Imágenes de páginas

So that, while our West India and North American colonies, under this protective system, support 1,196,854 tons of British shipping against 3,724 of foreign, or 300 to 1 nearly; the American trade with the United States only maintains 437,095 of British against 651,189 of foreign; in other words about 2 to 3 nearly! But the Free-traders think it better to adopt the system which makes the foreign shipping to the British as 3 to 2, than uphold the one which has brought the foreign shipping to the British, in the colonial trade, as 1 to 300!

Observe, too the decisive proof which the same return affords of the vast superiority, in every point of view, of our colonial trade to our foreign, even in the hands of our best free-trade customers, the Americans. For while less than 3,000,000 of souls between the West Indian and North American colonies furnished employ ment to 1,197,000 tons of British and foreign shipping, of which 1,193,000 was British; twenty millions of Americans in the United States only furnished employment to 1,088,284 tons of shipping, in all of which no more than 437,095 were British! And this is the pet instance of the Free traders their favourite cheval de bataille-to demonstrate the great superiority of free and foreign over protected and

colonial trade!

Again, if we take the comparative progress of British and American tonnage in conducing the trade of the United States, since the reciprocity system was begun in 1823, the same conclusion is forced upon the mind. Not only is the American shipping, throughout the whole period, superior to the British in the proportion generally of 3 to 1, but this superiority in their favour remains undiminished in any material degree. We take the following returns from Mr. Porter:

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

American tons inwards. 165,699











It is easy to see how it has happened that, in competition with the shipowners of every country, the British shipowners have suffered so much under the partial operation of the free-trade principles which the reciprocity system has afforded. It is the inevitable fate of the old and the rich state, in shipbuilding and agriculture to be undersold by the young and the poor one. The reason that the old state, by the very magnitude of its wealth, the amount of its transactions, the number of its inhabitants, the multitude of its fabrics, is obliged to pay much higher for labour and materials of all sorts than the young and the poor one. Machinery and the steam engine compensate, and more than compensate, this superiority in regard to manufactured articles. England undersells Hindostan where wages are a penny or twopence a day, by the work of steam-power looms working on cotton raised on the banks of the Ganges. But there is no steam-power loom in shipbuilding any more than in agri. culture. Great things in nautical affairs, as in rural economy, can be effected only by the labour of man's hands and the sweat of his brow, in the last ages of civilization, as in the first. It would appear to be a permanent law of nature, to which there is no exception in any age of the world, or any stage of human progress, that the chief branches of industry on which the subsistence and defence of nations rest-agriculture, and the naval and military arts-are pursued more cheaply and with more success by young and rising than old and opulent states. History is full of examples in which the manufactures of rich and ancient nations have obtained an undisputed supremacy over the fabrics of poor and rising ones; but it presents still more examples of the encroachments made on the industry and power of old nations by the agricultural produce, or naval and military efforts of young ones. It is this law of nature which provides for the decay and ruin of nations when they are approaching the limit of their allotted state of existence, and should give place to others entering on the career which they have terminated. No efforts of human energy or virtue can prolong, for any considerable

period, this allotted space. But it is the peculiar reproach of free trade whether applied to agriculture or nautical affairs, that it tends to shorten, instead of prolonging, the life of the nation to which it is applied, by oppressing instead of relieving those vital branches of industry on which its existence depends, and thus both aggravates the natural evils incident to old age, and accelerates the approach of the political society to the tomb.

