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This, sir, is the attention which our great rival is paying to these important subjects, and we may assure ourselves that, if we do not keep alive a proper sense of our own interests, she will not only beat us, but will deserve to beat us.
Sir, I will detain you no longer. There are some parts of this Bill which I highly approve; there are others in which I should acquiesce; but those to which I have now stated my objections appear to me so destitute of all justice, so burdensome and so dangerous to that interest which has steadily enriched, gallantly defended, and proudly distinguished us, that nothing can prevail upon me to give it my support
Since the delivery of this Speech, an arrival has brought London papers containing the Speech of the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, (Mr. Robinson,) on the 23d February last, in submitting to Parliament the Annual Financial Statement. The author hopes he may be pardoned for adding the following extract from that Speech, as showing, pretty clearly, whether he was right, in his representation of the prevailing sentiment, in the English Government, on the general subject of prohibitory laws, and on the silk manufacture, and the wool tax, particularly.
"In the earlier part of what I have taken the liberty of addressing to the Committee, I alluded to that portion of this question which refers to a more free and liberal system of policy in matters of trade. To this division of the subject, I will now particularly invite attention. There are, as of course Honorable Gentlemen are aware, various branches of our commerce, loaded on the one hand with high duties upon the importation, and which, in an opposite direction, are encumbered with restrictions and prohibitions of different kinds. Amongst these is the article of wool (Hear.) As the law now stands, (which, by the way, as far as duty is concerned, is of very recent establishment,) the duty is 6d per lb.; it was originally one penny. This duty was imposed in the year 1819, not at all, as has been often in my opinion, and indeed in the opinion also of my noble friend at the head of the Treasury, very inaccurately stated, for the purpose of protection, but merely with a view to the increase of the revenue. But the parties interested, and who sought the abrogation of this law, were always told: You have no right to object to that duty, so long as you require that the produce of the British wool-grower should be confined to the consumption of this country,' (Hear.) It was never concealed, either in this House, or from the persons engaged in the trade; we constantly said, 'If you will consent to the removal of that impolitic restriction, as we consider it, upon the export of British wool, we will propose in Parliament the repeal of the duty.' The discussion of this subject led to a good deal of communication, in the last year, with the manufacturing interests, in different parts of the country they held meetings, at which various resolutions were adopted: as may be supposed, it was found in the result, that there existed a discordance of opinion on the question at issue. Some were disposed to think that the repeal of the duty would be less of a benefit to them, than the removal of the restriction would be an evil; they were therefore desirous that the matter should be left just as it stands, and that no alteration should be made; they were anxious indeed to get rid of the duty, but not at the expense of the loss of the protection they imagined the restriction afforded them. Undoubtedly, however, a majority, I may say a decided majority, of the interests concerned in the woollen trade, were of opinion, that it would be beneficial to them to accede to that sort of compromise, that the duty should be repealed, and a free export of the article permitted. I confess, on the best and most deliberate view I have been able to take of the subject, I cannot see what reasonable objection there can be to adopt such a plan. (Hear, hear.) Certainly, a part of the plan I shall submit to Parliament, will be, to reduce the duty on foreign wool, from 6d. per pound, which it is at present, to Id. per pound, as it was originally before the bill of 1819. I shall then recommend that British wool be allowed to be exported, on the payment of a small duty of 1d. also, to put them upon a level, and to keep the balance even between the two. Thus shall we sweep away needless, and, as I think, injurious statutes of restriction, and not
merely those, but penalties, oaths, and Heaven knows what besides. (Hear, hear.) All of these are exceedingly inconvenient, and, what is more, they do no possible good. Thus, the whole trade will be put upon a footing, which, I am quite confident, will turn out to be most beneficial to both parties-the grower of British wool and the manufacturer of the foreign article. On that matter I feel none of the apprehensions which at times have been expressed by both parties. I am satisfied that the consequence of the change will be a great extension of our woollen trade to every quarter of the world; and it is beyond my comprehension to imagine how such a state of things can be otherwise than advantageous to those who sell the raw material-(Hear!)-therefore I see nothing but good to result from the repeal of the duty, and the removal of the restriction; and I hope that, in endeavouring to accomplish this object, I shall be supported by the House. (Much cheering.) The loss I anticipate to the revenue from such a proceeding, is 350,000l. per annum. The next item to which I shall call the attention of the Committee, is one which, I own, appears to be of paramount importance in this view of the subject. I mean in that view of the subject which relates to the removal of restrictions. I allude to the item of silk. (Hear.) This trade is thus circumstanced: there is a very high duty on the raw material, and a positive prohibition of the consumption of the foreign manufactured article. I will, with the leave of the Committee, take the latter first; and, in the outset, I should wish to ask, where is the advantage of retaining the prohibitory system. (Hear, hear.) Where is the advantage of retaining it, looking at it either with reference to our intercourse with other nations, or with reference to our own domestic interests? (Hear.) For some years past there has certainly prevailed in this country, among its ablest statesmen and our most eminent writers, I should say, indeed, among all men of sense and reflection, a decided conviction that the maintenance of this prohibitory system is exceedingly impolitic. We have recently made a certain progress towards