations with that country. The productions of France are not, in general, articles of such primary necessity, or of such universal use among the people of the United Kingdom, as to entitle them on these grounds to the first at- 630 tention of the Government. They are selecte then for relief, in part, indeed, upon commercial grounds, but in part also because of the collateral effects which we anticipate from the conclusion of the Treaty.What those "collateral effects" were was to be learned from the same despatch—But, over and above these considerations, they attach a high social and political value to the conclusion of a commercial treaty with France. Its general tendency would be to lay broad and deep foundations in common interest and in friendly intercourse for the confirmation of the amicable relations that so happily exist between the two countries; and, while thus making a provision for the future, which would progressively become more and more solid and efficacious, its significance at the present moment, when the condition of some parts of the Continent is critical, would be at once understood, and would powerfully reassure the public mind in the various countries of Europe.What are those "collateral interests" that are alluded to except the social and political relations, and not the commercial relations, between England and France? What is the meaning of the words, "critical circumstances" in this paper? Why is it deemed necessary to establish social and political relations with France? It is significant that the Treaty is intended to show that the policy of England and France not commercially, but politically, is identical. This is the political inference to be drawn from this Treaty, and from this dangerous misconception of it serious consequences are likely to arise. At the moment you were framing this Treaty, did you mean that your policy, your past, your existing, or your future policy, was, or is, or is to be, identical with France? Had you not at the moment when you concluded the Treaty, the knowledge that our policy in Italy was precisely opposite to that of France? Had you not the knowledge that France had declared her determination, under certain contingencies, to annex Savoy? And with that knowledge, did you not persevere in exciting the population of Italy to reject the proposals made by France, and thus bring about the very contingency which France had told you would necessarily lead to the annexation of Savoy? Under these circumstances did you make known to the other Powers of Europe that which had been made known to you—that under certain circumstances there was a serious danger of Savoy being annexed? Did you consult your co-trustees in the settlement of Europe in 1815? Did you call upon those Powers to point out to France how 631 the confidence of Europe in the future professions of peace and friendship of the Emperor would be shaken by this policy of annexation? You did no such thing. You went on to precipitate the course, which Prance avowed her intention of following. You did not for throe months say a word to dissuade the Emperor from taking that course. You took no steps whatever to remonstrate upon that policy, or to consult your Allies in Europe in regard to this annexation of Savoy. Under these circumstances I think the Treaty to be unfortunate in every point of view. It is, as we know, the firm conviction of the French people, that this commercial Treaty was but a sop given, not to England, but to the present Government, whereby that Government might obtain the assistance of certain parties of whose allegiance there was some doubt a short time ago. And the return for that—not to use so strong a word as bribe—that inducement, would be that, Her Majesty's Government being maintained in power, no very serious opposition to the designs of France upon Savoy was to be anticipated front them. He did not impute such conduct to Her Majesty's Ministers; but it was certainly a very painful position for the Government of this country to be in; and it was, very unfortunate that the significant coincidence of the Treaty with the annexation should give so suspicious an appearance to the motives and policy of England in the eyes of foreign nations. I suppose from what we hear, in spite of the late representations of Her Majesty's Government—in spite of an assurance given in "another place" within the last few hours, that no steps would be taken by the Emperor in regard to Savoy without consulting the other Powers of Europe—that that measure will be persevered in. Although it appears that universal suffrage is considered good for Prance, for Tuscany, for Bologna, and the other States of Italy, we are told now that it is not good for Savoy—that whatever may be the feeling of the people, Savoy must be annexed to Prance, the Treaties of Europe being summarily, without necessity, argument, or consultation set, aside. Is this a question upon which Europe has no right to speak? Is this a question upon which the King of Sardinia is not to be allowed freedom of action? The King of Sardinia, from the commencement, has told you that the annexation of Savoy to France was not a measure upon which he 632 had given his approval—that, in fact, it had never entered into