When Mr. Huskisson, in 1823, introduced the Reciprocity System, he did not dispute that it would injure our maritime interests; but he contended that it would open a new field for our manufactures, that the time had now arrived when the Protective System could no longer be maintained, and it had become indispensable to sacrifice to a certain extent our maritime interests, in order to preserve the chief vents on Continental Europe for the industry of our artizans. The sacrifice was made, and the tables already given show with what fatal effect to our shipping interest. Has it extended the market for our manufactures, or diminished the jealousy with which they are regarded by the states of Continental Europe? Let the Zollverein league, at the head of which Prussia has placed herself, and which has imposed duties to an amount, in practical operation, of fifty per cent. on our manufactures, give the answer. The exports which we send to the states of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Prussia, are still after a quarter of a century's experience of the immense impulse it has given to their maritime interests, and corresponding depression to ours, a perfect trifle.* Our exports to America are less than they were fifteen years ago, despite the boasted conciliatory effect of twenty years' reciprocity. What can be more injudicious, therefore, than to

[blocks in formation]

persist in and even extend a system which, without diminishing in the slightest degree the jealousy of Continental nations at our manufacturing superiority, has inflicted a serious and gratuitous wound on the naval resources by which alone that superiority can be maintained?

We have recently made a very great stride in free-trade principles, by the sacrifice of our agricultural protection, and the throwing open the English markets to cultivators of all nations. In the three last months of 1846, and even of 1847, in consequence of the import duties being removed, above £30,000,000 sterling was sent out of the country to purchase foreign grain; and the moderate duty of eight shillings a quarter has since been reimposed on wheat,-yet it terminates in February next, and corn from all quarters will then be admitted for the nominal duty of one shilling a quarter. We have abandoned the protection of our colonies to conciliate the slavegrowing states, and augment the market for Manchester goods in Cuba and Brazil. With what disastrous effects these changes have been attended, upon the best interests of the empire, need be told to none who are familiar with the total ruin which has in consequence overtaken our West India colonies, and the unprecedented distress which prevails in all the great seats of our manufacturing industry. The loss of half the realized wealth of Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow, and the creation or nearly a hundred thousand persons, including dependants, in a state of pauperism, in each of those once rich and prosperous cities, is the price which, in a year and a half, we have paid for the adoption by Sir R. Peel of Mr. Cobden's principles of free-trade, and Mr. Jones Loyd's principles of a fettered curHave we, in consequence, reaped any countervailing advantage,





PORTER'S Progress of the Nation, p. 366, 2d edition.

+ Exports to United States of America :

£12,425,605 7,938,079 PORTER, ibid.

and import trade show any benefit derived to the nation, to compensate such dreadful wounds inflicted on its internal prosperity, in the attempt to disarm the jealousy of foreign manufacturers? So far from it, our exports and imports have steadily declined since free-trade principles were introduced. All the main sources of our strength have diminished since Sir R. Peel abandoned protection in July 1846. In adopting these principles, we have gratuitously inflicted a grievous wound on our own people, without having obtained for them the shadow even of a benefit to compensate the evil.

or does the increase of our export of adding a fifth to the apparent tonnage of all British vessels, subsequent to that date. This change was clearly proved by the witnesses examined before the Commons' Committee; but though Mr. Porter, in his last edition of the Progress of the Nation, mentions the change, (p. 368), he makes no allusion to it in comparing the amount of British and foreign tonnage since 1834. Of course a fifth must be deducted from British tonnage, as compared with foreign, since that time; and what overwhelming force does this give to the facts, already strong, in regard to the effect of the reciprocity system on our maritime interests!

Such have been the effects of freetrade principles on the comparative prosperity of British and foreign shipping, on the showing of the Freetraders themselves, and according to the figures which their great statis. tician, Mr. Porter, has prepared and published at the Board of Trade. We were unwilling to mix up a great national question, such as the repeal of the Navigation Laws, with any subordinate examination as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of the view of our maritime affairs which these figures exhibit. Such is the strength of the case, that it will admit of almost any concession; and the opponents of their repeal have no occasion to go farther than to the statistics of their adversaries for the most decisive refutation of their principles. But there are two observations on the tables published by the Board of Trade, so important that they cannot be passed over in silence. The first is, tha in 1834, when Mr. Poulett Thomson was president of the Board of Trade, a regulation was made by the Board as to the measurement of vessels, which had the effect


British Produce and
Declared Value.

