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The motion was negatived by a majority of 222 to 40.
The ship owners, and others connected with the shipping interests, who believed themselves to he affected by the late alterations in the navigation laws, complained, equally with the silk-manufacturers, of the mischievous consequences of innovation. They complained particularly of the system which had been adopted of removing discriminating duties, and allowing articles of merchandize to be imported in foreign vessels, under the same burthens as if they had been imported in British bottoms, on condition of reciprocity in regard to ourselves. They contended in numerous petitions to parliament, that such a reciprocal removal of discriminating duties was ruinous to British shipping; because the British and the foreign owner could never be put upon an equality, unless the
judgment as to the difference between foreign and home manufactured silk, and the individuals so selected, were directed to go and look over the hundreds of pieces of silk in the warehouse of the foreign manufacturer, and to take from among those hundreds, all the pieces of which they had no doubt as to their being manufactured abroad, so as to establish beyond all question, the guilt or the innocence of the individual accused. This was accordingly done, and a report was made, that the persons appointed had selected thirtyseven pieces of silk out of the many hundreds examined by them, of which they had made seizure as contraband goods. What was then done by the foreign manufacturer? He brought from Manchester, and from Spitalfields, the very men who had made every one of those thirty-seven pieces; and it was proved upon oath, to the entire confusion of the accusers, that every piece had been manufactured either in Manchester or Spitalfields. The consequence was, a full and complete acquittal of the foreigner.
latter wereburthened with a higher duty. For, said they, in consequence of the greater price of all the labour and materials used, the rate of ship-building is nearly double of what it is in most foreign countries; the cost of navigation, when the ship has been built, is much higher, because the wages of seamen, and the price of the stores and victuals for the seamen, are much higher here than they are abroad. Without a countervailing duty, therefore, laid upon their foreign rivals, they were not put on a fair ground of competition against these rivals. In support of these views they asserted, that, during the last four years, the tonnage of the foreign shipping entering our ports had trebled, while our own trade was declining: that the foreign tonnage entering the port of London, during the last three years, had doubled; that, at this moment, nine-tenths of the shipping coming into the port of Liverpool were American; and that, unless, | therefore, it were intended that our navy should dwindle into insignificance, it was necessary to lighten the burthens of the shipping interest, and enable it to compete with the shipping interest of foreign countries.
The petitioners and their adherents in parliament, repeated these doctrines and assertions on every opportunity; but, owing perhaps to the decided approbation which the House of Commons had given to the principles of the government on the debate concerning the silk trade, no attempt was made to bring them formally under the notice of the legislature. Mr. Huskisson, however, to whose department, as President of the Board of Trade, the subject belonged, did not think it wise or becoming to allow the session to terminate, and parliament to be dissolved, without shewing how groundless these representations were, and stating what had been the real consequences of such changes as had hitherto been ventured upon. On the 12th of May, he moved for " returns of ships built in the British dominions, between 1814 and 182 5, both inclusive, distinguishing the number in each year, and the amount of their tonnage." The motion was introduced by a very elaborate, detailed, and masterly speech, displaying a most accurate knowledge of every part of his subject, and great power of stating it, luminously to sothers. Having developed the general principles pn which the navigation laws were originally founded, the different objects to which these principles had been applied, the modifications, if any, which, down to the presen t time had been made upon these objects, and the causes, arising from political and commercial changes, which had rendered such changes advisable or necessary, he stated, that all the allegations of mischief having ensued, and of anundue preference having been given to foreign over British shipping, in consequence of the late alterations on the navigation laws, were contradicted by the actual results. The complaint was, that, in consequence of these changes, a decrease had taken place in the employment of British shipping. Now, in December, 1824, the number of British ships which entered our harbours was 19,164, and the tonnage 2,364,000. The number of foreign ships which entered, during the same period, was 5,280, the tonnage being 66,940. In 1825 the number of British Vol. LXVIII.