the removal of the evil. Are we to stop short? If we do stop short, what will foreign nations say, and justly say, of our conduct? Will they not say, that, though we profess liberality, we hate it in our hearts? that we have been endeavouring to cajole them to admit our own manufactures into their territories, while we continue rigidly by every means in our power, and by adhering closely to an antiquated system, to exclude theirs? When our practice is so at variance with our professions, it is impossible that they should give any credit to our assertions. Whenever a foreign state imposes a new duty on any of our manufactures, my right honorable friend, the President of the Board of Trade, is assaulted by representations from all quarters; instant measures are to be adopted to get the duty removed, and we are to remonstrate with the foreign power against its continuance. What would be the consequence? Our Ambassador is instructed to state to the foreign court at which he resides, that the new duty imposed is very injurious to British interests, and is viewed by this country in an unfriendly light. The answer of the foreign minister of course must be- It may be so; we cannot help it; for how can we admit your goods, if you do not admit ours?" With such a reply, the British Ambassador must make his bow and retire, discomfited and ashamed; and I defy the ingenuity of man to invent an argument to refute the powerful argumentum ad hominem of the foreign minister. Other countries must conclude that we are only attempting to delude them; that it is all pretence and hypocrisy on our part; and that we do not really believe that there is practical soundness in the principles we abstractedly recommend. I myself am well satisfied of the practical soundness of those principles, and that we ought to take the first opportunity of adopting them. (Hear, hear) There never was so favorable an opportunity as the present for carrying our principles into effect, and for inviting foreign powers to act in accordance with them. Let us invite them to join with us in cutting the cords that tie down commerce to the earth, that it may soar aloft, unconfined and unrestricted. (Hear, hear.) If ever an opportunity for accomplishing this great good was afforded, it is the moment when I am speaking-and for God's sake let us embrace it. Are not our manufactures now in a state of universal activity? Is not everything in a condition of improvement? And is not capital in eager search of the means by which it may be profitably expended? (Hear, hear.) We have thus the finest opportunity for emancipating ourselves from ancient prejudices, and for making a new start in the race of wealth and prosperity. (Hear, hear.) On these grounds I am anxious to propose the adoption of this liberal system. But give me leave to ask, if there are not many others independent of those merely of a commercial nature, which strongly support it? In the first place, is it not perfectly well known, that, after all, these prohibitions, guard them and fence them with laws as you will, are, in point of fact evaded. (Hear, hear.) I remember, and I dare say many others have not forgotten, when the Hon. Member for Aberdeen, last year, even in this place, produced his Bandana handkerchief: he triumphantly unfurled the standard of smuggling; he hoisted, as it were, the colors of opposition to the Government and its laws, and having complacently blown his nose upon them, he returned them to his pocket. (Cheering and laughter.) He might not know at the time, though I reminded him of it afterwards, that there was not a gentleman near him at the time who had not a right to take possession of that handkerchief and export it to a foreign country. (Hear.) I mention this fact only as a strong practical illustration of the utter impossibility of carrying these prohibitions into complete effect. Everybody who
has been on some parts of the coast, has seen foreign vessels coming in from the neighbouring continent, and has, no doubt, often observed females step out of them, apparently of the most uncomfortable corpulency. In due time, and without any surgical aid, they were safely delivered of their burdens, and were restored to the natural slimness of their graceful figures. (Laughter.) Such I believe to be a very common practice; and there is, in fact, no end to the ingenuity of the devices to introduce contraband articles. Not only ingenuity is displayed, but fraud and crime-perjury, and every possible evil moral consequence. We all know, that crime begets crime; that, in whatever it may begin, a progenies vitiosior always springs up; Nemo repente fuit turpissimus; and a man who begins as a smuggler will probably end as something much worse. Perhaps he smuggles in the first instance only with the innocent purpose of making a present to a female friend or relative; but when a man is accustomed to the violation of the law, he will not find it very difficult, by degrees, to go further. He finds that he cannot effect his object without concealmenthe takes a false oath, and becomes familiarized to that species of perjury. He commences by presents; then thinks he may turn the practice to pecuniary advantage; he smuggles upon a larger scale; he extends his adventures, and instead of gloves, shoes, or silks, he tries the experiment of more valuable articles. He makes money, and in time is induced to embark in more desperate and more criminal speculations. What is the consequence? You are obliged to keep up navy to prevent contraband trade, a circumstance alluded to on a former night. Battle and bloodshed ensue the loss of life, and perhaps deliberate murder. All this is very melancholy, and yet for what is it incurred? Under the fanciful notion that it is for the interest of the silk manufacture of this country. Why, Lord bless me, sir, we know very well, after all, that the British silk manufacture is so highly thought of abroad at this moment, that I believe, if a market were open where the goods of this kingdom should compete with those of any other, the British goods would drive all rivalship out of the field. (Hear, hear, hear.) If this be so, there is not the slightest pretence for saying that, to change the system, would be to injure our silk manufactures. Let us accompany it with a reduction of duty on the raw article, and there is not a foreign country that will not be glad to take our manufactured silks. I, therefore, hope that the House will think it full time to throw down this hollow, gilded, and distorted idol of imaginary protection; to harl it from its base, and to establish on the same foundation the well-proportioned statue of commercial liberty. (Hear, hear, hear.)”
