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could be procured upon terms so much more favourable.
The third class of persons interested in this trade were the silk dyers. The manufacturers put forth the high charges of the dyers as one insuperable obstacle to a successful competition with foreigners; and the dyers put forward the heavy duties upon the articles used in their occupation as inevitably occasioning these high charges. Not only did the dyers acknowledge that they apprehended nothing from the machinery or skill of the foreign competitor, but voluntarily stated that, instead of having any thing to learn from, they had been able to give useful instruction to, certain foreign dyers who had lately been introduced. Still, however, they maintained that machinery and skill would be unsuccessful, unless the native were placed on more nearly the same level with the foreign manufacturer in regard to the price of labour, and the cost of the materials employed in his trade. All the various ashes, dying stuffs, and soap, were burthened with heavy duties; and that on barilla had, not long ago, been even increased. The last branch of the trade, the narrow-trade, or that which consisted in the manufacture of ribbands, was in a different situation from the former, and stood still more in need of additional protection. The throwsters, the broad-trade manufacturers, and the dyers, admitted their superiority in machinery, and at least their equality in skill to foreigners, and complained only of the price of labour, and of their materials. But the ribband manufacturers, while equally subjected to the latter disadvantages, were likewise absolutely inferior in regard of
machinery. The number of looms employed at Coventry in weaving ribbands was 9.700, but they were, for the most part, of the very worst construction. From information collected on the spot, with all the means of obtaining accurate information, it appeared that the loom now used in France would throw off, in a given time, five times as much as that which was employed in England; at least when such practical allegations were made, it was right they should be inquired into; for, if true, then this branch of the trade would be involved in ruin, unless farther time were allowed for the introduction of improved machinery. Though much knowledge had lately been obtained of theimproved machinery of France, no attempt had been made to build a loom upon these principles, in consequence of the approaching importation of foreign silks in July, for the manufacturers were unwilling to expend capital in improved machinery, which, after all, might be useless.
Such, it was argued, were the positive and deliberate allegations of the different branches of the silk trade, regarding their own capabilities, and the consequences of foreign competition, under a protecting duty of thirty per cent. If, upon investigation, they turned out to be true, the House ought to pause; and, assuredly, what had taken place during the two years, since 1S24, allowed to prepare for the change, did not justify precipitation. In 1825, said Mr. John Williams, who seconded the motion, 20,000 people were employed in the trade in Macclesfield; within half a year, 8,731 of them have lost their occupation, and 1,0'OQ families are supported by voluntary contributions. In 1825, the broad-silk manufacturers had at work 10,688 looms in the same place; now they had only 4,111. Neither, it was further urged by Mr. A. Baring, could the inquiry, and possible retardation of the measure of 1824, which were called for, be regarded as hostile to the principles on which we had begun to remove commercial restrictions, and prohibitory duties. All that he contended for was, that the principle of free trade ought not to exclude any adaptation, which, under particular circumstances of particular articles, it might be necessary to have recourse to. There could be no rule without exceptions: exceptions, indeed, ought never to be multiplied; but the country was full of them, and one of themost important was, the greatly higher price of food amongst ourselves than on the continent. It was possible for the greatest men to commit great mistakes in arguments of this kind. Though there might be less of what was striking, there was much more of merit in attempting to reconcile the claims of long-existing inconveniencies with the demands of liberal opinions, than in boldly, under all circumstance's, sacrificing the former, however much they might be entitled to public favour; and the most brilliant theories often proved injurious in their application, in consequence of not being sufficiently chastened by practical experience.
