Page images
PDF
EPUB

stances render this impossible. In the first place, the voyage to the Baltic is so much shorter than that to North America, that the same trade would not occupy half the number of ships, or men. In the next place, all the trade between Great Britain and her colonies must be carried on in British ships only; but that with the Baltie would be carried on chiefly in foreign ships. I bave moved for returns which will lay the present state of this trade fully before the House; but, in the mean time, I am enabled to state, from official documents, that of 101,117 tons of shipping, employed last year, in the trade between this country and Norway and Sweden, only eighteen thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven tons were British, and eighty-one thousand seven hundred and forty tons were foreign. This must be so in the nature of things'; for timber, iron, hemp, flax, provisions of all sorts, and seameng' wages, are much lower in the north of Europe than in Great Britain. The heavy taxation to which we are necessarily subject, in order to provide for the interest of our national debt, raises the price of labor, and of every thing that is produced by labor; and therefore, to expect that a country burdened with taxation, as this is, can compete with other countries where taxation is comparatively light, is to suppose that a horse staggering under a heavy load, is likely to win a race against one that carries only feather weight. If the present protecting duties, in favor oftimber from the British Colonies onlyare reduced, and the trade transferred to the Baltic, the inevitable consequence will be, that the tonnage ethployed in it will be diminished one half, and that of that half four-fifths will be foreign so that twelve or thirteen hundred sail of British shipping must either remain without employment, or be thrown on the other already overloaded branches of British commerce, to the incalculable injury of ship owners. 21.1200 bag 8161 a 19th valus! 26 Alghero que

The alteration in these profeeting duties was first recommended to the House by the Honorable Member for Taunton, on presenting a pétition from 'certain mercháňts of the City of London, praying for the 'abolition of all duties merely protective from foreign competition. The Right Honorable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who expressed strong objections to taking up the doctrines contained in that petition, as general rules of practice, nevertheless coincided with him in the 'expediency of his suggestion as to the protecting duties on foreign timber, and announced his intention of bringing forward some proposition of that sort, in the course of the present session of Parliament. I really heard that declaration both with surprise and concern'; with surprise, as I had ever been accustomed to hear himn support measures founded on true principles of commercial policy; and with concern, as I am conscientiously persuaded, that of all the wild and extravagant

[ocr errors]

projects that would follow the unqualified adoption of the principles so broadly laid down in that petition, (but. which the Honorable Member who presented it most -judiciously qualified in his speech,) none could be imagined more pregnant with mischief, not only to the interests of the ship owners, but to the best interests of the country at large, tham the very measure which the President of the Board of Trade thought proper to stamp with the seal of his approbationio

190 * 311 913. ': A · Before I point out the mischiefs to which I have alluded, I shall make a few observations upon the specious arguments by which the measure in contemplation has been supported. Iwes

In the first place, it has been argued as if it was a question between parties who have equal claims to our preference ; whereas, in point of fact, it is a question between our owu fellowsubjects and foreigners. We have been told that we ought 10 consider all the world as members of one great family. Now, Sir, I cannot carry my notions of consanguimity quite so far. I am ready to consider all the inhabitants of my own country as one. great family ; but I must consider the inhabitants of all other countries as so many other great families; and when I am called upon to injure my own countrymen in order to benefit them, I look upon the application in the same light as if I were desired to: starve my own children, in order to provide for the children of strangers, and reject it accordingly.

Then, Sir, we are told that the protection we give to the timber trade with our own Colonies, is dictated by a spirit of hostility towards the northern powers of Europe, and has excited great dissatisfaction against us throughout the Continent. The system of imposing protecting duties, in favor of the produce of their colonies, has uniformly been acted upon for centuries past, and continues to be acted upon to the present moment, by every power in Europe; and therefore «no umbrage can reasonably. be taken against us, for adhering to the universal practice. But the complaint, that this branch of trade with our Colonies origi-. nated in a spirit of hostility towards the northern powers, comes with a very bad grace from them, as the truth is, that it originated not only in their hostility, but in their perfidy and ill-faith towards us. These powers, notwithstanding the Berlin and Milan decrees of Buonaparte, continued an intercourse with this country, which was carried on by means of licenses, till the year 1811, when, at the command of their great master and our enemy, by a sudden and simultaneous movement, they confiscated every vessel in their ports that came from this country, together with their cargoes, to the value of not less than seven millions of money. They probably fancied that we were dependent upon

[ocr errors]

them for our supply of timber, hemp, and other naval stores; and that by cutting off all communication with us, they would oblige us to make

peace
on such

terms as they might think proper to impose. . But Great Britain, excluded from the old world, found out a new one in her own Colonies; and discovered resources in them, which enabled her not only to maintain the conlest, but to bring it at length to a successful and glorious termination. She then explored the forests of Canada, and drew from them those supplies of timber which she had formerly procured from the Baltic ; and now, that this trade has grown up to its present height, and is carried on with equal advantage to ourselves, and to our colonies; we must surely be dotards and idiots to sacrifice our mutual prosperity, at the request and for the benefit of those who wish to regain that which they lost i by their own ill-faith and injustice.