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE TARIFF BILL. MAY 9, 1828.
MR. PRESIDENT,-This subject is surrounded with embarrassments, on all sides. Of itself, however wisely or temperately treated, it is full of difficulties; and these difficulties have not been diminished by the particular frame of this bill, nor by the manner hitherto pursued of proceeding with it. A diversity of interests exist, or is supposed to exist, in different parts of the country. This is one source of difficulty. Different opinions are entertained as to the constitutional power of Congress; this is another. And then, again, different members of the Senate have instructions which they feel bound to obey, and which clash with one another. We have this morning seen an honorable member from New York, an important motion being under consideration, lay his instructions on the table, and point to them, as his power of attorney and as containing the directions for his vote.
Those who intend to oppose this bill, under all circumstances, and in all or any forms, care not how objectionable it now is, or how bad it may be made. Others, finding their own leading objects satisfactorily secured by it, naturally enough press forward, without staying to consider, deliberately, how injuriously other interests may be affected. All these causes create embarrassments, and inspire just fears that a wise and useful result is hardly to be expected. There seems a strange disposition to run the hazard of extremes; and to forget, that in cases of this kind, measure, proportion, and degree are objects of inquiry, and the true rules of judgment. I have not had the slightest wish to discuss the measure; not believing that, in the present state of things, any good could be done by me, in that way. But the frequent declaration that this was altogether a New England measure, a bill for securing a monopoly to the capitalists of the north, and other expressions of a similar nature, have induced me to say a few words.
New England, sir, has not been a leader in this policy. On the contrary, she held back herself and tried to hold others back from it, from the adoption of the constitution to 1824. Up to 1924, she was accused of sinister and selfish designs, because she discountenanced the progress of this policy. It was laid to her charge, then, that having established her manufactures herself, she wished that others
should not have the power of rivalling her; and, for that reason, opposed all legislative encouragement. Under this angry denunciation against her, the act of 1824 passed. Now, the imputation is precisely of an opposite character. The present measure, is pronounced to be exclusively for the benefit of New England; to be brought forward by her agency, and designed to gratify the cupidity of her wealthy establishments.
Both charges, sir, are equally without the slightest foundation. The opinion of New England, up to 1824, was founded in the conviction that, on the whole, it was wisest and best, both for herself and others, that manufactures should make haste slowly. She felt a reluctance to trust great interests on the foundation of government patronage; for who could tell how long such patronage would last, or with what steadiness, skill, or perseverance it would continue to be granted? It is now nearly fifteen years since, among the first things which I ever ventured to say here, was the expression of a serious doubt whether this government was fitted, by its construction, to administer aid and protection to particular pursuits; whether, having called such pursuits into being by indications of its favor, it would not afterwards desert them, when troubles come upon them, and leave them to their fate. Whether this prediction, the result, certainly, of chance, and not of sagacity, will so soon be fulfilled, remains to be seen.
At the same time it is true, that from the very first commencement of the government, those who have administered its concerns have held a tone of encouragement and invitation towards those who should embark in manufactures. All the Presidents, I believe without exception, have concurred in this general sentiment; and the very first act of Congress, laying duties of import, adopted the then unusual expedient of a preamble, apparently for little other purpose than that of declaring, that the duties which it imposed were imposed for the encouragement and protection of manufactures. When, at the commencement of the late war, duties were doubled, we were told that we should find a mitigation of the weight of taxation, in the new aid and succour which would be thus afforded to our own manufacturing labor. Like arguments were urged, and prevailed, but not by the aid of New England votes, when the tariff was afterwards arranged, at the close of the war, in 1816. Finally, after a whole winter's deliberation, the act of 1824 received the sanction of both houses of Congress, and settled the policy of the country. What, then, was New England to do? She was fitted for manufacturing operations, by the amount and character of her population, by her capital, by the vigor and energy of her free labor, by the skill, economy, enterprise, and perseverance of her people. I repeat, What was she, under these circumstances, to do? A great and prosperous rival in her near neighbourhood, threatening to draw from her a part, perhaps a great part, of her foreign commerce: was she to use, or to neglect, those other means of seeking her own prosperity which belonged to her character and her condition? Was she to hold out, forever, against the course of the government, and see herself losing on one side, and yet make no effort to sustain herself on the other? No, sir. Nothing was left to New England, after