his mind. Well, my Lords, I ask whether he is warranted in rejecting the allegiance of his subjects, and transferring them to another ruler? Is he warranted in setting aside those pacific treaties which had secured a portion of those territories to Switzerland? And is this the moment at which Her Majesty's Government think it necessary to proclaim to the world their acquiescence in a Treaty by which we bind ourselves to a political identification with the policy of Prance for the next ten years? Let me not be mistaken. I say that the Sovereign of Prance has up to this moment loyally fulfilled all the engagements he has entered into with us. I deprecated—I deplored—the unfortunate war that took place last year in Italy; I could not, however, blame the Emperor of the French for the course he had taken in that affair, inasmuch as he had broken no pledge nor violated any Treaty. If, however, on the present occasion, from any pretence—for there can be nothing but a pretence put forward—he, the mighty Emperor of the Prench—he who is at the head of that Empire, and of a great and warlike people —if he should seriously think it necessary to attach to his Empire a small territory like that of Savoy in spite of treaties, upon the apprehension that his great Empire would be subject to an invasion from the King of Piedmont, I must say it is a pretext so shallow and transparent that I cannot imagine any human being with any regard for truth would put it forward. And that England should calmly submit to such a policy, I confess passes my comprehension. But that the Emperor of the French should condescend to such a pretext for entering Savoy is, in my opinion, too palpable and transparent to deceive any one. Well, what is the consequence? I grieve to think that the consequences must be far front the promotion of peace. They are such as to discourage all hopes on our part of a diminished expenditure by the reduction of our armaments. Prom this moment all Europe will be in a state of painful expectation and anxiety as to what the next move of the Emperor will be. If the pretext of the apprehended invasion of Prance by Piedmont be put forward in justification of the annexation of Savoy, what may we not expect from the future movements of the Emperor? Will not the result of such a policy be this;—whereas we have 633 hitherto given implicit credit to the Emperor, and to his declaration that the Empire means peace, whereas we have laboured to persuade ourselves that he would never flinch from his engagements—if this unhappy annexation—and unhappy it will be for the Emperor more than for any one else—does take place, he will induce throughout Europe a permanent suspicion of his future policy which years will not efface, and which will involve the expenditure of millions of treasure in the maintenance of warlike preparations which will be deemed necessary in order to guard effectually against contingencies which no man can foresee, but which every nation will feel it its duty to provide against. My Lords, before I sit down I wish to say a word upon the argument used by the noble Earl against your Lordships dividing on this Treaty. Much as I dislike this Treaty, if I thought that to refuse to join in this Address would produce any effect upon the Treaty, if it would cause any embarrassment to the Government, or increase any difficulty between this country and France, much as I dislike the Treaty, I think it has gone so far, and we have made such sacrifices to obtain it, that I should be sorry to see your Lordships throw any difficulty in the way. But if this Address, as I believe, will have no significance upon the Treaty, if your Lordships will not, by refusing to vote this Address, pass any comment upon the Treaty; if in refusing to pass the Address, we do not pass any censure either upon the Treaty or the Government, but merely protest against the Treaty and against giving any approval, or concurrence in the Treaty, then I do not see the force of the noble Earl's attempt to induce me to refrain from dividing. If the noble Earl looks to the present state of your Lordships' benches, he may see reason to think that any decision to which the House may come to-night will not give a true criterion of the strength of feeling and the predominant opinion of your Lordships' House, and in that sense I admit it may be politic and wise on the noble Earl's part not to press his Motion to a division. Looking at the state of the benches behind me, a small minority on this side, and a large majority on that, independent of the merits of the question, might be misconstrued both in this country and abroad. But my sense of the impolicy of this Treaty is so great that I cannot consent to give my sanction to an Address 634 which may be construed into an approval of it; and if the noble Earl on the whole thinks fit to divide, I shall feel it my duty, in justice to my sincere opinion, to go out with him and say "Non-Content" to the Motion.