The motion was opposed by Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Canning, and Mr. C. Grant. The question, it was observed, under whatever variety of aspect it might be discussed, always returned to this, whether a protecting duty, or an absolute
prohibition, were preferable. It was admitted on all hands, that silk was an article easily smuggled and whoever would take the trouble to inquire at the Admiralty, would soon learn, if he was still ignorant of the fact, that the coast-guard and the custom-house could not prevent it from being smuggled, to any extent. There could, moreover, be only one opinion, that, not only would the raising of the duty not diminish smuggling, but that, with the augmentation of the duty, smuggling would increase. The question then narrowed itself to this, in what degree is smuggling prevented by a protecting duty, and in what degree by an absolute prohibition? Now, a prohibition is just the highest conceivable duty, and, therefore, presents the incitements to smuggling in their greatest degree of influence. Nay, it offers to the purchaser a motive which would not otherwise act upon him. Many a man would not seek to evade a duty himself, or give encouragement to those who wish to do so, and yet would not scruple to obtain, and to use, articles, the use of which was entirely prohibited to him. The quantity of smuggled goods seized does not amount, one year with another, to 5,000/., and who will pretend that that is the value of all the foreign silks consumed annually in the kingdom? The East India Company sells annually from eight hundred thousand to a million of Bandana handkerchiefs. What becomes of that quantity? Every one knows that they are shipped off to Antwerp, Rotterdam, Guernsey, and other places, and are then smuggled back to be sold in this country; and assuredly, in this country, there is no scarcity
of them. The prohibition, therefore, so far from protecting the manufacture, necessarily subjects it to a most fraudulent competition. Since, then, competition did exist, and absolute prohibition did not exclude foreign manufactures, the question was simply as to the nature of the competition which ought to be adopted, whether a competition conducted fairly, honourably, and profitably, under the protection of government, or one conducted fraudulently at the expense of every principle of honesty, undermining the whole system of our manufacturing interests, and the more dangerous because it was unseen, and opposed the chicanery and deception of smuggling to the open emulation of honourable industry. The practical effect of smuggling, as a mode of competition had been proved before a committee of the House, appointed in consequence of the low state of the silk trade in 1816. On that occasion, not only did a public meeting of merchants and manufacturers connected with the trade avow that the vacant looms had been thrown out of employment by smuggling, but likewise the interested parties examined before the committee distinctly stated the same opinion. One extensive manufacturer said, that he was not then paying above five pounds a week to workmen, instead of four or five thousand, as he had done for many years before. The depression he attributed to two causes, the heavy duty on the raw material, and the prevalence of smuggling. The duty on the raw material was now greatly reduced; but, unless a protection were to be substituted for prohibition, the competition of smuggling would still remain. . ,
While it was admitted that the silk trade was, at present, heavily depressed, it was answered that nothing could be more illogical or unjust than to ascribe that depression to the measure of 1824, which, in so far as it removed prohibition, had not yet even come into operation: why should a particular cause be sought for to explain, in the silk trade, a stagnation which equally existed in every other branch of industry, in branches which had not yet been touched by the new principles of commercial policy, cotton, for instance, timber, tallow, and Irish provisions. The truth was that, in the silk manufactures, as in other trades, the evil had arisen from unadvised over-trading. The bill, containing the provision now complained of, had passed in the spring of 1824, and, during the whole of that year, the trade had been carried on with unparalleled success. In 1825, there was a degree of excitement, and an extent of speculation, greater than had ever been known before; for it was then that so many new mills were erected, and so many new looms set to work. The manufacturers built, imported, and speculated, to an extent which had never been equalled in the most flourishing state of this, or of any other manufacture. In 1825, the importation of silk had increased 50 per cent, of cotton 38 per cent, and of tallow 80 per cent. This excessive excitement led to a complete glut of these articles; the consequences to the dealers were, a depression of prices, and unavoidable difficulties; and why should silk be governed by different principles, in this respect, from cotton or tallow? In the year ending 5th January, 1825, the importation of raw silk,
amounted to 3,135,000 lbs., and, during the following three quarters of that year, ending on 10th October, to no less than 3,431,122 lbs., being more than the importation of the whole preceding year. The importation again, for the year ending 5th January, 1824, had been only 2,512,164 lbs. Nay, so far was this spirit carried, that, in February, 1825, there appeared in a Macclesfield newspaper, an advertisement to the following effect: "To the overseers of the poor, and to families desirous of settling in Macclesfield. Wanted between 4,000 and 5,000 persons, between the ages of seven and twenty-one years." Thus the manufacturers themselves held out the assurance of the trade being about to become so prosperous, as to suggest a favourable opportunity for families to settle, and for the overseers of the poor to put out parish apprentices. After such efforts to induce so many young persons to flock into Macclesfield, was it wonderful that it should have been soon found out that all this was extravagant, and most imprudent speculation, which speedily led to its usual consequences? or that the silk manufacture should not have been found to be an exception to the re-action and difficulty which had been felt so severely by every other branch of trade. It was true that the bill of 1824 proceeded upon the idea that a duty of 30 per cent on foreign silks would afford sufficient protection to the home manufacturer; and it was likewise true that this idea was correct. The committee of the House of Lords had not proceeded without the most cautious investigation; instead of acting precipitately, or founding their recommendations on pre-conceived
notions, or theoretical reasonings, they had availed themselves of the best attainable evidence on the subject. Foreign merchants, who had both gone to France, and come to this country to purchase goods, and who, of course, were only interested to procure them on the best terms, declared, that the difference of price between goods of equal quality, bought in France and England, was not more than 20, or 25 per cent. Others had stated that the difference did not exceed 20 per cent, and, in articles of silk hosiery, they would give the preference to the English manufacture both in quality and cheapness. On that occasion, the manufacturers themselves had expressed their conviction, that, with proper guards, they could compete successfully against the continent; and those guards they explained to be, a reduction of the duty on the raw material, and a protecting duty of 15 per cent. The former measure had been adopted; and in regard to the latter, the protecting duty had been fixed, not at 15 per cent, but at 30 per cent. The manufacturers had gotten more than they asked, and no clamour could be more unjust or contradictory than that which was now raised.
