§ Mr. Ewart
rose to present a Petition from a number of shipowners of Liverpool, who were proprietors of 100,000 tons of British shipping. 881 They prayed for no additional restriction upon trade; but, on the contrary, for an extension of it. He should not do justice to the petitioners if he did not read the petition at length.
To the Honourable, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled; the humble Petition of the undersigned owners of British vessels trading form the port of Liverpool, showeth—
That your petitioners labour under many disadvantages in competition with foreign shipping, in consequence of the higher cost of their vessels, and the greater expense of navigating them, in the charges for provisions, stores, and wages: and also to their being subjected to many imposts to which foreign ships are not liable, such as the stamp duties on policies of insurance being one quarter, and often one-half per cent upon the value of their property on each voyage; the South Sea duty, still levied upon shipping, of 1s. 6d. per ton homewards, although goods outwards have for some time back been free from that duty; the Greenwich Hospital dues of 6d. per month for each of the crew during the voyage, and the dread of the impress service—that most unjust, tyrannical, iniquitous practice of manning the navy, resorted to in time of war, and which deters many youths of respectable connections from embracing the sea service as a profession.
That, in addition to the above serious disadvantages, your petitioners, in their trade with Brazil, Cuba, St. Domingo, Java, Sincapore, Manilla, and the Indian Archipelago, are deprived of a large portion of homeward freight, in consequence of the chief productions of these countries being prohibited from use or consumption in this kingdom.
That, for the reasons before-mentioned, British shipping cannot be navigated in competition with American and other foreign shipping, when carrying cargoes to foreign ports, as, besides the extra expense at which British vessels are navigated; they also incur a further charge for commission and management to a foreign agent, and have to perform a second voyage in ballast to a British port; or return in ballast to a more distant one for further employment.
That Brazil alone furnishes freightage for 120,000 tons of shipping annually in sugar and coffee, nearly the whole of which is imported as returns for British manufactures; and, were the productions of that country admitted for use or consumption in this kingdom, they would be brought inwards, and a great part thereof re-exported in British vessels.
That St. Domingo, Cuba, Manilla, Sincapore, and the Eastern Islands, likewise furnish upwards of 200,000 tons of similar productions, the greater part of which, as well as the produce of Brazil, is carried by American and other foreign shipping, to European ports, 882 although actually the property of British merchants, or received in return for British manufactures.
That the British trade with China is strictly confined to the Honourable East India Company's ships, whilst Americans, Danes, Swedes, and other nations are permitted to sail from British ports with British goods, freighted on British account, and to return with cargoes of tea and other Chinese productions to the various ports of Continental Europe, whilst the vessels owned by your petitioners are precluded from every share of this profitable and extensive carrying trade.
That your petitioners attribute the present depressed state of the British shipping interest mainly to those unjust and impolitic monopolies and restrictions, and that, if the trade with the before-named countries were placed on a fair and liberal basis, additional employment would be given to a large extent of British tonnage, now lying idle in the ports of this kingdom, or unprofitably employed in vain competition with foreign shipping, trading to foreign ports.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray, that your honourable House will take this their petition into your most serious and immediate consideration; and that an interest, hitherto considered so important to the welfare and protection of this kingdom, may not be suffered to go to decay, while the Marine of our American and continental rivals prospers by its destruction.
And your petitioners will ever pray.
He begged leave most strenuously to support the prayer of the petition. He could see no sources of relief from the grievances and depression under which the country now laboured, but from a diminution of taxation and the extension of commerce. Every removal of the unjust and impolitic restrictions and monopolies which had hitherto incumbered and impeded the prosperity of the country, necessarily would go toward the diminution of taxation. He hoped, that while the people demanded relief from direct taxation, they would not shut their eyes to that indirect system of taxation, arising from commercial restriction and monopoly, which not only took money out of their pockets, but pressed on the commercial relations of the country, and impeded the comfort of all classes. He hoped the subject would meet with the full consideration of Government, and as soon as possible that relief would be given.
§ Lord Sandon
was prepared generally to support the prayer of the petition, al-though he could not enter into a discussion of all the details contained in it. Each sentence admitted of a long and important 883 argument; but, at present, he could only say, that he generally approved of its prayer. His wish was, that as many restrictions as possible should be taken off commerce; but he did not agree in that particular to the full extent of the petition, that all articles of foreign produce should be freely admitted for use in this country. Even on the produce of our own colonies there were restrictions; and it would introduce complete confusion into the commercial connexions of the country to grant the prayer of the petition to its full extent. He expressed his concurrence in that part of it which directed the attention of Government to the duty on Marine Insurances, which pressed very heavily on the commerce of this country.
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
was of opinion, that the utmost freedom should be allowed to the commerce of this country. Unless it were relieved from all restrictions and monopolies, it would fall to decay in the competition with other nations. He sincerely trusted that his Majesty's Government would seriously direct attention to this subject, as he was fully convinced by that means alone could the difficulties under which the commercial and shipping interests of the country laboured be removed.
Petition laid on the Table.