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had asked whether or not this Address to the Crown on the part of their Lordships was necessary to give validity to the Treaty. He had no difficulty in saying that it was unnecessary. He was never more surprised than when on a former evening he heard the noble Earl contend that, in order to give validity to the Treaty, it was necessary that an Act of Parliament should be passed approving every Article of the Treaty. By the constitution of the United States a treaty was not binding without the assent of the Senate—but, by the constitution of this country, the Crown might make any treaty by virtue of the prerogative of the Crown and without requiring any sanction on the part of Parliament, so that all the Articles of the Treaty could be carried into effect by the existing law of England. Parliament might indeed censure, impeach, or punish the Ministers who had advised the Crown to conclude any treaty, but the treaty itself was valid. By the 20th Article of the present Treaty with France it was said:—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.It was plain that this Article referred to engagements which Her Majesty might be unable, according to the existing law, to carry into effect without the consent of Parliament. The Treaty altered the taxation and diminished the revenue of the country: these alterations of duty could not be carried into effect without the authority of Parliament; and the consent of Parliament was therefore necessary to enable Her Majesty to carry out these particular engagements, but these; only. The noble Earl also inquired whether the 11th Article of the Treaty required an Act of Parliament to make it valid. That Article said, "The two High Contracting Parties engage not to prohibit the exportation of coal, and to levy no duty upon such exportation." His answer was that it required no Act of Parliament. All that was requisite to give effect to 635 that Article was to allow the law to remain as it was. The Article would not in any way interfere with the belligerent rights of the Crown. The Treaty was exclusively a commercial treaty, and like all other treaties was to be interpreted according to the true intent of the parties. In the case of the present Treaty this intention was found expressed in the Preamble, which set forth that Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French "being equally animated with the desire to draw closer the ties of friendship which unite their two peoples, and wishing to improve and extend the relations of commerce between their respective dominions, have resolved to conclude a treaty for that purpose." The noble Earl had referred to the power of the Crown to prohibit the export of coal under certain circumstances. That power had nothing to do with the present Treaty, and could be exercised as though this Treaty were not in existence. It was a power inherent in the Crown and was part of the prerogative of the Crown. By an Act of the 53rd Geo. III., facility was given to the Crown to prohibit the exportation of certain articles, including coal. This the Crown could do at common law. The Act was a purely municipal law, and did not affect our relations with Foreign Powers. Whatever our relations with Prance, the Crown might do in certain contingencies exactly what the Crown might have done had this Treaty never been contracted. The Crown had the power of stopping the export of all articles which were "contraband of war," and coal, if used for belligerent purposes, as for the furnaces of vessels of war, was as much contraband of war as gunpowder. The Treaty only looked to what was to be done commercially, and not to what might be done during war or in the apprehension that war is impending. After the almost unanimous assent which the House of Commons had given to the Treaty, and taking into account the state of public opinion on the subject, he trusted there would be no division of sentiment between the two Houses, but that their Lordships would express their hearty concurrence in the proposed Address.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, it was very important that they should fully understand the position in which they were placed, and what would be the consequence of their refusing to concur with the Commons in the Address to the Crown in relation to the Treaty. Now, the noble Earl 636 who first opposed the Address (Earl Grey) anticipated that he would have the sanction of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack for saying that if the Address was rejected it would have no prejudicial effect on the Treaty. The noble Earl's expectations had been fully confirmed by what had just fallen from the noble and learned Lord. Considering, therefore, that there was no necessity whatever for this Address to render the Treaty effectual, he, for one, would not incur any of the responsibility of adopting it, as it would be taken to imply approval of the Treaty. The questions as to the greater part of the Articles of the Treaty had already been settled by the Resolutions of the other House on the Customs' duties involved in it, so that whatever their Lordships might do with the Address would have no effect whatever on the Treaty itself. The Resolutions of the House of Commons relative to the abolition and reduction of the Customs' duties required to be embodied in an Act, and it was the invariable rule of their Lordships to give their sanction to any such Act that came up from the Commons. On the question relating