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thought, that they should best consult, to the British merchant, that, 80 far the intentions of the House by direct. from the course in which he is to guide ing their immediate attention to those his transactions being plain and sim-; regulations which, under the name ple; so far from being able to under. either of restrictions or protections, take his operations, and to avail himoperate in controlling the commerce self of favourable openings, as they of the kingdom, in order to estimate arise, with promptitude and confidence, their nature and effects ; and to judge he is frequently reduced to the necesa in what degree it may be prudent to sity of resorting to the services of proretain them, and in what instances fessional advisers, to ascertain what be (subject to the considerations referred may venture to do, and what he must to) their removal or modification may avoid, before he is able to embark in be recommended with safety and ad- his commercial adventures, with the vantage.
assurance of being secure from the con. In contemplating the range of the sequences of an infringement of the duty assigned to them, and the variety law. If this be the case (as is stated and importance of the objects of inves. to your Committee) with the most tigation embraced by it, your Com. experienced amongst the merchants, mittee were of opinion, that the most even in England, in how much greater convenient course they could adopt a degree must the same perplexity and would be, to take the subjects up un- apprehension of danger operate in foder distinct heads, and report upon reign countries and on foreign merthem in succession ; by which the chants, whose acquaintance with our House might be enabled, not only to statute-book must be supposed to be form its judgment more easily on each comparatively limited, and who are subject, as separately submitted to it, destitute of the professional authoria but also more readily to give effect to ties which the merchant at home may its judgment, when formed, by such at all times consult for his direction. legislative enactments as in the respec. When it is recollected, besides, that a tive cases might seem expedient. trivial unintentional deviation from the
Before, however, your Committee strict letter of the acts of parliament, proceed to advert to the points which may expose a ship, and cargo to the have been the principal objects of their inconvenience of seizure, which f whe, inquiry, they are anxious to call the ther sustained or abandoned) is attendobservation of the House to the ex- ed always with delay, and expence, cessive accumulation and complexity and frequently followed by litigation, of the laws under which the commerce it cannot be doubted that such a state of the country is regulated; with which of the law must have the most preju. they were forcibly impressed in the dicial influence both upon commercial very earliest stage of their proceed. enterprize in the country, and upon ings. These laws, passed at different our mercantile relationsand intercomse periods, and many of them arising out with foreign nations. And perhaps no of temporary circumstances, -amount, service more valuable could be renderas stated in a recent compilation of ed to the trade of the empire, nor any them, to upwards of 2900, of which measure more effectually contribute to no less than 1000 were in force in the promote the objects contemplated by year 1815, and many additions have the House, in the appointment of this been since made. After such a state. Committee, than an accurate revision ment, it will not appear extraordinary of this vast and confused mass of legism that it should be matter of complaint lation, and the establishment of
certain, simple, and consistent princi- of that opulence which may arise from ples, to which all the regulations of foreign trade. commerce might be referred, and un- The provisions of these laws apply, der which the transactions of mer- first, to the regulation of the trade with chants, engaged in the trade of the Asia, Africa, and America, and the united kingdom, might be conducted territories of the Grand Seignior and with facility, with safety, and with the Duke of Muscovy. Secondly, to confidence.
that of the trade with the other states The commercial restrictions, to which of Europe. the intercourse of the united kingdom The leading principle in reference to with foreign states is subjected, may be the former is, that no goods, the proclassed under three heads-first, those duce of Asia, Africa, or America, and intended for the improvement of its the territories specified, shall be imnavigation, and the support of its na. ported into this kingdom, but directly val power ; secondly, those which arise from the place of their growth, anderout of the necessity of drawing from clusively in British ships, owned by commerce, in common with other re. British subjects, and navigated in a sources, a proportion of the public re. certain proportion by British seamen. venue ; and, lastly, those necessary To the latter, that goods enumerated, to the protection afforded to various coming from different countries of Eubranches of our domestic industry, for rope, shall be imported either in ships the purpose of securing to them the built in the states of which they are internal supply of the country, and the the produce, and owned and navigated export to its several colonies.
by their subjects, or in ships of Great The head of restrictive protections, Britain, except from Germany and the to which the attention and inquiry of Netherlands, wbich are by name par. your Committee has been in the first tially excluded. From these last-meninstance directed, is that which com- tioned countries certain articles are proprehends the acts intended for the sup- hibited from being imported into Great port and extension of British shipping. Britain, in any ship whatever, under
It would be superfluous to pursue the penalty of confiscation of the ship the history of our laws for the promo. and cargo. tion of British commerce and naviga
A just respect for the political wiscion, from the earliest period at which dom from which the enactment of the the subject appears to have occupied navigation laws originated, and a sense the attention of the legislature, to the of the great national advantages derireign of Charles Il., when they were ved from them in their effects on the brought nearly to that state in which, maritime greatness and power of the with some subsequent modifications, kingdom, have rendered them objects they have since continued.
