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PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1847.
The last complete edition of this work, though published so lately as February, 1844, has already become all but obsolete. This has been occasioned by the extraordinary changes that have been made in the interval in our commercial policy and regulations. Of these the act of last session providing for the immediate modification and speedy abolition of the Corn Laws, is the most important. It was the crowning measure in the memorable administration of Sir Robert Peel; and went far to complete the great series of commercial reforms begun in 1842. The opening of the ports to the free importation of foreign cattle, sheep, and hogs, which had previously been wholly prohibited; the repeal of the Excise duty on glass, and of the Customs duties on about 500 different articles, including some of the greatest importance, and their reduction on many more; the vast improvement effected in our banking and monetary systems; and the measure respecting the Corn Laws, were all accomplished in the short space of four or five years; and, in as far as can at present be seen, not only with infinite advantage to the public, but without injury or even sensible inconvenience to any class! And it is obvious that such could not have been the case had not the determination to carry these measures been subordinate to the skill and ability with which they were prepared.
These, however, are not the only alterations that have taken place since February, 1844. New acts have been passed in that interval relating to navigation, the intercourse with the colonies, the importation and exportation of foreign and native produce, the hiring of seamen, the registry of shipping, &c., with the important act of last session in regard to the sugar duties. And in addition to the many fundamental changes that have taken place at home, a greatly improved Tariff has recently been enacted in the U. States; while minor changes have been effected in other parts of the commercial world.
The edition of this Dictionary now given to the public has been accommodated to this altered state of things. Wherever it was practicable we have introduced the new matter under its proper head; the circumstance of the work being stereotyped having generally enabled us to do this without resetting the types of the other portions. In most cases the space occupied by the articles that have been superseded afforded room for those by which they have been replaced ; and where it happened that the new articles could not be confined within the former limits, the addition of extra pages, supplied the necessary accommodation. Ilence, notwithstanding the great amount of matter inserted for the first time in this edition, the SUPPLEMENT added to it is of comparatively limited dimensions. The separate Supplement prepared for the use of the purchasers of the cditions of 1844 and 1846 is considerably larger, inasmuch as it contains the more important portions of the new information dispersed throughout the present work.
The extreme difficulty of procuring recent and authentic information in relation to the commerce and commercial regulations of foreign and remote countries will, we venture to hope, be admitted as some excuse for the errors which, despite
every effort to be accurate, may, no doubt, be discovered in this book. We shall reckon it a favour if those by whom they may be detected will have the goodness to point them out; and we shall be still more obliged if they will, at the same time, supply us with matter available for their correction. We beg farther to state that whatever information may be communicated to us by gentlemen versed in any of the matters treated of in this work, will be most gratefully received; and that it will be employed to render it, what we are most anxious it should be, a digest of late, readily accessible, and trustworthy information on all matters relating to the commerce and commercial navigation of this country and of the world.
London, May, 1847.
THE EDITION OF 1844.
Tuk last edition of this work that underwent a complete revision was published in 1834. Since that epoch several considerable impressions have been exhausted; the more important changes in the commercial laws and regulations of this and other countries, and in the channels of commercial intercourse, that took place in the interval, having been specified in successive Supplements. These, however, notwithstanding the limited plan on which they were compiled, had become rather voluminous ; and the changes made in our commercial policy by the Tariff Act of 1842, and the late acts for regulating the corn and colonial trades, &c., were so very important, and affected so many articles and interests, that it would have been difficult to notice them and the other subjects that required to be brought under the reader's eye in a new Supplement, without extending it to something like the size of the original work, which would thus have been rendered clumsy, costly, and inconvenient. Under these circumstances, we had no choice, except to abandon the work altogether, or to undertake the laborious task of its reconstruction. Having determined upon the latter, we have endeavoured to make it a Digest and Repertory of the most useful and authentic information respecting the past and present state of the commerce of this and most other countries, including the means and devices resorted to for facilitating commercial operations, and the laws and regulations under which they have been carried on. The various details are brought down to the latest period; and such additional subjects and statements have heen introduced as had been overlooked in the former editions, or have since come into existence or grown of importance. We have tried to effect these improvements without adding, very materially, to the size of the work, by subjecting it to an unsparing retrenchment, and rejecting whatever was superseded by late changes, or appeared to be unnecessary.
It must, however, be admitted of works of this description, that they are less susceptible than most others of being improved in successive editions. An error in a bygone statement may, of course, be detected and rectified; but few comparatively of those who refer to a Commercial Dictionary care for historical notices or theoretical discussions. The practical details belonging to the present moment are the prime objects of interest with most men of business ; and the same difficulties recur in attempting to give an account of commerce and commercial legislation in 1842 and 1843 that had to be encountered in describing their state in 1832 and 1833. The subject is not stationary but progressive, and variable in the extreme. The information, too, to which we have been compelled to resort, has been often very deficient; and when more abundant, it has not unfrequently been obscure, contradictory, and but little to be depended upon. And even though it had been of a less ques
tionable description, the all but endless variety of subjects we have had to notice, and the perpetual and often unmarked changes to which most of them are subject, prevent our flattering ourselves with the notion that we have been much more successful on this than on former occasions in avoiding mistakes We have, however, resorted to every means within our reach by which accuracy was likely to be attained ; and can honestly affirm that, in attempting to render our work worthy of the public confidence, we have shrunk from no labour nor grudged any reasonable expense.
