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give the sentiments of ministers upon compensated by more than a proporthis subject, expressed the high gra- tional increase in the consumption of tification with which he had listened foreign spirits. No doubt there was to the able and candid speech of the a certain distress felt not only in BriDoble Marquis. He entirely agreed tain, but all over Earope, in consewith him in his views of the close con- quence of the convulsion which had nexion between the different branches agitated the whole civilized world, of national industry, and, at the same and unhinged all the natural relations time, of the advantage of confining of men. General, however, as was the present inquiry to the subject of the distress which prevailed at preour foreign trade. Admitting that sent in Europe, it was much inferior commercial distress existed, he saw to that which existed at present in no proof of its having risen to that the United States of America; and magnitude which had sometimes been he would therefore ask those who supposed. He was of opinion that ascribed the present stagnation of our there was no ground of believing that trade to the effects of taxation, tithes, it arose from any reduction of any and poor-rates, which he was free to of the great articles of consump- confess must produce some effect, to tion within the country, except it compare the national debt of America were the article of wines. He had with its revenue. The cause of the taken considerable pains to ascertain suffering now felt in America was the truth of this assertion in every quite evident; it was this—that whilst instance, and where it could be ob- Europe had been at war for twenty tained, he thought the consumption, years out of the last twenty-five years, as to quantity, was a better test than America had only been at war for two the consumption as to value ; for years. She became the principal neuthough the latter was fluctuating and tral power during the greater part of uocertain, the quantity upon which that period; nay, at one time she was the revenue was raised, was fixed and the only neutral power. She supplied stable. He had before him a paper this country with articles from the concontaining an account of the articles tinent which it could procure nowhere
of consumption for the last four years, else, and thus had increased in wealth, į and the fair way to come to a right in agriculture, in navigation, in com
conclusion would be to consider what merce, and in every other national rehad been the average on the last three source, more than any other nation had yearshe meant the years 1817,1818, ever done in the same period. She had and 1819, and to compare that aver- made in these twenty years a progress age with the actual consumption. The that under other circumstances she noble lord then made a comparison, could not have made in sixty, no, nor in the manner which he had stated, in eighty years. Now, however, when between the numbers of pounds of the arts of peace had begun once more tea, coffee, tobacco, malt, and ot' gal- to flourish in Europe, America felt lons of British spirits, which had been the effect, not of her former distress, consumed in the present year, and but of her former prosperity. She the average number of those consu- was now retrograding, and must re. med in the three preceding years. In trace the immense strides which she all of these commodities, except the had made in the last twenty years, last, he stated that there was an in- until she stood in the situation which crease of consumption, and that the she then occupied. Lord Liverpool diminution of the latter had been gave his unequivocal assent to the principles of free trade. He believed extent of that trade, the artificial enit would have been of great benefit couragement it had received, and the to the world if these principles had number of persons it employed been always acted upon, and if no 50,000 or 60,000-he confessed he state had ever imposed shackles on saw no way of getting rid of it. the trade and industry of another. Then, again, was the House aware The noble Marquis, however, was too of the effect which must necessarienlightened not to admit the excep- ly be produced upon the linen mation to these principles, which were nufacture of Ireland, by a removal of dictated by the actual policy of the all restrictions upon foreign linens ? world, and the existing laws of the When he referred to the peculiar sicountry. Lord L. only complained tuation of Ireland, it was impossible that this view of the subject had been not to be startled at the contemplatoo slightly adverted to. An imme- tion of the possible result. He would diate recurrence to first principles, again say, that he regretted those would unhinge the value of all pro- laws which had brought about so arperty, particularly in land. How tificial a state of things, but what was could we expect other countries to once done ought not, in many cases, admit our manufactures, unless we or rather could not, be undone. In received their raw produce in return? regard to the substitution of protectYet the state of the country rendered ing duties for absolute prohibition, it absolutely necessary, he conceived, and to the extension of the warehouto extendsome protection to the grow- sing system and the transit trade, he ers of corn. His lordship, at some