Great stress is laid on the advantage we should derive from what is called a more liberal system towards foreign powers; and we are told, that if we take more from them they will take more from us. These cargoes of timber, if imported from our own Colonies, are and must be paid for in goods from this country, as they are allowed no commercial intercourse with any other; but if imported from the Baltic, they will be drawn for in bills of exchange, and the proceeds be invested wherever they can be employed to the best advantage. That foreigners can undersell us; is not only matter of just inference, from the weight of taxation under which we labor, and, from which they are exempt, but is also a plain matter of fact, admitting of demonstration. The Havannah is a free port, into which the goods of all nations are admitted on equal terms: the number of vessels that entered there last year from Great Britain, was less than one in ten of those that entered from the other countries of Europe; a plain proof that nine-tenths of the articles required for the consumption of the inhabitants of Cuba are procured cheaper from other countries than from Great Britain. This fact is confirmed by another, of equal potoriety, that the vessels engaged in the timber trade from the Baltic, instead of taking goods from this country in return for their cargoes, were so generally in the habit of going home in ballast, that in order to encourage them to take some small portion of British manufactures, Order in Council was issued, permitting the masters and crews to ship private ventures for their own account, without subjecting the vessels to any extra expense in clearing at the Custom-house, No great extension of the sale of our manufactures in Europe appears practicable, because every manufacturing nation has adopted a system similar to our own, and endeavours to secure the supply of its home consumption, for the encouragement of

an

the industry of its own subjects. The only marts for our manufactures which we can hope to improve, are our Colonies, and those distant nations who do not manufacture for themselves. Our home consumption, and our Colonies and Dependencies, take off seven-eighths of all our manufactures; and to throw this trade open, as the opposers of all restrictions advise, in order to have a chance of extending the other one-eighth, would be acting with the desperation of a gamester, who would play with the odds seven to one against himself, rather than not play at all.

Another argument used in favor of procuring this timber from the Baltic is, the very inferior quality of that which is brought from North America. It cannot be denied, that all new concers are conducted with less expertness than those which have been long established. The American logs of timber are not so neatly squared as those from the Baltic, and measure to great disadvantage : but I understand that this defect is gradually decreasing, and that the difference between the one and the other, in this respect, will soon be imperceptible. Much of the prejudice entertained against American timber, arose from its being applied to purposes for which it was unfit : some particular descriptions of it, which will last under cover, instead of beiog ușed for inside work, were exposed to the weather, and consequently soon decayed: but as the quality of it became better understood, this objection to it was removed. With respect to its general inferiority, the demand for it, such as it is, and the repute in which it is held, are proved beyond the reach of controversy, by the increase of the trade, from eighty thousand tons of shipping that were employed to bring it in 1811, to three hundred and forty thousand tons in the year 1819.

Other advocates for the Baltic timber assert, that the quantity of tonnage employed in bringing timber from the British Colonies last year, was the effect of over-trading; and that the wood lies on hand and capnot be sold. The increase in the tonnage has not been sudden, but gradual and progressive, and therefore does not wear the appearance of over-trading; but if it really is so losing a trade, it must soon die a patural death, and therefore to put an end to it by new legislative enactments is altogether unnecessary

An Honorable Baronet has told the House, that this timber is not the produce of Capada, but of the United States of America. Admitting this, for the sake of argument, I should say, that whether we procure our timber from one neutral power or from another, is a matter of indifference; but that the securing the freight of it to British ships is a matter of great importance; and that this object, which is effected by importing it from the British

Colonies, would be lost by importing it from the Baltic. I readily concede to the honorable Baronet, that at the commencement of this trade, 'when we were suddenly excluded from the Baltic, the demand for timber was so great, the price so high, and our own establishments for procuring it so inadequate, that the greater part of what was shipped from Canada came from the United States; but I understand that at present dar establishments are competent to the object ; that our own population would be jealous of any interference with the employment on which they depend for subsistence, and that the price of the timber is so low, that it would not bear the charges of a double transport. 'I therefore believe the whole of the actual' import to be the produce of our own Colonies:: dr hann

We are reproached with folly, for bringing timber from such a distance, when we might procare it so much nearer home, and it is wittily observed, that it would be an improvement of the present system, to pass a faw obliging all the vessels engaged in this trade with the British Colonies, to return by the way of the Cape of Good Hope ; or to enact, that the colliers from Newcastle, instead of coming direct to London, should go north-about ; as these measures would give still greater employment to seamen, at the expense of the consumers of the different cargoes. It is easy to place any subject in a ridiculous point of view by exaggeration. In this manner, we likeness is converted into a caricature. The disadvantage to the consumers of timber, in consequenee of its being brought from the British Colonies in North America, is highly exaggerated. If brought from the Baltic, more money 'is paid for the timber and less for the freight; if from our own Colonies in North America, less is paid for the timber and more for the freight; but the price to the consumer is not materially enhanced. If, however, this were the case, Great Britain would be acting on that system of policy which has governed her conduct in various similar instances. It has ever been "her paramount object to keep up a numerous and hardy race of seamen, whose services she may command in time of war; and this she can only accomplish by so extending her carrying trade as to find them employment in time of peace. With this view, she gives encouragement to the Ship Owners, not for their own sakes, but as the only instruments with which she can act, in pursuing her great object, the support of her naval power. With this view she gives bounties upon her fisheries, which this House has thought it wise to renew this present session of Parliament." With this view she prohibits the supply of this metropolis with coals from the nearest mines, by means of canals ; but obliges the inhabitants, by law, to import them coastwise,

VOL. XVII. Pam. NO. XXXIII. E

« PreviousContinue »