Except in one or two instances, we have seen no reason to modify any general principle laid down in the previous editions. The freedom of industry and of trade appears to us, speaking generally, to be the only sound foundation on which the commercial legislation of any country can safely or permanently rest. But we are not of the number of those who think that this is a principle to which there can be no exception, and that it is to be enforced at all times, without regard to existing interests, or to the peculiar situation of the branches of industry to which it may be proposed to be applied. There are, in truth, no absolute principles; that is, there are no principles that can be safely and advantageously carried out to their full extent, at all hazards and under all circumstances, either in Commercial Economy or any thing else. In conducting national affairs, the interests, and even the unreasonable prejudices, of great classes must be consulted ; and governments should frequently, or, perhaps, we might say, generally, adopt that line of conduct which may seem to be on the whole best fitted to conciliate and promote the varying interests of those for whom they legislate, in preference to that which may be more in accordance with principle. A policy of this sort, while it is consistent with the effectual reform of every abuse, makes all changes be carefully considered, and cautiously introduced ; and provides for the permanent advantage of the community with as little immediate injury as possible to individuals.
It is not, therefore, as many appear to suppose, enough to prove that a rule or regulation is wrong, that it interferes with the absolute freedom of industry or of trade. Such interference may be justifiable or unjustifiable, according to the peculiar exigencies of the case. The decisions of men of sense are not to be guided, on topics of this sort, by clamour, or by a cuckoo-cry in favour of any general principle, however well-established, but by a comprehensive investigation of what is under the circumstances the wisest and best course of policy to be adopted. Who can doubt that the regulations with respect to the truck system, the exclusion of females from mines, and the employment of young people in factories, though interfering to a considerable extent with the freedom of industry, are highly judicious, and necessary for the protection of the largest and not least important portion of society?
It may be doubted whether the commercial code of any country was ever so much liberalised and improved in the same space of time as ours has been between the important reforms begun by Mr. Huskisson in 1825, and those effected by Sir Robert Peel in 1842. The more ardent reformers allege, indeed, that these were not sufficiently extensive, that they were introduced slowly and with greater diffidence than necessary, and that many abuses are still unredressed. But those who reflect on the difficulty, in an extremely artificial state of society, of correctly appreciating the remote influence of any considerable change, and the impossibility of retracing any false step, will probably be disposed to applaud the prudence manifested in effecting these reforms. The progress already made has, however, paved the way for farther advances; and the reforms that still remain to be undertaken may now be
attempted with comparatively little risk. The greater number of these are, we believe, pointed out in this work; and we have endeavoured to show how they may be best introduced, and the advantages which may be fairly anticipated from their being carried into effect.
Some of the most important subjects of which we have had to treat are, unfortunately, much mixed up with party politics, and the agitation of the day. But our pages, we trust, are not polluted by any factious or partisan taint. We have endeavoured to treat the subjects in question in the spirit of lookers on who have no wish to participate in the game, and not in that of the players, who may, perhaps, have staked their all on the result; and are not conscious of having been biassed by political or personal predilections.
We firmly adhere to the opinion we have endeavoured to establish in the former editions of this work and elsewhere, that it would be sound policy to permit the importation of foreign corn at all times, under a moderate fixed duty accompanied by a corresponding drawback. A duty of this sort would not interpose any serious obstacle to our getting supplies of foreign corn when necessary; at the same time that it would tend to prevent any sudden shock being given to agriculture by the opening of the ports to free importation, and would countervail the peculiar burdens the agriculturists at present sustain, or which, at all events, they would most certainly have to sustain, were the ports open to importation without any duty. It appears to us that justice to all parties — to the manufacturers and merchants on the one hand, and to the agriculturists on the other, requires that some such method of settling this vexata quæstio should be attempted. It has been truly said, that what a mercantile country like Great Britain most requires is the adoption of " a decided and unflinching course of commercial policy.” This is necessary to give those engaged in agricultural and commercial pursuits that feeling of security which lies at the bottom of all steady, vigorous, and prolonged exertion ; and to make all classes bring their industry and capital into full activity. Unluckily, however, the most formidable obstacles appear to stand in the way of our entering upon such a course; and so long as one great class claim every thing, and another great class will concede nothing, our policy can inspire but little confidence. But we would fain hope that both parties, or at least that the more reasonable and considerate portions of both, may become sensible of the many pernicious consequences which cannot fail to result from prolonging the agitation with respect to the corn laws; and that these laws may be finally settled so as to reconcile and secure the just rights and interests of all classes. Unfounded anticipations of advantage on the one hand, and unfounded anticipations of loss on the other, are the only real obstacles to some such arrangement being effected ; and it will be much to be deplored should the great interests of the empire be sacrificed to such delusions, and to the sinister designs of those who represent them as real, and exaggerate their magnitude.
We have thought it necessary to say thus much; for, though our work, being & Commercial Dictionary, might be supposed to be beyond the sphere of politics, we have been reluctantly compelled, on various occasions, in consequence of the way in which commercial and political questions are now mixed up, to engage in what may be called political discussion. And when such has been the case, we have not scrupled freely to state our opinions, and to censure such principles, laws, or regulations, as we believe to be injurious. But we have not done this wantonly, or without briefly stating the grounds on which we have presumed to found our conclusions. We have, a lso, as on former occasions, taken care to separate the theoretical and historical from the practical and legal parts of the