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JOSEPH MARRYAT, ESQ.,
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
MONDAY, JUNE 5, 1820,
Petition of the Ship Dwners
OF THE PORT OF LONDON,
AGAINST ANY ALTERATION IN THE DUTIES
PUBLISHED BI THE COMMITTEE OF THE SOCIETY
OF SHIP OWNERS.
I feel it my duty to bear my testimony to the truth of the allegations contained in the petition now in the hands of my honorable friend, the Member for the City of London; and to give my best support to the prayer of the petitioners.***
They state that they are laboring under great and serious difficulties, as well from the depression of commerce, as from the competition of foreign ship owners : and the facts of the case unfortunately bear them out too well in the assertion; for no description of property bas, Dobelieve, been depreciated to suche an extent as that of the British ship owners. I admit, that on the breaking out of the late war, the value of shipping rose, the rate of freight advanced, and that the ship owners, in common with the landbolders, the manufacturers, and all other classes of the conmunity, enjoyed for a time a considerable share of prosperity. Ships, however, are but of limited duration; they last from fifteen to twenty years, according to the goodness of the materials of which they are built. The war continued more than twenty years ; and therefore almost every merchant vessel now in use, has been built at the high rate of war charges. The war gave us a monopoly of the carrying trade of almost all the world, and ships were built to meet the demand; but at the peace we restored most of the colonies we had conquered, to their former owners, and each nation resumed that share of commerce which she had formerly enjoyed.
To add to the distress of the ship owners, near a thousand sail of vessels which had been engaged in the transport service, were at that very time discharged. The surplus of tonnage then became so great, that it was impossible to procure employment for vessels, even at freights which would pay the expenses of navigating them; and the consequence was, a great depreciation in their value. In proof of this, I will state to the House, that about the year 1810, I built one ship and purchased another, of rather more than four hundred tons burden. Each of these ships cost me 14,0001. The depreciation in their value, arising from age, may be estimated at 5,0001.; but such has been the fall in the price of ships, that these vessels are only valued, in the policies of insurance effected upon them for the voyages on which they are now engaged, at 3,8001. each.
It would be unfair not to admit, that the return of peace did fortunately open some new channels of trade, which provided employment for part of our surplus shipping. The private trade to lodia, which was opened on the renewal of the Company's charter, was one of this description; and according to the statement of a noble Lord in another place, 61,000 tons of British shipping were employed in it last year. The losses, however, in this branch of trade, have been so great, that many of the ships at first engaged in it have quitted it for the timber trade to the British Colonies in North Americayl and others are daily following their example. Peace also restored a free communication between the powers in the Mediterranean, and for some time we enjoyed almost a monopoly of their carrying trade. It is well kuown that the British flag was the only European flag respected by the Barbary powers. Our ships therefore, navigated the Mediterranean in perfect security, and were insured at peace premiums; while those of other nations were exposed to capture, and consequently were obliged to pay war premiums. Indeed, they had not only to insure their ships and cargoes, but their crews also ; for such policies were frequently effected at Lloyd's. The masters were usually valued at 1001., the mates at 801., and the seamen at 501. each ; which sums, in case of capture, were appropriated to the redemption of the parties. This state of things gave us so decided a superiority in the carrying trade of the Mediterranean, that not less than five hundred sail.of British ships were employed in the corn trade, between the Black Sea and the different ports of Italy, exclusive of the trade from one part of the Mediterranean to another., But, Sir, in one of those fits of magnanimity to which we became subject, in consequence of being hailed as the deliverers of Europe, we thought proper tu equip an armament against the Dey of Algiers, (the only ally who remained faithful to us during the whole war,) in order to put an end to the predatory practices of the Barbary powers : and we certainly did achieve the liberation of about five bundred Sardinians, Neapolitans, and other foreigners, at the expense of the limbs and lives of a far greater number of British seamen, of more (as I understand) than a million of money; and the farther expenses of throwing about eight hundred British ships and ten thousand British seamen out of employment for the result of this enterprise was that all other European powers could navigate the Mediterranean with the same security as ourselves, and being able to sail at less expense than we can do, they immediately supplanted us in this carrying trade, which does not, I believe, give employment to one single British ship at the present moment. The other branch of trade which opened on the return of peace, and by far the most extensive and important of the whole, is the timber trade with the British Colonies in North America, which last year employed no less than one thousand five hundred and twenty sail of vessels, oof three hundred and forty thousand tons burden, and navigated by seventeen thousand six hundred British seamen. As I before obsérved, the private trade to India is on the decline, and the carrying trade in the Mediterranean is totally lost; this trade therefore, is the sheet anchor, the last remaining hope of the ship owners; and the House cannot wonder at the alarm they express in their petition, at an attempt to deprive them of this their only resource.
So far from the interests of the ship owners being in an improving state, the depreciation in their property is increasing more rapidly than ever, as I shall prove, by quoting actual sales of slnips, which have taken place within these few months, owing to the insolvency of their owners. The Sesostris, of four hundred and eighty-seven tons burden, was launched in 1818, and cost:12,175. She was sold in 1820, after having made one voyage, for 6,300l. The Midas, of four hundred and twenty tons, was valued in 1818, at 6, sool, was repaired and coppered that yearat Liverpool,at an expense of 3,500l.; and in 1820, was sold for 3,200l. The Hebe, of four hundred and seventeen tons, Was valued in 1818, at 0,0001.; and sold in 1820, for 3,260.. The St. Patrick cost, in repairs and fitting, in 1818, independent of the then value of the sbip, 7,1001.; and sold in 1820, for 3,0001. The Lady Raffles, of six hundred and forty-six tons, was built in 1817, and cost 23,000l.; after making one voyage only, she was sold in 1820, for between 12 and 13,0001. These facts show the utter inability of the ship owners to bear any farther disadvantage, and that the loss of the timber trade with the British Colonies in North America, must complete their ruin.
If it is supposed that the ships and seamen now employed in bringing timber from the British Colonies, might be engaged in the same trade to the north of Europe, the answer is, that two circum