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The following statement clearly shows the increase under the old, and the decrease in the employment of plantation shipping under the new, system.
Ships belonging to the British West India islands, exclusive of captured colonies, and employed in the trade between those islands and the United States, including their repeated
Ships belonging to the British North American provinces, and employed in the trade between those colonies and the British West India islands, including their repeated. voyages.
In 1794, when the navigation acts began to be suspended
Ships. Tons. Men.
. 229 24,900 1,452
In 1804, in consequence of the suspension of the navigation laws.
Decrease in ten years
Decrease of Ships belonging to and employed in the trade of the British West India islands in ten years
100 11,906 734
129 12,994 718
639 78,381 4,489
Do. The British North American colonies 129 12,994 718
Total decrease in the employment of plan
tation ships in ten years, under the
768 91,375 5,207
British ships employed in the direct trade from the United States, which entered inwards in Great Britain, in the following
! See Mr. Rose's speech on the American Intercourse Bill, 1806.
British ships employed in the direct trade to the United States, which cleared outwards from Great Britain in the following
It must, however, be admitted, that the whole of the decrease of British ships employed in the direct trade with the United States was not, altogether, attributable to the suspension of the navigation act, as there were other causes which contributed to it; yet, it is evident, how injurious the operation and effect of the new system have been on British plantation shipping, as well as on the shipping of Great Britain; the latter of which has, even within the last three years, decreased nearly one-half, viz.
Ships built in Great Britain, according to the returns to Parlia
Thus, one of the most important branches of trade, which constitutes of itself a manufacture of the first impression, from the employment which it affords, and the encouragement it gives to national industry, will continue to decline, until the OLD SYSTEM is revived, and the shipping of the empire are put on a more equal footing with the ships of foreign nations; either by an increase of the alien duties, or by the substitution of others, sufficient to countervail the great difference in the expence of building and equipment of British Ships and of those of other countries.
The account of ship-building in Great Britain for 1807 is not yet presented to parliament, but it is apprehended there is a further decrease of tonnage. It is, however, too obvious, from the present state of the private building-yards in Great Britain, there is little inclination to build merchantships; and, it appears, some inconvenience has been lately felt from the want of vessels for the Irish trade, and in parts of the coasting trade. See also a table of the annual consumption of shipping in the Collection of Reports on Navigation. edit. 1807.
[Ship-building has continued to fall off, and, from the immense tonnage about to be discharged from the Transport Service, it cannot be expected to revive for many years. 1815.]
The new system originated in an order of council of the 16th January, 1795, which was extended by a subsequent order of the 21st of the same month, and was afterwards established by the Dutch Property Acts, and those made in consequence of them; by which any neutral ships whatsoever, and however manned, were allowed to bring to this kingdom any sort of goods from any country or place whatsoever, under an order of his Majesty in council. The first act passed on this subject, was the 35th Geo. 3d. c. 15. which allowed the inhabitants of the United Provinces, to bring and land their goods and effects in Great Britain, under the limitations therein mentioned; and, before the close of that session, by another act, the 35th Geo. 3d. c. 80. the proprietors of all goods that had or might afterwards come in, were allowed to take them out of warehouse, and either re-export or otherwise dispose of them, upon payment of the duties, and complying with the regulations contained in the act.
By the 36th Geo. 3d. c. 76. a new principle was adopted, and the provisions of the two former acts, very generally extended, though for a limited period, under orders of council, to ships belonging to any country in amity with his Majesty, and which was, as well as the two former acts, continued by subsequent statutes; namely, the 37th Geo. 3d. c. 12.; the 38th Geo. 3. c. 9.; and the 39th Geo. 3. c. 12. In the last of these sessions, by the statute c. 112., the suspending power was further extended, and his Majesty authorised, for a limited period, to permit any such goods as should be specified in any order of council to be imported in ships belonging to the subjects of any state in amity with his Majesty.
These four acts relating to Neutral Ships were continued by the 39th and 40th Geo. 3d. c. 9. and c. 17. The three former were finally continued by the 39th and 40th Geo. 3. c. 65. to the 1st of January, 1804; and the latter by the 41st Geo. 3. G. B. c. 20. which having expired, was renewed by the 41st Geo. 3. U. K. c. 19. and continued for a limited period.
The Peace of Amiens soon after taking place, the three first acts were taken into consideration, and repealed by the 42d Geo. 3. c. 80., in which other provisions were substituted, for continuing this trade in neutral shipping, in a manner supposed to be less invidious to the Shipping Interest of Great Britain, until it should finally terminate, and the Navigation System be resumed as before the war. This act, however, authorized, under orders in council, the importation of the produce of any part of America or the West Indies, not under the King's dominions, in neutral ships, provided the goods so imported were warehoused, and not removed but on entry for re-exportation.