was inclined to concur with Lord length, defended the present system Lansdowne. With regard to the duty of the corn laws, as preferable to any on Baltic timber, it had not been implan of protecting duties. He de- posed with any commercial view. We fended also the present state of the were then excluded from the conti. currency. The restriction on the bank nent, and ministers were induced to payments appeared important, and direct their views towards America, even necessary during the war ; but as a quarter whence we might derive now, it could only serve to create a a sure supply for naval purposes. On fictitious capital, and give rise to a the faith of a countervailing duty, an spirit of over-trading. In regard to increased capital was employed by manufactures, his own opinion was, the merchants in the American timthat if all the laws with regard to ber trade. He admitted that this was wool were repealed, our woollen ma- now an open question. He allowed nufacture would not be injured. The that the treaty with Portugal, one same observation might be applied to considered a masterpiece of political our cotton manufacture ; but with re- wisdom, had no real claim to that gard to silk and linen, he conceived character, while that with France, in there was some ground for hesitation. 1787, had certainly been formed on A free trade would put an absolute sound principles. Yet for five years end to the former. No doubt it might under this last treaty, from 1787 to be matter of regret that a silk manu- 1792, the average export to France of facture was ever established in this British produce and manufactures country. It would have been much had been 718,630l. ; those to Portugal, more natural to import it from France, 637,6521.; those to Spain, 623,3401. in exchange for some other commo- At present our exports to Portugal dity. But when he considered the and the Brazils amounted to four millions. In regard to India, he doubted vided with all Europe. Every counif the exports of our manufactures try had its share, and we had to conthither could be increased. They had tend against rivals in every direction. already been too great, and had led In all parts of the world competition to a falling-off last year. He was was alive and vigorous. What the persuaded every attempt to introduce House, therefore, had to consider, British goods into China would prove was the propriety of recurring to those abortive. The carrying trade between old and established principles which India and China was a question left had proved the most solid foundation open by the late charter; and he cer- of our commerce. The honourable tainly saw no objection, that the pro- member then made some observations duce of India should be imported dis on the disadvantages which he conrect to any country in Europe. Un- ceived us to sustain from the change der these qualifications he gave his of the currency, and from what he cordial assent to the motion for a com- considered the impolitic arrangement mittee; believing, at the same time, of the corn laws. He would not now that the best remedies were time and say much on this last topic, except patience, and that permanence was to reprobate the petitions which had an important feature in all legislation. been presented to Parliament for ad
The motion for a committee was ditional restrictions. To him it apthen unanimously agreed to.
peared quite obvious, that the prosThe subject had already been perity of this country must now debrought before the House of Com- pend on the general prosperity of the mons by Mr Baring, on occasion of world. The same extent of commerce presenting the petition of the mer- which we had enjoyed was certainly chants of London. He denied any not attainable, and without more idea, on the part of the petitioners, subordination there could be neither of being favoured at the expense of confidence nor security. The petiother classes. If commercial men tioners asked only for mature and calm knew their own interest, they could deliberation—for an unprejudiced rehave no other object than general view of interests apparently opposite prosperity ; if agriculture did not to each other. Something, he sinflourish, commerce must necessarily cerely believed, must be done, to endecay. The distress and embarrass- able us to go on at all. It was satisment of the country, instead of gra- factory to know that there was no dually diminishing, were upon the in- person in the country more sensible crease. Whilst every other commer- of the truths contained in the petition cial country was in a state of progres- than the right honourable gentleman sive recovery, this alone had all the at the head of the Board of Trade. appearance of a deep decline. The He was not, he believed, exceeded in present languor might certainly be re- zeal for the application of just pringarded as comparative, as a natural ciples of commercial policy by any of consequence of the peculiar events the advocates for a change in our preand termination of the war. Whilst sent system. It was painful, however, that war continued, we enjoyed a mo- to find that his Majesty's ministers nopoly of trade; we took larger strides generally did not look at this quesin commercial industry and enter- tion with the eyes of statesmen, and prize than ever were before taken by that the true interests of the country any people. The trade, of which we were overlooked in the anxiety to had enjoyed a monopoly, was now di- preserve place. The object to which, mainly, this petition was directed, tion, was by removing them at home. was the adoption of a general prin- To require foreign countries, by treaciple, having for its basis as great and ty, to open their ports to us, and, in extensive a freedom of commercial re- return, to shut up our ports against gulation as was possible. The peti- all communication with them, wasmationers also prayed that the legisla- nifestly unjust. The circumstances of ture would contract as much as pos- the times were such as to call on them sible those general or positive restric- imperatively to go into this examinations on the importation of certain ar- tion, that they might convince themticles which weighed heavily on the selves whether nothing could be done commerce of the country. Why should for the country-whether no encouwe be restrained from procuring tim- ragement could begiven to its industry ber from Riga, and other ports of -and whether they must continue to Russia, Poland, and the various north. bear, without hope of relief, the maniern states ? That trade formerly em- fold privations which they mustall