§ On the Order of the Day for the Speaker to leave the Chair for the House to go into a Committee of Supply, and after some discussion on point of form and of precedence, which we omit,
§ Viscount Sandon
rose to address the House on behalf of the commerce of this country, the interests of which were surely deserving of at least one heating in the Session. The noble Lord opposite had often assured the House that no Minister bad ever done so much for the foreign trade of the country as himself. He thought it, therefore, his duty to call the attention of the House to some points which induced him to come to a different conclusion as to the conduct of the noble Lord. There were two points of 882 view in which the foreign commerce of the country might be considered—in the first place, as regarded the exports of our manufactures; and, in the second place, as regarded navigation. Now, it was his opinion that as regarded the exports of our manufactures, this country had suffered severely from the conduct of the Government. He would not go into the sulphur question, but he must say, that if the noble Lord opposite had exerted himself as he ought to have done, the dispute with Naples relative to this matter would never have gone to the extent of creating a rupture with the Neapolitan Government, or to perilling the valuable interests of our trade with Sicily. It was only a short time since, that he had called the attention of the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to the fact of Mexico having imposed a duty of nearly 200 per cent, on some articles of our exports, without the notice of six months, required by treaty, having been given. The attention of the noble Lord had been called to this subject early in February, and he should have supposed, considering the valuable outlet which Mexico afforded to the manufactures of Manchester and Glasgow, that the noble Lord would have lost no time in issuing the necessary instructions for Obtaining a redress of this grievance, and for applying a remedy to the injury which had been inflicted on our commerce by the imposition of this heavy duty without, due notice. But a period of two months had elapsed from the time the noble Lord's attention had been called to the subject, before any instructions had been sent out. During that time the British goods in Mexico had remained unsold. Great loss had been suffered by the British merchants in consequence, and the loudest complaints were made against the delay of the noble Lord. Even now he did not know what had been the result of those remonstrances, or whether they had had any effect at all. It was true that the noble Lord had informed him that he had received assurances from the Mexican government with respect to the duties imposed in 1837, that the excess of duties thus levied without notice would be restored. No money, however, had yet been returned, and the grievance which our merchants complained of was still unremoved. He would next pass to Buenos Ayres, and in regard to this part 883 of the subject, he wished to know from the noble Lord how long the blockade of that country was to be permitted. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government, when interrogated relative to this matter in the other House of Parliament, said in the first month of the Session that he had received assurances that the blockade was only of an occasional character. But for two years the trade of this country had been interrupted by that blockade, and at the present moment all the assurances which the noble Lord opposite had given of its speedy termination were as little likely to be realized as they were when his attention had first been called to the matter. The trade of this country with Buenos Ayres was of great value. The value of British property locked up in that country amounted to something more than 1,000,000l., and the interest on that sum which was yearly lost to our merchants was upwards of 50,000l. The articles thus lying locked up uselessly were also in great part of a perishable nature, and it was estimated that 20,000l. annually were required to give them the necessary care and attention. Besides all this, local funds had been created in Buenos Ayres, in which British capital was locked up to the amount of about 5,000,000 dollars, and the redaction from seventeen per cent, to three and a-quarter per cent., which had taken place in the exchange by reason of the blockade, had greatly reduced the value of that property. A national bank had also been established, in which other 2,000,000 dollars had been invested by British merchants, but that bank had been broken up, and both the interest and capital destroyed, and all this loss had been occasioned by the blockade. Under such circumstances, he thought the noble Lord ought not to allow that blockade to remain, and ought to make the strongest remonstrances to prevent a continuance of that interruption to our trade which was so fatal to the interests of our merchants. But besides the amount of British property locked up in Buenos Ayres, there was at least British manufactured goods in Monte Video to the amount of about 1,000,000l. Now, if the French party were expelled from that country, and the national party secured in power, they would in all probability have another French blockade, if the noble Lord did not exert himself to prevent it. The Americans were not quite