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wards found the distress of the manufacturing interest visited on the growers of corn and the raisers of every kind of agricultural produce. From these alternate visitations, who could fail to see that the order of Nature had linked together all the interests of men in society, and that it was nothing less than the height of folly and madness, to attempt to prop up any one class at the expense of another ? The house had pronounced an opinion, some years ago, on the extent to which the principle of the corn laws should be carried, and he would not now go into an inquiry which he thought already disposed of--namely, whether the agricultural interest was sufficiently protected. He could not, however, help observing, that in looking at the petitions on the table, the opinion, that this country ought to be rendered independent of foreign corn, seemed to be adopted in some of them. The petitioners wished for prices which would give them the advantage they possessed in time of war ; but they ought to consider, that the effect of the continued operation of high prices must be to leave no country open for export. What then would be the result of sudden depression ? If an extraordinarily abundant harvest produced low prices, the farmer would be ruined by a revulsion in prices without its natural remedy, and the manufacturer would participate in his distress. The lesson of experience on this subject would not be forgotten by their Lordships. In considering a part they would look to the whole, and would not allow themselves to be seduced by views of partial interests, from devoting their attention to the effect of any measure which might be proposed, on the general prosperity of the whole country. There were some speculative persons to be found, who thought that this country would be more prosperous were it independent of manufactures, and that it would be desirable to establish its interest solely on the basis of agriculture as the most sound and invariable, though necessarily the most liniited. Without entering into the discussion of the question of the advantage or disadvantage of manufactures, it was sufficient to call to recollection that this was a subject on which the country had no longer a choice. Commerce and manufactures had made the country what it was, and by them alone could it be maintained in the rank to which it had been raised. No axiom was more true than this—that it was by growing what the territory of a country could grow most cheaply, and by receiving from other countries what it could not produce except at a greater expense, that the greatest degree of happiness was to be communicated to the greatest extent of population. No man could anticipate the loss of foreign commerce without at the same time contemplating a reduction of the population of the country in a way which would produce the most deplorable distress. Whether the population were to be estimated at 12 millions, or more or less, if the number created and supported by foreign commerce be three, or two, or one, what would be the consequence of its loss? However small the proportion of the population the destruction of which might be contemplated, it could not be annihilated by any process, however gradual, without the greatest suffering, not contined to that portion only, but at the same time inflicting miseries not to be described on the remaining portion. Whatever inquiry was instituted, whatever measure might be adopted, their Lordships must proceed upon the principle of protecting all those interests which had made the country a great agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing nation. No interest could be separated, for all the various classes of the community depended on each other; and it might be said of each, as the poet had finely said of man in society
“ He, like the generous vine, supported lives,
“ The strength he gains is from th' embrace he gives." He was, however, aware that their Lordships must not proceed rashly, and that the investigation into which he trusted they would enter required the greatest deliberation, for there were many difficulties to be overcome. He remembered to have heard an anecdote relative to an interview between Dr. Adam Smith and Mr. Burke, which was very applicable to the present subject :- Dr. Smith reproached Mr. Burke for not at once proposing the abolition of the laws against forestalling, and asked what prevented Parliament from passing an act to declare forestalling free? Mr. Burke, in reply, remarked, “You Doctor, in your Professor's chair, may deal with these propositions as with the pure mathematics; we statesmen must lay our account to the resistance of prejudice and the force of error." He knew their Lordships would have much of prejudice to contend with in the course of their inquiry, and many interests to consider in connexion with the question of foreign commerce. He thought it therefore necessary to call their attention to the nature of the general distress, which formed the ground for their investigation. For a long period, owing to the nature of the warfare in which Europe had been involved, whether originating in the unbounded ambition of an individual, or the weakness and want of principle in governments, or some new and irresistible current in the opinions of mankind, every nation in Europe had made unusual exertions and undergone an unusual excitement; whatever had been the cause, the effect was, that nations had been induced to live on their capital instead of their revenue; and a consequence of this state of things was, that a numerous population had been called into existence by a great artificial demand for labor. It was, however, impossible that this state of expenditure could continue; but the population remained when the capital was gone, and the quantity of supply of labor, when the demand had ceased for it, was the great cause of the existing distress. Those countries which, from their financial system and their geographical situation, were enabled to expend most of their capital, and for a time to give encouragement to the greatest quantities of productive labor, have mortgaged their revenues, and are in a situation to feel the general distress in a greater degree than poorer countries, which could not spend their capital. Such had been the effect produced by the great expenditure their Lordships bad experienced. This he took to be the situation of the country, and it afforded a just, if not a satisfactory answer, to a question put to their Lordships by the petitioners of Birmingham-Why, when there was so much plenty in the land, so much distress was felt? The circumstances which he had mentioned, must be kept iu view when their Lordships' attention was to be directed to find a remedy for the distress which he had described. The most obvious remedy then was, to create a demand for our labor and our manufactures, and the most obvious mode of creating that demand was, to encourage and to extend our foreign trade by removing some of those restrictions by which it was shackled. In looking towards such a relaxation, two things ought to be kept in view by their Lordships : first, the necessity of maintaining our revenue ; and, secondly, the justice and expediency of consulting those interests which