feel. ployed British shipping to a great Mr Robinson, in reply to this extent, and was very useful in rear speech, followed the same course ing and supporting seamen. But the which was taken by Lord Liverpool restrictive system had driven Great in the Lords. He expressed his acBritain out of that trade, and given quiescence in all the general princito her a character of severity, with ples laid down by Mr Baring. He respect to her commercial restrictions, - had always stated it as his clear opiwhich was highly prejudicial to her nion, that positive restriction was interests. Without wishing to do away founded in error, and calculated to with the general tenor of the naviga- defeat the object it was intended to tion laws, he thought there were cer- promote. The same statement he had tain details which might be advan- no objection to repeat now. He detageously modified. He then went nied, however, the assertion, either over the same grounds with Lord that ministers were indifferent to the Lansdowne—the warehousing system subject and solely anxious to keep —the transit trade-the communica- their places, or that he met among tion with the East Indies, and with them any peculiar opposition to his South America. A very great object views. The resistance came at least was to remove the restrictions which as much from the other side of the had been imposed by foreign nations. House. The fact was, that habits, With respect to France, no attempt connected with certain systems, behad been made to put an end to these came so deeply rooted, that it was restrictions. The existing feelings of extremely difficult to get gentlemen that country, and the circumstances to consent to any alteration. He stathat now prevailed, operated against ted this as a reason why he had not any mercantile connexion or arrange- endeavoured to bring his own prinment with England, and it would be ciples more decidedly into practice. difficult for some time to form one. The restrictive system ought to be He did not, therefore, blame the amended, and it was his intention to noble lord (Castlereagh) for not ha- bring in a bill this session to effect ving demanded concessions, when the some amendment. The navigation French treaty was entered into, which laws were necessary and advantageous probably would not have lasted very to commerce; still they were capable long. The first step towards putting of improvement, and ought to be iman end to restrictions of this descrip- proved to a great extent. He had
heard with particular pleasure Mr without an injury to the revenue. Baring justify his noble friend and They might even be brought to pay the government for not, at the peace, other taxes to a greater amount with obtaining commercial advantages as less inconvenience than the present : favours from friends, or punishments and the substitution might be highly on enemies. Justice, peace, and po- beneficial. The other question, relicy, were equally opposed to such garding vested interests, was likewise an acquisition of commerce. With
one of great delicacy. Gentlemen France it was not easy to manage a
who had vested large capitals in a commercial arrangement. Great pre- particular branch of trade on the faith judices existed on both sides, and very of the continuance of the present foolish prejudices they certainly were. laws, could not, with any degree of Nothing was so preposterous as for justice, be subjected to a change in any persons in either nation to repine, those laws which would seriously inif any did repine, at the prosperity jure their interests. This was a good of the other. In regard to the parti- argument against any immediate, or cular branches of trade touched upon, rapid, or precipitate alteration ; but Mr R. gave views generally conform- it was no reason against gradual imable to those stated by Lord Liver- provement. pool.
After some observations by Mr ElLord Milton strongly supported lice, Mr Marryat, and Mr T. Wilson, the principles and views of the peti- the petition was ordered to be laid on tion, and at the same time expressed the table, and to be printed. his satisfaction at the speech made by This subject was brought again the President of the Board of Trade. under discussion, when, soon after, At the same time he took occasion to Mr Kirkman Finlay presented a sienter into some general views of the milar petition from the merchants of commercial and financial state of the Glasgow. Mr Finlay accompanied it country.
with a judicious speech, in which he Mr Ricardo took nearly the same enforced the views which had been view of the subject. He had heard taken by Mr Baring. The chief nothe petition with great pleasure, and velty of it consisted in the better hopes he was particularly pleased with the which he was led to form of the fuliberal sentiments delivered by the ture prosperity of the country, and right honourable gentleman opposite the favourable report which he (Mr Robinson.) The petition itself made of those districts with which contained the justest principles of po- he was personally connected. He litical economy. The establishment was happy to be enabled to say, of the system of free trade which the with reference to this subject, that petitioners recommended, was sur- infatuation and delusion appeared to founded with great difficulties: these be subsiding where their influence difficulties were of two kinds, as the had been most injurious. Peace and the change would affect the revenue, order were in some degree re-esta. and different opposing interests. The blished, and the condition of the laquestion of revenue was of great im- bourer was already bettered. He portance, but it did not necessarily doubted not that the whole country stand in the way of some alteration. was progressively improving, and that The sources whence the taxes were in our chief manufactures, cotton and derived might be changed, and a great linen, we should still be enabled to service might be done to the people break down all foreign competition.