to the 11th Article he had the misfortune to differ from the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack. If he understood the noble and learned Lord correctly, he had said that there was no necessity for an Act of Parliament to enable Her Majesty to fulfil the engagements into which she had entered by that Article. Now, by the 150th section of the Act 16 & 17 Vict. c. 107, Her Majesty was empowered to prohibit the exportation of any articles which she might judge capable of being converted into or made useful in increasing the quantity of military or naval stores, and there could be no doubt that coal is an article of that description. This is a power vested in Her Majesty to be kept in reserve for any emergency which may arise, and she is not at liberty to divest herself of it, even for a day, without the sanction of the same legislative authority which conferred it. Although, therefore, an Act respecting the Customs' duties will be a sufficient assent of Parliament to those Articles of the Treaty which relate to these duties, without an express sanction of the Treaty itself, yet with respect to the 11th Article, relating to coal, as a power conferred by Act of Parliament, can only be dispensed with by the same authority by which it was created, Her Majesty cannot be authorized to execute 637 the engagement contracted by Her in this Article of the Treaty without an express Act of the Legislature for the purpose, and therefore he was of opinion that his noble and learned Friend was incorrect in his view of the effect of the 11th Article of the Treaty.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
repeated that no Act was necessary. Her Majesty could not lose the power which she had at common law by entering into the engagement provided for in this Article.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
said, there was one point to which no noble Lord had referred during the debate, arising out of the 3rd Article of the Treaty, in which it was stated that the rates of duty mentioned in the preceding Articles were independent of the differential duties in favour of French shipping, with which duties they should not interfere. On an occasion when a treaty was made with France the Liverpool shipowners complained that the Government had greatly neglected their interests in not having urged on the French Government the necessity of giving further advantages to the shipping of this country than it at present possessed. The steam shipping of England was able to compete with the whole world; but at no period of our history had the sailing shipping interest of this country suffered greater depression than at present. The owners of sailing ships, which were chiefly employed in carrying cargoes of cotton, thought they had been much neglected by the Government in connection with this Treaty. At this moment British ships coming from America, for instance, laden with cotton, and entering a French port, were compelled to pay very large differential duties as compared with vessels belonging to the United States. The effect of that was to give an undue advantage to the chief competitor with whom the British shipowner had now to contend; and he complained that that state of things, instead of having been altered in his interest by the recent Treaty, had been perpetuated to his injury.
§ LORD WENSLEYDALE
said, that as his noble and learned Friend (Lord Chelmsford) had made a sort of appeal to him, he must say he had at least a great doubt whether his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack was right in his opinion, that the 11th Article did not require a statutory authority to be given to Her Majesty. As a question of constitutional 638 law, he should have thought that the power granted to the Sovereign by an Vet of Parliament—the 57th Geo. III—to stop the exportation of coal, was a power to be exercised from time to time according to his discretion, with a view the public good, and ought not to be parted with absolutely for a term of years.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
said, he should be deserting his duty if he did not say that he thought the view taken by his noble and learned friend on the woolsack as the right one.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
I assure your Lordships that under any circumstances I should feel strongly the difficulty of my position in having to address you at the close of a debate of such importance and duration as this; but I feel it the more under existing circumstances, because I have to follow not only a speech of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) in which he has brought forward sundry grave charges both against the Treaty and against the Government, but also a speech of a noble Friend of mine, who addressed your Lordships earlier in the debate (Lord Overstone), and who, from the feeling which I know he entertains towards her Majesty's Government, would not have spoken in the spirit in which he has unless he felt warmly the sentiments to which he gave expression. The House will forgive me if, before I travel into matters more germane to the Treaty, I advert for a moment to the close of the speech of the noble Earl, in which he dwelt so warmly on what he