of attachment and veneration to every Whatever may have been the prin- British subject. Nor can your Comciples which dictated, or the political mittee suppose that any suggestions benefits that have accrued to the coun- they may offer, can lead to a suspicioa try from the acts passed in the 12th, of their being disposed to recommend 13th, and 14th of Charles II., and an abandonment of the policy from known by the name of “ The Naviga- which they emanated; or io advise, in tion Law, and Statute of Frauds ;' it favour of the extension of commerce, a can scarcely be denied, that they have remission of that protecting vigilance a tendency to cramp the operations of under which the shipping and naviga. commerce, and to impede the growth tion of the kingdom have so eminently
grown and flourished. The only ques. merce and shipping of "the united tion which, on this subject, they have kingdom. Your Committee beg to reentertained, is, whether the advantages fer to the examinations of Mr Frewin, hitherto enjoyed by our shipping might Mr Buckle, Mr Lyall, Mr Bowden, not be compatible with increased faci- Mr Hall, Mr Nichol, &c. on this suba lities afforded to trade, and its relief ject. A doubt appeared to be enterfrom some of the restrictions which the tained by the first of these gentlemen provisions of these laws impose upon as to a possibility that the alteration in it. They are convinced, that every re. question might be 'attended with some striction on the freedom of commerce trilling diminution of the revenue ; and is in itself an evil, to be justified only by others, that it might produce some by some adequate political expediency; prejudice to the British shipping emand that every facility that can be ex- ployed in the commerce of the Meditended to it is a benefit to the public terranean. interest, as leading, amidst the incalcu. With respect to the first point, it is lable changes and accidents occurring to be observed, that no diminution of in the circumstances of nations, and revenue could arise, unless from im. of society, to the certain consequence portations taking place in British shipof laying open new means of exertion ping which had hitherto been made in to mercantile ingenuity and enterprize, foreign vessels, and the reduced rate of and disclosing to commerce new sources duty in consequence to be received ; of eventual advantage, far beyond the as, however, this contingency involves power of human foresight distinctly to in it a certain compensation in the inappreciate.
creased employment of British shipThis being the admitted principle, it ping, your Committee do not consider must be regarded subject to all the it as a material objection to an alteraprecaution in its application which in- tion in other views appearing to be de. terests embarked under the faith of sirable. In respect to the remaining obexisting laws, and a due consideration jection, that it was possible the trade of the difficulties attending an extensive might be conducted through the mechange in a long-established, though dium of cheap Greek and Genoese shipdefective system, ought prudentially to ping; and the merchandize of the Meinspire.
diterranean be thus carried to the neigh. The prohibition contained in the bouring ports of Holland or the Ne. act of the 13th and 14th of Charles II. therlands, for trans-shipment and conc. 2., in respect to Germany and the veyance to the united Kingdom in Bri. Netherlands, was the first direct object tish vessels ; it is an apprehension in of your Committee's examination, with which, for reasons to be stated in a suba view of ascertaining whether the dis- sequent part of their report (applicable tinction, applying to those parts of to these as well as other ships of a Europe, might not be safely and use- cheap description,) your Committee fully abrogated. The purpose for cannot participate, or be induced by which it was originally enacted has long it to entertain any greater doubt of the been fulfilled ; and from the evidence commercial safety and convenience, of the gentlemen examined, touching than of the political justice and utility the different interests which such an of placing our commercial intercourse alteration might affect, your Commit- with every European state in amity tee are of opinion, that certain benefit, with Great Britain on a footing of without any probable chance of injury, equal facility and freedom. would result from it, both to the come Having satisfied themselves on the
expediency of permitting the imparta. the establishment of a syatem more estion into the united kingdom, in Bri- larged and liberal than that under which tish ships, of articles the growth or the British trade has been hitherto corproduce of European states, from any ducted (of which this relaxation of the European port, without reference to navigation laws forms a part) could be the place of their growth or produç. deemed a satisfactory compensation for tion; the next subject which engaged any serious hazard to which the inte the consideration of your Committee, rests of our shipping might be expowas the extension of the same latitude sed; but they have found po reason to of importation to articles the produce believe, that the probable consequences of Asia, Africa, and America, to which of adopting the measure under cong. the restrictious of the Act of the 12th deration would be, to incur the danger of Charles II. bave been stated princi- described, or to transfer to foreigners pally to apply.
