§ A Petition of the owners of ships belonging to the port of Scarborough in the county of York, was presented and read; setting forth,
§ "That the ships of the petitioners were formerly chiefly engaged in the coal and Baltic trades, but since the ports of the Baltic have been shut, their principal resource has been and now is in the coal trade, and in bringing timber from the British colonies in North America; and that the petitioners are deeply impressed with a sense of the magnitude and extent of the evils arising from the present system of granting licences to foreign vessels to import timber, deals, staves, and other kinds of wood into this country, to the manifest disadvantage of the British shipping interest, such importations not only interfering most fatally with our trade to the British American colonies, but being also highly injurious to the colonists themselves; and that the House is well aware of the confined trade and depressed state of the shipping interest, from the present unfortunate situation of Europe; but the encouragement given to foreign vessels, and even to those belonging to our enemies, by granting them licences to import wood into this country, has not only increased the depression, but is likely to annihilate the shipping trade to British North America; and if the present system of granting licences is continued, the petitioners are apprehensive it will become ruinous to them, and to the shipping interest at large; and that the petitioners have, with deep regret, foreseen for some time the baneful effect the granting of licences so extensively would produce upon the wise and venerable maritime laws of this country, upon the faith of which they embarked their capitals, in hopes of acquiring a maintenance by their honest exertions in their profession; and 1153 they cannot behold with indifference the encouragement given to foreigners, by aid of British licences, to supply the place of British capital and British industry: besides the evil tendency of the licence system striking at the very root of our navigation laws, the petitioners most deeply deplore that it is the occasion of such systematic falshood, perjury, and depravity, as is highly reprehensible in a moral point of view, and may eventually prove the ruin of the general mercantile interests of the world; and that the petitioners beg leave to state, that the English merchants and ship owners have made every effort in their power to support themselves in a trading competition with those licensed foreigners, by importing timber, deals, &c. from our colonies in America, but the foreigners, being fully employed in the Baltic and Norway trades, have shorter voyages to perform, and being navigated at a less expence than British ships, have such a decided advantage, that neither the English merchant or ship owner can contend against such unfavourable and unnatural circumstances; and that the petitioners most humbly submit to the House, that if necessity renders it indispensable that any part of the licence system should be tolerated, it ought to be confined exclusively to articles of the first necessity, and, in their humble opinion, should not be extended to such commodities as may be procured from our own possessions, or even from any foreign port to which British ships can safely navigate; and that the petitioners view with amazement and concern the extensive and flourishing trade of the northern powers to this kingdom, by the indulgence of licences; in almost every British port, the petitioners see the Danes, Swedes, Russians, and other northern states, display their flags in commercial prosperity, while the commercial flag of Great Britain is never shewn in their ports, except, indeed, when it is seen underneath the flag of a belligerent, to denote the triumph of capturing a British vessel: the rapid improvement in the appearance and skill of foreign seamen since the granting of those licences, is evident to the petitioners, and to all persons who are acquainted with nautical affairs; a hardy and able race of mariners is thus reared, and, whilst our enemies are putting forth all their strength. Great Britain, by the continuance of the system of which the petitioners complain, is vir- 1154 tually suspending that power which has hitherto contributed so essentially to her superiority as a nation; and that the petitioners further beg leave to state, that, as they are well aware of the difficult and critical circumstances of the times, and would most willingly submit to any privation for the general good of the British empire, yet they must, at the same time, most humbly request, that the House will be pleased carefully to investigate the great deviations which have lately been made upon the maritime laws of this kingdom, upon the foundation of which the stupendous fabric of our wealth and powder has been erected, and upon which, in a great measure, the preservation of the British empire depends; and that the petitioners humbly presume that these valuable laws should not be departed from, particularly at a time when our inveterate and strong confederate enemies seem bent upon their destruction; and, therefore, most earnestly praying the House will be pleased to appoint a committee to take into consideration the infringement of the British navigation laws, and particularly to investigate into the necessity of granting licences to foreign vessels to import all sorts of wood into this country."
§ A Petition of several merchants and ship owners of the port of Aberdeen, was also presented and read; setting forth,
§ "That the ships belonging to the port of Aberdeen were heretofore mostly engaged in the coal coasting and foreign trades, but since they have been shut out from the ports of the Baltic, their chief employment has been in bringing timber from the British colonies in North America; and that the present unfortunate state of the continent of Europe has tended, in a high degree, to confine the trade, and depress the shipping interest of this kingdom; and the encouragement which has been given to foreign vessels, by granting them licences to import timber, deals, staves, and other kinds of wood into this country, has greatly increased the evil, and will, if persisted in, be attended with the most ruinous consequences to the British ship owners; and that the petitioners are fully sensible of the critical situation of the times, and are most willing to submit to any privations to which they may be exposed, by such regulations as are calculated for the genera good; while, however, they entertain these sentiments, and are ready to admit the expediency of the 1155 licence system, in regard to some articles which it may be difficult otherwise to obtain, they humbly conceive that it ought not by any means to be extended to timber or any other commodities which can be easily procured from our own possessions or from other ports which are open to the British flag; and praying the House to take the premises into serious consideration, and in particular enquire into the necessity or propriety of granting licences to import timber into this country in foreign vessels, and thereafter adopt such regulations on this important subject as may seem best calculated to afford protection and relief to the shipping interest of the United Kingdom, and at the same time be consistent with the general welfare."
§ Ordered to lie upon the table.