called the "political significance" of this Treaty, it I understand the meaning and intention of the expression, I deny the political significance; but I readily admit the political bearing and importance of the Treaty, The noble Earl endeavoured to show that the language used by the Foreign Secretary must have reference to the annexation of Savoy, But, in the first place, I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact, that the negotiation for this Treaty commenced at a moment when the question of the annexation of Savoy was not before Her Majesty's Government. Again, the remonstrances made by the Government of Her Majesty to that of France on that subject, although couched in the strongest language, were made in a perfectly friendly spirit towards that Government; and I have yet to learn that because you are engaged in friendly remonstrance with another Power on a matter connected with 639 its foreign policy, you are to be precluded from drawing closer the ties of amity with that Power by international arrangements —unless, indeed, there are circumstances which disentitle it to such consideration. I could, indeed, better understand the argument—that this was not the moment when we should enter into this friendly Treaty, when an hon. and learned Gentleman, who was connected with the Government of the noble Earl (Sir H. Cairns), spoke in "another place" in the strongest language of the Emperor of the French and his Government, charging the Emperor with treachery, and his Ministers with falsehood. But now those tactics have changed, and noble Lords turn round and say that the conduct of the Emperor has been candid and fair; that the announcements of M. Walewski have been perfectly truthful and honest. Well, if so then, whatever blame may attach to the Government in your opinion, these objections fall to the ground. I now come to the graver charge raised by the noble Earl opposite against Her Majesty's Government. But before I deal with his accusation, I must contradict him upon a matter of fact. It is not the fact that we were in possession of the intentions of the Emperor for three months and that we never made any communication to the other Powers. I stated the other night that as soon as the Emperor's intentions assumed a tangible shape, we did make communications to the three Powers, Austria, Prussia, and Russia; and that copies of the despatches we sent to Earl Cowley were forwarded to them for their information. What is the charge made against the Government? The noble Earls opposite say that it is declared—although they do not profess to believe it—that this Treaty is a sop to England, not to say a bribe. I deny that there is any connection between the two things. I deny solemnly before your Lordships, on the part of my colleagues, that there is any connection between the negotiations for this Treaty of Commerce and the cession of Savoy. They are as separate as any two transactions can be, and I can only say, if the telegram upon which the noble Earl opposite has relied be true, whatever course we may take, it will not in any way he influenced by having carried this Treaty to its consummation. The noble Earl has also said that he does not see the motive for this Motion, and spoke of it as an unusual course. I can only say 640 that it is the very one which Mr. Pitt adopted in 1787, and that its motive is one of which the noble Earl ought to be the last to complain, for he asked my noble Friend the President of the Council some days ago what opportunity would be given to the House of discussing the Treaty; and therefore, while following precedent, we have taken that course which we thought was most likely to be satisfactory to the noble Earl, by proposing an Address to the Crown, in order that any objections which might be felt to the Treaty might be raised and met. There is, indeed, no doubt that, whether this Address be carried or not, it will not in any way affect the carrying out of the Treaty. But then, again, the noble Earl attempted to show that this Treaty was a matter of bargain. No doubt, in a certain sense, it is a bargain; but in the sense intended by the noble Earl, it certainly is not. It is not a bargain, for we do not give up anything that we wish to keep, and we do not ask for anything that it is inconvenient for others to concede. It is really an interchange of gifts—perhaps not of equivalents; for how could we, who have for years been removing our restrictive duties, expect to be able to give equivalents to a country which, until now, has maintained a highly prohibitive system? This Treaty is valuable in a sense that has not been touched upon to-night—it is useful, if not necessary, to lead France into that path which we have been so long treading. We first led France by the Methuen Treaty into a highly restrictive system, and it is proper we should now set her right. But with regard to ourselves it is important. In 1842 France effected a treaty with Belgium which has materially affected our trade, and I have returns here which, at this hour, I shall not quote, but which show that in many articles—linen and coal, for example—our trade has fallen off, while the trade of Belgium has advanced. Shall we not, then, take steps to restore the