so negligent of 884 the interests of their merchants as the Government of this country. Two American vessels had broken the blockade, and although they had been captured in the end, and carried to Monte Video, yet they had been released on the remonstrances of the American commodore. He thought the noble Lord would do well to follow the example of the United States in this particular, and adopt a more energetic line of conduct. Passing from Monte Video, he next wished to call attention to the state of our commercial relations with Portugal. It was now three years since Portugal had imposed a differential duty of fifteen per cent. on all British goods carried to that country from England in British vessels, beyond the amount of duty charged on British goods conveyed in Portuguese vessels. On this subject the strongest remonstrances had been made to the noble Lord and the President of the Board of Trade. It had been clearly proved to them that a differential duty of this nature, operating on the most valuable cargoes, would have the effect of driving British vessels out of the Portuguese trade. That prediction had not for some time taken effect, because an understanding had been entered into amongst the British merchants that they would export goods to Portugal in British vessels only. After a year or a year and a half had elapsed, a Glasgow merchant, seeing the advantage that would result from exporting his goods in vessels belonging to Portugal, had however resolved to act contrary to that understanding, and had accordingly exported his goods in Portuguese ships. When one merchant had adopted that resolution, all the others were necessarily obliged to follow his example, arid the consequence had been highly injurious to the shipowners of this country. He would show the effect of this differential duty which had been imposed by Portugal. In 1838 there were only two Portuguese vessels which shipped cargoes from Liverpool, the nominal value of which cargoes did not amount to more than 171l. In the same year, seventy-British vessels sailed from Liverpool with cargoes for Portugal, the nominal value of which was 887,617l. In 1839, the number of Portuguese vessels had risen to forty, and the value of their cargoes had increased to 292,770l. In the same year the number of British vessels was ninety-six, but the value of their cargoes had 885 fallen from 887,616l. to 559,790l. He was aware that the noble Lord and the President of the Board of Trade had issued, under Mr. Huskisson's act, an order of retaliation, but the effect of that order was nugatory. This country had retaliated on Portugal, by imposing an additional duty of one-fifth on all cargoes corning from Portugal; but as, with the exception of wine, the cargoes which came from that country were only of slight value, the additional duty was no protection to the British merchant. The distinction of a duty of 15 per cent. made by Portugal in favour of Portuguese vessels were so large as to throw all the valuable trade between this country and Portugal into the hands of the Portuguese shipowners. The advantage given to the British merchants by the retaliatory order in Council was about 50l. or 60l. on vessels of ordinary size. But the duty of 15 per cent, imposed by Portugal on British ships going from Liverpool gave an advantage of from 600l. to l,600l. in favour of Portuguese vessels. He would here appeal to the example of the United States. In 1834 Spain imposed a differential duty on vessels of the United States, but Congress at once passed an act following out in every particular the example of Spain, so as to place Spanish vessels in America on the same footing as American vessels in Spain. He would therefore ask the noble Lord why he had not come down to that House when he found his power was insufficient, and asked for fresh powers to enable him to meet the Portuguese on their own ground? They had had the same war to carry on against Spain, as the Americans had had. He would not press the Government on the subject of the commercial treaty with Spain, which had been promised for the last twenty years, but which still remained unsettled. That treaty was matter of negotiation, and the noble Lord might answer that he had done all in his power to accomplish an object which was so desirable. With respect to navigation, however, the noble Lord had ample powers which he had declined or neglected to exercise. It was now six years since Spain had imposed a duty varying from 30 per cent, to 200 per cent, in favour of their own vessels, while we continued to receive Spanish vessels into our ports on the same footing as our own ships. He thought this was a very great hardship to our ship owners and 886 merchants, and one which called loudly for redress. Here the noble Lord might exercise his power, and issue a retaliatory order in Spain, which he was fully authorized to do by Act of Parliament. The merchants of this country had, however, submitted to this injustice for six years, and during that period, British navigation had almost been driven out of the trade with Spain. He therefore trusted the noble Lord would, without further delay, exercise the power which he possessed, and retaliate on Spain, so as to remedy this gross injustice to the British merchant. The apprehensions which were entertained by our merchants as to the effect of the duty imposed by Spain on British