1845 1846


The second is, that the tonnage with countries near Great Britain, such as France, Belgium, and Holland, includes steam vessels carrying passengers and their repeated voyages. In this way a boat, measuring 148 tons, and carrying passengers chiefly comes to figure in the returns for 24,000 tons! It is evident that this important circumstance deprives the returns of such near states of all value in the estimate of the comparative amount of tonnage engaged in the trade with different countries. That with France will appear greatest in spring 1848, in consequence of the number of large vessels then employed in bringing back English residents expelled by, or terrified at, the Revolution-though that circumstance was putting a stop to nearly all the commercial intercourse between the two countries. As steam navigation has so immensely increased since 1834, when the changes in the measurement was introduced-and Great Britain, from its store of coal and iron, enjoys more of that traffic than all Europe put together-this is another circumstance



Not yet made up.

-Porter's Parl. Tables; and Parl, Paper, 3d April 1848.




which militates against the returns as exhibiting a fair view of our trade, compared with that of foreign nations, especially with near countries, and fully justifies Mr. Porter's admission, when examined before the Lords' committee, that "considerable fallacy is to be found in the returns." Unfortunately for the Free-traders, however, who had the preparation of them in their hands, these fallacies all point one way-viz., to augment the apparent advantages of free-trade in shipping.

Such as free-trade principles are, they are evidently not likely to remain, if these islands are excepted, Jong in the ascendant either in the Old or the New World. The American tariff shows us how little we have to expect from Transatlantic favour to our manufactures; the savage expulsion of English labourers from France, how far the principles of " Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," are likely to be acted upon by our enthusiastic and democratic neighbours on the Continent of Europe. It is clear from the communist and socialist principles now in the ascendant, both at Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, that the interests of labour will above all things be considered by their gov ernments in future times, and that the must rigorous measures, in the form of fiscal regulations, if not absolute prohibition, may shortly be expected in France, Italy, and Germany, against manufactures of any sort which interfere, or seem to interfere, with the interests of the dominant multitude of operatives. Why does our government adhere so strongly, in the face of the clearest evidence of their ruinous tendency, to the present system of free trade and a fettered currency? Because it works well for the great capitalists, who desire to have money dear, and the great manufacturers, who wish to have labour cheap, and because a majority of the House of Commons has been placed by the Reform Bill under their influence. Give the operatives the majority, and the opposite interest will instantly prevail. A successful Chartist revolt would at once send the whole free trade and fettered currency measures by the board in three months. In truth, it is the disasters they have produced

which has revived Chartism, and rendered it so menacing in the land. We should like to see how long a legislature, elected by universal suffrage, would allow Spitalfields and Macclesfield to be pauperized by Lyons silks, and Manchester invaded by Rouen cottons, and the shipwrights of Hull and Sunderland to be ruined by Baltic shipbuilders. As the operative classes have obtained the ascendency in the principal Continental states, a similar jealousy of foreign interference with industry may with certainty be looked for in Continental Europe. Can anything be more insane, therefore, than to persist in a policy fraught, as every thing around us demonstrates, with such ruinous social injury to ourselves, and which the progress of political change on the Continent renders incapable of producing the ultimate benefits, in exchange for those evils which their authors hold out as the inducing causes of the measures which have produced them?