legitimate course of trade between this country and France? The question has been argued as though this Treaty with France was a novel transaction. I could understand the argument from my noble Friend (Earl Grey), but not from noble Lords opposite. France has always been an exceptional case, and from 1830 down to the last three or four years all Governments have endeavoured to strengthen the connection between the 641 two countries by means of treaties. My noble Friend (Lord Overstone) was in error in supposing that Sir Robert Peel never proceeded by treaty, for in truth there was a constant negotiation carried on by Lord Aberdeen, in the Administration of Sir Robert Peel, with France, with a view to modify their protective system. The noble Earls opposite certainly ought not to complain of this proceeding, for they exerted themselves greatly to effect a commercial treaty with France very article of coal was prominent feature; the main obstacle in 1852 being that there was an objection to exchange coal for brandy. In the course of his speech the noble Earl touched lightly on the question of wine, stating that the remission of duty on it would be likely to create a deficit in the revenue; he apprehended also that the wine imported would displace malt liquors, and injuriously affect the revenue in that manner. But when Mr. Pitt concluded his treaty with France, an enormous increase in the consumption of wine took place; and we may expect even a greater improvement from the present Treaty. From 1781 to 1785, just previous to Mr. Pitt's treaty, the average annual import of French wine into this country was 83,800 gallons. Immediatly after the treaty in the following year the quantity increased from 83,000 to 969,000 gallons; and that this was no exceptional year is proved by the fact that from 1787 to 1792, when of course the treaty fell to the ground, the average yearly importation was 727,000 gallons. If malt be displaced it may be a misfortune in other points of view, but not as it will affect revenue, as the practical result will be that a lower duty will be displaced by a higher. Much has been said in the course of the debate on the question of coal. I will not now go into the discussion of the quantity of coal that remains in this country, but from calculations I have made, from the returns of the mineral survey of England and from other sources, I can say they do not bear out any anticipations of an early failure of the supply. It has been contended by my noble Friend (Lord Overstone) that we have a right to put an export duty on coal, because we have a monopoly of the material; and the tea duties levied by the Chinese, and on opium by the Indian Government were cited in support of the argument. But the assumption is erroneous; we have not that monopoly of coal 642 that would render it safe to impose an export duty. We much underrate the capability of France to produce coal, and certainly Belgium can largely supply her. Indeed, the export of coal from Belgium to France has been much larger than that from England. An export duty on coal has already been tried; the experiment failed, and the duty was abandoned in 1845. My noble Friend (Lord Overstone) asserts that we are contracting he sphere of our indirect taxation. I admit that he articles on which Customs' and Excise duties are levied have been reduced to forty-four; but it is a mistake to suppose that in the sum produced by those articles the proportion between our direct and indirect taxation has been greatly lessened, or that we obtain from indirect taxation less than formerly. In 1842 the-revenue from Customs and Excise was £33,542,000. Between 1842 and 1858 the Customs' and Excise duties repealed amounted to about £11,100,000. But so far from the revenue having lost these £11,000,000, the amount now-raised from Customs' and Excise duties is £40,087,000, showing an actual increase over the same revenue in 1842 of nearly £7,000,000, notwithstanding the reduction of £11,100,000. That is conclusive with regard to the policy of a remission of duties. It has been stated that the time is approaching when the direct taxation will bear a greater proportion to the indirect taxation than formerly; but, under the operation of the new tariff the indirect taxation is no less than 78 per cent of the whole revenue of the country. Under all the changes made since 1842 it has never been less than 71 per cent of the whole taxation, and it was only so low as that during the Russian war. Is it not then proved that the remission of duties is really a sound system. The noble Earl said that by the Treaty the Government have abandoned all power to impose any addition to the Customs' duties in the event of a war, or any other emergency; but if he refers to clause 9, he will see that they have not precluded themselves from increasing those duties. Now I wish for one moment to refer to the observations which fell from the noble Earl opposite, who expressed a wish to receive an explanation as to how it happened that between the 17th of January and the date of the ratification of the Treaty no provision had been inserted in the Treaty based upon the remission of 643 the Excise duty on paper. My answer to that question is that the Treaty was not