ships entered was 21,986, the tonnage 2,786,844. The number of foreign ships, in the same period, increased to 5,661, the tonnage being 68,192. And it was to be recollected, that in this year there was an unusual demand for shipping, both British and foreign, in consequence of the unprecedented extent of speculation in almost every branch of commerce. Therefore, on looking to these returns, it was clear that the amount of British shipping had increased in a far greater proportion than that of all other countries put together. This being the case, we were not certainly in such a situation as was calculated to excite alarm with respect to the comparative growth of British and foreign shipping. Even if the latter had somewhat increased last year, it would form no ground of alarm, because it might fairly be attributed to the very extraordinary cause that was then at work, and the unusual demand for shipping, produced by. the spirit of overtrading and speculation which prevailed. The alarm felt upon this subject was grounded, in part, upon the state of our commerce from the Baltic, and the number of Prussian ships which entered our ports, as compared with British. Now in 1824, the number of British ships which entered from the Baltic was 440, and, in 1825, 942. The number of Prussian ships which entered were, in 1824, 682, and in 1825, 827. The number of Prussian ships, therefore, increased only by a fourth, .while that of British ships was more than doubled. Such was the comparative state of the shipping of both countries in the last year; and, as Prussia seemed to be the main obj ect of j ealousy,
when there existed so little ground for it with respect to that nation, we might dismiss our apprehensions upon this point. There was no mode by which the change which had taken place in the trade with the Baltic, could be more accurately ascertained than by comparing the number of all vessels which, in two different periods of ten years, had passed the Sound. He was furnished with the means of making such a comparison between the period which elapsed from 1783 to 1793,andfrom 1816 to 1826. From such a comparison it appeared, that, in the last year, the number of British ships which passed the Sound was greater than in any previous year since 1783. In 1821 the total number of British ships which passed the Sound was 2,816; the number of ships belonging to all other nations, 9,177: In 1822 British ships, 3,000; of all other nations, 9,000. In 1823 the comparative number was about the same as in 1822. In 1825 the number of British ships was 5,186; of all other nations, 13,000. So that last year we had more than a third of the whole of the navigation through the Sound. These facts were sufficient, or ought to be sufficient, to quiet all the apprehensions which had been excited, and silence all the clamours which had been raised; but it was doubly pleasant to know that these were the results of our measures, when the latter were measures which we could not have any longer avoided. The system of discriminating duties could not have been longer maintained under the changed circumstances of foreign powers. After the American war, great attention had been drawn to the subject, in consequence of the rapid growth of the United States; for, when those
states came to retaliate upon the discriminating duties of this country, by the adoption of a similar system, the duty could no longer be kept up, so far as America was concerned, without leading to disastrous consequences. It became indispensable, therefore, to enter into some arrangement upon the subject with the American government. That having been done, and other nations demanding that the same principle should be extended to them, it was impossible for us to embark in a contest upon the subject without being, in the end, the greatest sufferers. It was much more advisable, under the circumstances, to make arrangements in time. Whether the old system was a good or a bad one, government was no longer at liberty to make a choice; for, what was their situation, with respect to other countries, at the time this change of system was recommended? In 1822 the king of Prussia issued an ordinance, establishing in his dominions the same duties which existed in our own, with a view of inducing other countries, and particularly Great Britain, to act upon more liberal principles of commerce, and to enter into arrangements for that purpose. This order applied equally to ships coming in ballast, and to such as had cargoes on board. The consequence was, that, in 1823, government was assailed with memorials from all quarters, stating, that it was impossible any longer to carry on the trade with Prussia, owing to her heavy port charges. A communication in consequence was made to the Prussian minister here; but with what show of reason or justice could we complain of this, we who had set the example? The natural answer was, that Prussia had nothing else in view, but to induce us to re-consider our own system. In such a situation of affairs, if we had embarked in a contest of prohibitory duties, all commercial intercourse would have ceased between the two nations, except that carried on in their own ships. Such being the state of things, a discussion was entered info with the Prussian government, and the question was put, will you withdraw all discriminating duties, if we do the same? The answer having been in the affirmative, an arrangement was entered into upon that basis. Similar arrangements were made with Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Hanseatic cities of Hamburgh, Bremen, and Lubeck. It would have been unworthy of this country, if, while extending this principle to America, and some of the powerful states of Europe, it had been refused to those little republics which, in the feudal times, were the means of preserving the seeds of liberty and free trade. Small these states might be; but they were not unimportant, and it was our duty to treat them with equal generosity and justice as the greatest. Perhaps if Dantzic had still formed a component part of that combination of free cities, instead of having passed under the dominion of Prussia, there might not have been so much danger in Prussia insisting upon a principle, the tendency of which was to" exclude us from commercial intercourse with her ports, because that commerce might have been carried on through Dantzic.
The motion was agreed to; sir M. Ridley expressing his hope, that the subject would receive a full investigation in the next parliament.
The only change made upon the NavigationJaws during the session was rendered necessary by the commercial treaties which had been concluded between this country and Colombia, and the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. When these states emerged from the condition of colonies into that of independent republics, they were in possession of no commercial marine of .their own. In their state of colonial dependency on the mother countries, they had possessed no trade, and consequently no ships. But the British Navigation-laws, even as they at present stood, imposed burdens upon the importation of foreign produce, if not imported in vessels belonging to the country of which the cargo was the produce, which were not imposed upon national vessels bringing a national cargo. As Colombia, however, and the states of the Plata, possessed no national ships, it was deemed right to allow them a fair and reasonable time to procure ships, before they should be placed on the same footing with long-established countries: otherwise the treaties, so far as regarded the permission to import their produce into this country, would be nugatory. It would have been unfair, on the first establishment of commercial relations with them, to compel them to employ only their own shipping, when, in fact, they had none. It had therefore been stipulated in the treaties, that vessels, wheresoever built, being the property of any of the citizens of either republic, should be considered as national vessels of that republic, the master, and three fourths of the mariners of the vessel, being always citizens of such republic. A bill to give effect to these