were vested in our existing trade, on the faith of the continuance of the regulations under which it was now carried on. But if those things were not to be lost sight of-they ought not to prevent changes which bigher interests and a wiser policy demanded. With the necessity of attending to them, their Lordships ought to recollect that the policy which they involved was a departure from that which was dictated by sounder principles of political economy, and therefore ouglit to be limited to what the strict nature of the case required. They ought, in short, to recollect, that perfect freedom of trade should be the rule, and restraint only the exception. (Hear.) On this principle he would arrange the different points on which he meant to touch, and recommend the relaxations which he might venture to suggest. Without entering then into particular branches of our trade, or specifying particular articles, he would first of all venture to say, ifit were only for the sake of getting rid of a principle as obnoxious to other countries as it was unsuitable to our own policy, that there ought to be no prohibitory duties, as such—that where a manufacture could not be carried on, or a production raised, but under the protection of a prohibitory duty, that manufacture or that produce must be brought to market at a loss. The name of prohibition night therefore in commerce be got rid of altogether; but he did not see the same objection to protecting duties, which, while they admitted of the introduction of commodities from abroad, similar to those which
we ourselves manufactured, placed them so much on a level as to allow a competition between them. The next point to which he would advert was one of more practical and immediate importance, as it affected a principle on which the government of this country bad long been carried on, and in the observance of which it had attained its present power and greatness--he meant the principle of the navigation-laws. The relaxation which he would propose in those laws was not of a nature, nor to an extent, which ought to excite any jealousy in those who looked to them as one of the sources of our national security, nor any, alarm in the ship-owners and others, whose interests considered as so intimately connected with their strict maintenance. All the relaxation he would suggest would be, to allow produce from all parts of Europe to be imported, without making it necessary that it should be altogether in English-built ships, or in ships belonging to the nation whence the produce comes. At present a vessel which had taken part of its cargo in a French port, and which afterwards had proceeded to a Flanders port for the remainder, could not enter a British port. All that he would propose would be, to allow such a vessel to make good its assortment in different ports in Europe, and still to have the right of entering this country. He would make one exception to this relaxation of the navigation-laws--he would not allow the importation of colonial produce in this manner. The third point to which he would advert was one of no inconsiderable importance in itself, and of still greater consequence from the principle which it involved-he meant an entire freedom of the transit trade. Such a change would tend to encourage the warehousing system, and would thus promote the desirable object of rendering our ports the depôt of other foreign nations. Whatever brought the foreign merchant to this country, and made it a general mart-a depôt for the merchandise of the world, which might be done consistently with the levying of a small duty, was valuable to our trade, and enriched the industrious population of our ports.
Such freedom of transit allowed of assortment of cargoes for foreign markets, and thus extended our trade in general. He was aware that the abolition of transit duties was formerly opposed by those who wished to protect the linen trade of Ireland, and he willingly allowed that that trade descrved peculiar protection. A duty of 15 per cent. on the importation of foreign linens was, during the war, thought necessary to protect the linen manufactures of Ireland. No injury resulted from that arrangement while we engrossed the commerce of the world, while no vessel could sail without a British convoy, and while we could force our own comniodities into foreign markets in preference to others, for which there was a greaier demand; but now
the case was altered, and many who were interested in the linen manufacture of Ireland thought a relaxation of the transit duty advisable. Indeed it could not be forgotten, that this manufacture had Aorished to as great an extent as ever before it was protected by any duty; but whatever was the policy of imposing that duty or continuing it during the war, the same reasons would not now justify its continuance. If we refused to admit German linen without the payment of a transit duty, the foreigner would rather go to Germany for the article; he would then either pay the duty which we imposed, or take a less valuable article as a substitute; and as linen might be a necessary article in the assortment of his cargo, this duty would drive him away altogether, even when desirous of obtaining other articles which our soil or industry could supply. He wished to see the linen trade of Ireland protected, but he was sure that a transit duty could not afford it that protection. He now came to a fourth point, which involved important interests—he meant the state of the trade with the north of Europe, and the duties imposed on the importation of timber from that quarter. But first of all, before he touched on the policy of such duties, and the grounds on which their continuance was defended, he must recall to the recollection of their Lordships the circumstances in which they originated. These high duties, then, were not imposed as a part of our permanent colonial sys tem, nor were they imposed for the express advantage of the shipowners, who had now such an interest in their continuance. Neither was any pledge given, or hopes held out to the ship-owners, the time, that the duties were to be maintained for their benefit. The measure was expressly of a temporary nature, and was necessarily to be brought under review in March next. The interests now vested in the timber-trade to our North American Colonies grew out of what was considered as a temporary arrangement, and had of course
no security against a change which the general interests of the nation might require. It would easily be allowed, that the shipping interest did feel, and were justified in feeling, a strong reluctance to the removal of a tax, which, by allowing the country to obtain timber nearer home, would throw many vessels out of employment belonging to that respectable body. The navigation-laws of the country, with which they connected their interests, he was by no means prepared to condemn in principle; but was prepared to submit, that however desirable a perfect freedom of trade might be, there might be found instances in which, from political considerations, advantage and security were to be purchased by promoting an expensive navigation of British vessels. But it was one thing to agree to the justness of a principle properly restricted, and another to admit its unlimited operation; and nothing,