negotiated by a Member of the Government, and the noble Earl must be aware that it is in a matter of this kind absolutely necessary that entire secrecy should be maintained, inasmuch as the result of a contrary course might be that an inducement would be held out to the practice of every kind of fraud and evasion by those interested in the trade about to be affected by a remission of duty. The noble Earl says he is undecided as to the course he will take with regard to the vote which is about to be taken, and that if he thought the carrying of the Amendment was likely to be prejudicial to the Treaty or inconvenient to the course of public business he would not vote for it. I really must leave the noble Earl to decide for himself which course he will take; though I must say I should deeply regret if the Address were negatived, for many reasons. I feel confident that the inclinations of the noble Earl are right, and that he would not wish to place this House in opposition to the vote come to by the House of Commons. I hope the Treaty will be sanctioned by your Lordships as it has been by the other House, because I feel certain, notwithstanding all that has been said this evening, that it will, if peace be maintained, add to the wealth and happiness of the people of this country—that it will enlarge our fiscal means, and by increasing eventually our revenue, will equally tend, even in the event of war, to the future strength and security of England. Under these circumstances, I do earnestly hope that your Lordships will give your sanction to a measure, which is calculated to improve the condition of both countries, and moreover the relations existing between them—a measure which even those who oppose it admit to have received the approval of the people at large.
§ EARL GREY
said, an appeal had been made to him by the noble Lord opposite not to press his opposition to the Address to a division, and he was unwilling to act contrary to that advice. He must at the same time observe that, entertaining a strong feeling that the House ought not to record the solemn expression of its unqualified approval of the Treaty under discussion, and knowing that many noble Lords who held a similar opinion had trusted to his declaration that he intended to afford them an opportunity of recording that opinion, he did not feel 644 quite justified in depriving them of that opportunity.
§ On Question, Whether to agree with the Commons in the said Address, &c.?" their Lordships divided:—
§ Contents 68; Not-Contents 38: Majority 30.
§ Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ And a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them that the Lords had agreed to the said Address, and had filled up the Blank; the LORD STEWARD and the LORD CHAMBERLAIN of the Household to attend HER MAJESTY with the Address on the Part of this House; the LORD STEWARD to wait upon HER MAJESTY humbly to know what Time HER MAJESTY will please to appoint to be attended with the said Address645
|Campbell, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Cranworth, L.|
|Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)|
|Newcastle, D.||De Mauley, L.|
|Somerset, D.||De Tabley, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Ebury, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Foley, L. [Teller.]|
|Camden, M.||Glenelg, L.|
|Townshend, M.||Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)|
|Abingdon, E.||Keane, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Lismore, L. (V. Lismore.)|
|De Grey, E.|
|Denbigh, E.||Llanover, L.|
|Ducie, E.||Londesborough, L.|
|Dudley, E.(L. Ward.)||Lyveden, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Manners, L.|
|Home, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Saint Germans, E.||Mostyn, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller.]|
|Spencer, E.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Sydney, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Torrington, V.||Stewart of Stewart's Court, L.(M. Londonderry.)|
|Chester, Bp,||Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)|
|London, Bp.||Sudeley, L.|
|Sundridge, L.(D. Argyll.)|
|Belper, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Boyle, L.(E. Cork and Orrery.)||Taunton, L.|
|Camoys, L.||Wodehouse, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)||Wycombe L. (E. Shelburne.)|
|Marlborough, D.||Stratford de Redcliffe, V.|
|Bath, M.||Berners, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Boston L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Colville of Culross, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Denman, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Digby, L.|
|Derby, E.||Ossulston, L. (E. Tankerville.)|
|Grey, E. [Teller.]|
|Hardwicke, E.||Overstone, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Portarlington, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Romney, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Shrewsbury, E.||Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)|
|Dungannon, V.||Sondes, L.|
|Exmouth, V.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hood, V.||Wynford, L. [Teller]|
§ House adjourned at a Quarter before Two o' clock, A. M., till To-morrow, Half-past Ten o' clock.