While the political changes which have recently occurred on the Continent of Europe have rendered any reciprocity of advantages utterly hopeless from the most violent adoption of free-trade principles, they have augmented in a proportional degree the dangers to this country of foreign aggression, and the risk to be apprehended from any diminution of our naval resources. The days have gone by when the dream of a free trade millennium, in which a reciprocity of advantages is to extinguish all feelings of hostility, and war is to be looked back to as a relic of the preAdamite world, can with safety be indulged. It is rather too late to think of the termination of the angry passions of men, when Europe, in its length and breadth, is devastated alike by civil dissension and foreign warfare; when barricades have so recently been erected in all its chief capitals; when bloodshed is hourly expected in Paris and Berlin; when the Emperor of Austria has fled to Innspruck; when every station in London was, only a few days ago, occupied by armed battalions; and when a furious war, rousing the passions of whole races of men, is raging on the Mincio and the Elbe. Threatened by a raging fire in all the countries by which we

are surrounded, uncertain whether we are not slumbering on the embers of a conflagration in our own, is this the time to relax in our warlike preparations, and, by crippling the nursery of our seamen, expose ourselves, without the means of resistance, to the assaults of hostile nations, envious of our fame, jealous of our manufactures, covetous of our wealth, desirous of our ruin? While Western Europe is torn by revolutionary passions, and the seeds of a dreadful, because a popular and general war, are rapidly springing to maturity, from the Seine to the Vistula, Russia is silently but unceasingly gathering up its giant strength, and the Czar has already 300,000 men, and 800 pieces of cannon, ready to take the field against the revolutionary enthusiasts of France and Germany. Sooner or later the conflict must arrive. It is not unlikely that either a second Napoleon will lead another crusade of the western nations across the Niemen, or a second Alexander will conduct the forces of the desert to the banks of the Seine. Which ever proves victorious, England has equal cause for apprehension. If the balance of power is subverted on Continental Europe, how is the independence of this country to be maintained? How are our manufactures or revenue to be supported, if one prevailing power has subjugated all the other states of Europe to its sway? It is hard to say whether, in such circumstances, we should have most to dread from French fraternity or Russian hostility. But how is the balance of power to be preserved in Europe, amidst the wreck of its principal states,-when Prussia is revolutionized, and has passed over to the other side; when Austria is shattered and broken in pieces, and Italy has fallen under the dominion of a faction, distinguished, beyond anything else, by its relentless hatred of the aristocracy, and jealousy of the fabrics of England? What has Great Britain to rely on in such a crisis, but the energy of its seamen, and the might of its navy, which might at least enable it to preserve its connexion with its own colonies, and maintain, as during the Continental blockade, its commerce with Transatlantic nations? And yet this is the moment which our rulers have selected for destroying the

Navigation Laws, so long the bulwark of our mercantile marine, and permitting all the world to make those inroads on our shipping, which have already been partially effected by the nations with whom we have concluded reciprocity treaties.

The defence of Great Britain must always mainly rest on our navy, and our navy is almost entirely dependent on the maintenance of our colonies. It is in the trade with the colonies that we can alone look for the means of resisting the general coalition of the European powers, which is certain, sooner or later, to arise against our maritime superiority, and the advent of which the spread of democratic principles, and the sway of operative jealousy on the Continent, is so evidently calculated to accelerate. But how are our colonies to be preserved, even for a few years, if free trade severs the strong bond of interest which has hitherto attached them to the mother country, and the repeal of the Navigation Laws accustoms them to look to foreigners for the means of conducting their mercantile transactions? Charged with the defence of a colonial empire, which encircles the earth, and has brought such countless treasures and boundless strength to the parent state, Great Britain, on land, is only a fourth-rate power, at least for Continental strife. At Waterloo, even, she could only array fortyfive thousand men, to contend with the conqueror of Europe for her existence. It is in our ships we must look for the means of maintaining our commerce, and asserting our independence against manufacturing jealousy, national rivalry, and foreign aggression. Is our navy, then, to be surrendered to the ceaseless encroachments of foreigners, in order to effect a saving of a few millions a-year on freights, reft from our own people, and sapping the foundations of our national independence?

How can human wisdom or foresight, the energy of the Anglo-Saxons, or the courage of the Normans, maintain, for any length of time, our independence, in the perilous position into which free-trade policy has, during the short period it has been in operation, brought us? The repeal of the Corn Laws has already brought an importa

« AnteriorContinuar »