vessels were not without good grounds. The papers which he held in his hand had relation to the Havannah; but the result would be the same as if they had reference to Spain, as the same duties on British vessels and cargoes existed at Havannah as existed in Spain. By those papers he found that the result of the Spanish differential duty, in regard to the freight and cargoes of vessels passing between Liverpool and Havannah was as follows;—In 1839 six British vessels exported from Liverpool to Havannah 284 bales of manufactured goods; 11 vessels of other nations carried out 812 bales, while Spanish vessels, sailing from Liverpool to Havannah, carried out 6,265 bales. This of itself was, he thought, sufficient to establish a case of great grievance; but he would look at the matter in another point of view, and show what was the result of the differential duty as to cargoes. This duty came into operation in 1834. In 1834 the exports from Liverpool to Havannah in British vessels amounted in nominal value to 382,724l.; and he found that from that time down to the present, there had been a gradual decline in that amount. In 1835 the amount was 205,202l.; in 1836 it was 153,754l.; in 1837 it was 75,000l.; in 1838 it Was 61,487l.; and in 1839 it had fallen to 35,997l. The decrease here was enormous, and he thought that this grievance ought to be redressed without a moment's delay. The noble Lord was bound to adopt some retaliatory measures to put an end to such gross injustice to our merchants. But let the noble Lord see how this differential duty had operated as regarded Spanish vessels during this period. In 1834 the value of the cargoes carried out to Havannah from Liverpool in Spanish bottoms 887 was 13,204l,; in 1835 it was 123,602l.; in 1836 it was 264,928l.; in 1837 it was 279,784l.; in 1838 it was 318,534l.; in 1839 it was 269,106l.; showing a progressive increase, while the value of cargoes carried in British vessels had greatly declined. He thought he had now made out a case which showed the necessity for some steps being taken by the Government to put an end to this injustice on the part of Spain. He was sure that the noble Lord must have had before him the state of our trade at present with the Basque provinces. For six years we had been sending protest after protest against the impositions and the restrictions which had been placed by those provinces upon our trade, but at the end of those six years we were exactly at the same situation as when we started. Nay, we were even worse; for not only were the old illegal duties still levied upon our commodities, but new restrictions were placed upon our commerce—a fact which he was almost inclined to quote as a proof that the more the noble Lord remonstrated with the government of Spain, the more was that Government determined to embarrass our commercial transactions with accumulated restrictions. Now, when we considered the great sacrifices which the British Government had made in favour of the present dynasty of Spain, he thought that we had a right to expect that our interests should be treated with at least the same consideration that the government of Spain exhibited toward another member of the Quadruple Alliance, who had not assisted it so effectually as we had done. But even that degree of consideration had not been extended by the government of Spain to the commerce of this country. The noble Lord, at the head of the Foreign Department, was bound to show what progress he had made on all the points to which he had adverted. He was anxious to know whether the noble Lord was going to offer to the House and to the country, anything more reassuring to British commerce than the vague and general declarations which he had hitherto made on this subject.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down had undoubtedly relieved him from a considerable degree—he would not say of apprehension, but of natural curiosity. He certainly had felt curious respecting the points on which the noble Lord would dwell, in the hope of establishing that 888 general charge of neglect of the commercial interests of the country which he had brought forward against her Majesty's Government, and particularly against himself. Though he had been at a loss to imagine the points on which the noble Lord would attempt to support his accusation, he had hardly expected that in his performance the noble Lord would have fallen so short of the promises which he had held out; for the noble Lord, instead of taking a large and general view of our commercial relations with the different states of the world, had confined his remarks to one or two special points, on which he could satisfy the House that no complaints could be made with justice. In those remarks, too, the noble Lord had carefully withheld from the notice of the House that general view of the enlargement of our commerce by the progressive increase of our exports and imports to which he should feel it necessary to advert before he concluded the observations which he was now about to address to it. Nothing struck him more in these discussions on the commercial relations of the country than the difference between the language used by hon. Members when they were exciting the Government to obtain redress for the injuries alleged to be sustained by our commerce, and the language which they held after the Government had taken measures to