any of the advantages now possessed by The evidence adduced before your British ships, Committee, on this point, is more at In proceeding to state the grounds variance than that on the point before of this impression, your Committee are adverted to. Although it cannot be desirous of recalling to the recollection denied that every additional degree of of the House, that ihe laws in question freedom is generally beneficial to.com. have been subjected to alteration at difmerce, and no alarm seemed to be en- ferent periods, and their principle retertained by merchants engaged in ge. laxed whenever a new state of political neral trade who were examined, in re- circumstances appeared to Parliamert spect to the probable effects of such a to afford sufficient reasons for such a relaxation of the law on the navigation change. Under the regulations which of Great Britain ; yet those whose in- the King in Council was authorized to terests were more exclusively connect. make, by the 23d of Geo. III. cap; ed with British shipping, expressed 39, and subsequently by the 49th of considerable alarm lest the proposed Geo. III. cap. 59, followed recently alteration should be followed by a by the 59th of Geo. III. cap. 54, the change in the existing course of trade, manufactures and produce of the UHby which their interests might be even- ted States of America have been ad. tually affected ; and represented, that if mitted into the united kingdom, nat any benefit accrued to commerce by only in British ships, but in ships of the increased facility afforded, it might the United States, or condemned as be chiefly to the commerce of foreign- prize to them, ayd owned and navigaers; and that the participation of Bri- ied by their subjects. By the 5lst also tish shipping in the conveyance of the of the late King, a similar relaxatian of produce of the distant parts of the the law was made in favour of the proworld, might be confined to the trans. duce and manufactures of the territoport from the parts of the continent ries of the Crown of Portugal in Askto those of the united Kingdom, while rica, during the continuance of the the more valuable and extended ngo treaty concluded with that power vigation devolved upon the shipping the year 1810. The latter arising out of foreign states. Your Committee of the changes that had taken place ja have felt the importance of this repre- the
political situation of the Brazils; sentation, and examined it with the at- as the former did out of the national tention it appeared to deserve. They character acquired by the United States are conscious that the commercial re- of America, by their separation from sults they sanguinely anticipate from Great Britaio.
Both these relaxations may be said appears to your Committee sufficient to have been a diminution of the pro- to balance the admitted cheapness of tection afforded by the navigation law foreign construction and equipment. to British shipping ; but a diminution The importation of the produce of which polítical considerations demande Asia, Africa, and America, into the ed, and which was indispensable to the United kingdom, excepting the terri. continuanče of our commercial relationstories of Portugal and the United with those countries.
States, under the proposed alteration, The navigation laws have been also is still reserved exclusively to British relaxed in regard to the trade between shipping, which infers the necessity of the British colonies and the mother a previous importation into the conticountry, as well as in several instances nent, if it should be brought to Europe with respect to particular articles of by foreign ships. The difference bem merchandize; which your Committee tween a direct and a circuitous voyage, do not think it necessary here particu. in the expenses and delays attending lárly to enumerate.
the entrance into, and trans-shipment of The principle of restriction laid down goods in, a foreign port, and a second in these laws having been relaxed from voyage to be performed in a British these considerations of pohtical or com ship the increased time (estimated at mercial expediency, it will be for the one-fifth) required for the performance wisdom of the House to judge whether of a distant voyage in a foreign strip be. the same considerations may not lead yond that required in a British 'one ; to a further relaxation of it, and au. the difference in point of security, and thorize the withdrawing of a restric consequent increased charge of insution which, if not essential to the supa rance on the cargo, appear to your port of our shipping, is maintained not Committee to attach a disadvantage to Only tnprofitably but injuriously to the employment of the foreigo ship, ourselves, as embarrassing the opera- fully equivalent to the difference of the tions of our merchants, and contribu- tate 'of freight, as stated in favour of ting to the jealous and hostile feelings the cheaper ships of certain European with which the probibitory character states ; and indeed it is repeatedly adof our commercial system has long been mitted, that wherever British ships art contemplated by foreign 'nations. to be obtained, to them the preference
The danger stated in the evidence fexcept under special circumstances) to be apprehended, seems chiefly to rest is universally given. on the cheapness of foreign ships com- If in any case the argument Grawn pared with those of the united kingdom, from the comparative cheapness of the particularly the ships of the northern ship could apply, it would be in te States of Europe, where labour, wages, spect to articles of great bulk in pros and the materials of building and equip portion to their intrinsic value, on ment, are at a rate '
much lower than in which the rate of freight operates Great Britain. If the question was 'to most heavily; of these articles 'coto be determined by the comparative ton 'is one of the most considerable. cheapness of the ship alone, this fact Cotton, under the existing law, may would be conclusive, but it appears to be imported into the united kingdom your Committee that other considera: from any place whatever in 'a British tions must have their share în deciding ship'; but it does not appear to your the preference likely to be given to the Committee, 'notwithstanding the con foreign ship; the effects of which, as stant demand for 'it in the manufat detailed in the evidence of Mr Buckle, tures of this country, that fareiga