This grievous extension of the New System having been seri ously felt, and great injury resulting from it to the British Shipping Interest, his Majesty's then government, it appears, were induced to extend the same privileges to British Ships, by admitting them, under orders of council, to the same advantages of importation which had been granted, and previously enjoyed by foreigners under the former acts. This extension was accordingly legalized by the 42d Geo. 3. c. 80. sec. 2.; and limited in its duration until the first of September, 1802; but even by this act certain articles, namely, rice, snuff, and tobacco, were excepted, though allowed to be imported in neutral shipping. This restriction on British Shipping was alleged to be in conformity with the regulations established under the Revenue acts.
After the renewal of the war, the New System was, during Lord SIDMOUTH's administration, more generally extended under the 43d Geo. 3. c. 153. which authorises, under orders in council, the importation in neutral ships of any goods from any place belonging to any state not in amity with the king, during the present war, and for six months after it.
The provisions of this statute are very extensive; the last section of the act being considered a virtual dispensation from the navigation system, in regard to countries with which we were at war; and the same discretionary power with respect to foreign America, and the West Indies, was vested in his Majesty, as had been granted by the 42d Geo. 3. c. 80. which was revived and continued by the 44 Geo. 3. c. 30, until eight months after the ratification of a definitive treaty of peace.
These two statutes, the 42d Geo. 3. c. 80. and the 43 Geo. 3. c. 153. with the 45th Geo. 3. c. 34. enabled his Majesty to grant all those facilities to neutrals which had been so justly complained of by the Shipping Interest: the importations under the latter act must be by licence from his Majesty, and of articles the produce or manufacture of countries, not prohibited to be used or consumed here. The trade carried on under this act differs from that under the 39th and 40th Geo. 3. c. 34. in as much as there is no restriction on the tonnage of the vessels; and the articles imported under it may be sold for home consumption, except sugar and coffee, which must be warehoused for exportation: it therefore only remained requisite to vest the same power in his Majesty, with respect to countries in amity, which he had by the 43d Geo. 3. c. 153. in regard to countries not in amity, and then the whole navigation system was liable to be suspended at discretion; which it appears had been done in some instances, even before this act passed; but the illegality thereof was cured by an act of indemnity, namely by the 45th Geo. 3. c. 33.
By the 44th Geo. 3. c. 29. his Majesty was also authorized to allow certain enumerated articles to be imported in any foreign ship, on payment of the same duties as in a British ship. This act was limited in its duration, but afterwards continued, with the addition of goat skins, by the 45th Geo. 3. c. 80., and further continued by the 46th Geo. 3. c. 29. s. 9. to the 25th March, 1808. It is to be observed, that none of the articles enumerated could be imported from any place in a British ship, except goat skins, which were allowed under the 15th Geo. 3. c. 35. and which was made perpetual by the 31st Geo. 3. c. 43.
These are the leading features of the several statutes, which established and gave permanency to "the system of suspension;' attempted to be justified on the presumed ground of necessity, but which, in the opinions of well-informed and disinterested persons, did not exist to warrant such a radical change in a fundamental law of the land. The principle adopted in the act which allowed goods to be imported in time of peace in neutral vessels and to be warehoused for exportation had never been acted upon in any former peace; nor was it warranted by then existing circumstances, for it is well known that at the close of the last war several thousand tons of British Shipping could not procure employment. It was the injurious operation of these acts, which induced the Ship Owners to apply so frequently between the years 1801 and 1804 to the legislature and government, but their applications were not attended to, though the depression on the Shipping Interest began to be more generally and severely felt.
The rapid discharge of seamen from the navy at the commencement of the late peace was also attended with great injury to the state, from the vast numbers of them who emigrated to France' and other foreign states, in search of employment: many thousand tons of British Shipping were, likewise, obliged to be sold or let to foreigners, under circumstances peculiarly distressing, especially those chartered to the Dutch and French merchants; and the owners of those ships cannot fail to remember the losses they sustained by the want of protection which was on the commencement of this war so unaccountably withheld from them,2
It may perhaps be considered invidious to make any further observations on these transactions; they certainly tended considerably to increase the depression on British Shipping, and though it was difficult, in 1802, to obtain freights for them almost at any
Alley's Vindication of Lord Sheffield's Strictures, p. 55. Also the Petitions to Parliament in 1802.
2 See printed Case of the Owners of British Ships which were let on freight during the late peace, to the subjects of the Batavian Republic, Edit. 1803.