In regard to the alleged inferiority of England to France, in some parts of the requisite machinery, the fact, if it existed, was a new proof of the necessity of never returning to the system of entire prohibition. From what cause could that inferiority arise in a country like this, in which every other branch of machinery had been carried to the highest perfection? It could only be accounted for by that system of prohibition, which,'if it did not prevent, certainly did not encourage the application of learning and ingenuity to this branch of industry. Why did the silk trade not enjoy the same advantages of machinery as the cotton-manufacture? because the trade was not open. Hence had arisen the long unimproved continuance of the old defective looms which were used in Coventry. But even already, amid all that had been said of the hopelessness of endeavouring to meet continental competition, this mischief was disappearing, and only the necessity of proper exertion would ever make it disappear. Already power looms had been erected in Manchester, each of which, with the attendance of one woman at 14*. a week, produced 108 yards weekly. This made the cost of the manufacture not more than 3\d. a yard, while the cost of the same species of article in France was Td. a yard.
There being, therefore, no reason in principle or in fact, why the House should retrace its steps and return to the former system of universal prohibition, still less could any good be obtained by farther delay, which was confessedly the only object of the motion. Two years had originally been allowed; and the experience of these two years shewed sufficiently what might be expected from farther procrastination. They had been employed, not in preparation, the purpose for which they were granted, but in improvident speculation. Much time was yet to come, which, if properly employed, might be converted to the best purposes; while, if further time were granted, the same arguments would be again used, and a similar attempt wouldbe again made to postpone the execution of the measure to a still more distant day.
It would be an act of injustice to the silk-weavers and their employers to excite in them fallacious hopes by seeming to yield to their expectations; and, as the House evidently neither wished nor intended, that government should abandon the more liberal principles which had now been adopted as the basis of the commercial policy of the country, the wiser and more humane course was, by putting a negative on the motion, to close the discussion for ever.*
* In the course of the debate, Mr. Huskisson mentioned the following circumstance, as illustrative of the groundless jealousies entertained of foreign manufactures. "A French manufacturer, of the name of de Fouillet, came over to England, established his looms, and commenced business. Forthwith the British manufacturers openly stated, that this establishment was nothing but a cover for smuggling foreign goods into the country. My right hon. friend (Mr. Grant) on being applied to, sent for the parties, and put them upon their trial. He heard the charges advanced by the British manufacturers, and then he had the opposite party called in. And what did this indignant foreigner say in reply to those charges—that foreigner, who had come over to this country, where he had embarked and risked a large capital, from the knowledge that here industry and talent were certain to be encouraged? His immediate reply was, "send for my books, you shall see them, and they shall be delivered to you for examination.'' His books were accordingly brought, and his whole transactions were minutely looked into. The officers of the revenue by this means ascertained the persons employed by him; they went to the houses in which his men were at work, and they found them man for man, employed exactly as they had been described in his books, and upon the very pieces of silk that were there set down. But the inquiry, in order to satisfy the British manufacturers, was prosecuted still farther. Those manufacturers themselves were called upon to select from among thera those persons who had most skill and