obtain redress, when they charged Ministers with embarking unnecessarily into war, and with putting in jeopardy thereby commercial interests which did not require such a sacrifice. On this occasion the noble Lord opposite had even gone beyond the example of former days; for he had asked how long we should permit France to continue to blockade Buenos Ayres, and how long we should defer compelling Spain to make a commercial treaty with this country. Now, if England were the dictator over all the rest of the world, and if we had power over all foreign and independent nations, such language might be well, and the noble Lord might be justified in blaming her Majesty's Government for not compelling every other nation to grant us all that we wanted; but so long as one country was not in a situation to dictate to another, and so long as nations withheld treaties from a mistaken view of their own interests, or it might be from ignorant prejudices, such language could not rest on any just or reasonable foundation. The noble 889 Lord had begun his speech by observing on our intercourse with Mexico. That was an unhappy topic wherewith to commence a speech which was to prove our neglect of the commercial interests of the country; for in Mexico we had successfully, and after much exertion, brought about an amicable arrangement between France and that country, by which the embarrassment to our commerce, occasioned by their quarrels, was happily put an end to. The noble Lord bad also found fault with him for the delay of two months which he had suffered to intervene between his receiving complaints of the imposition of new duties on our commerce in Mexico, and his sending out instructions to our representatives in that country to remonstrate against them. But it was quite clear that such instructions could not be sent out until the grounds on which they rested had been considered by the proper legal authorities; and therefore he thought that that delay of two months, on which the noble Lord had animadverted so strongly, was capable of an easy and satisfactory explanation. With respect to Buenos Ayres, it was true that our commerce, and American commerce, too, had suffered great inconvenience from the protracted blockade of the Rio de la Plata by the French flotilla. The noble Lord had asserted that the American government had not been so patient as our Government had been; to which he would only reply, that the American Government had shown, as we had done, great forbearance, and that that forbearance was highly creditable to the temper and prudence of its statesmen. But the noble Lord was mistaken if he supposed that we had not made exertions to bring that quarrel to a conclusion. The noble Lord must be aware that it was quite impossible for him to state at present the details of our efforts and of our negotiations. The noble Lord had said, "What we may have done I know not," and then had inferred from his own ignorance that nothing had been done. He could, however, assure the noble Lord that it was his belief, little as the noble Lord might be inclined to place credit in him, that from the nature of the communications which the French Government either had made or was about making to the Government of Buenos Ayres, both parties would soon come to a friendly termination of the disputes between them. He could likewise assure the noble Lord, that no efforts on 890 our part had been wanting, or would be wanting, to produce that desirable result: but when the noble Lord asked how long we should permit a great and powerful nation like France to continue its quarrel with an independent state like Buenos Ayres, he used language for which there could be no excuse, except that it had fallen from the noble Lord unpremeditatedly, and in the hurry of debate. It was true that the inconvenience of the blockade had been peculiarly great to our commerce, owing to the perishable nature of the commodities which we imported from Buenos Ayres. But the noble Lord was mistaken if he supposed that that inconvenience had not affected American commerce likewise. The noble Lord was also mistaken if he thought that the Americans had not respected the French blockade. The circumstances to which the noble Lord had alluded, to an American ship of war having protected two American merchant vessels from one point of the coast to another, was peculiar. It was an isolated instance, justified by particular circumstances; but in general the Americans had respected the blockade, and had been put, like us, to inconvenience by it. With respect to Montevideo, he would only observe that it would be time to speak on the inconvenience, which the noble Lord had alluded to, when it occurred; but till then he thought that he might pass over the remarks of the noble Lord on that subject without further observations. With respect to Portugal, it was true that the retaliatory duty which we had laid on in consequence of the discriminating duty which had been levied on our vessels by the Portuguese Government had not been a sufficient retaliation upon Portugal; but it was equally true that we had gone to the full extent that the law allowed us. The noble Lord was not, however, to suppose that the narrow-minded and exclusive system of commerce which Portugal had pursued had been beneficial to Portugal, while it was injurious to us; for he could assure him (Lord Sandon) that Portuguese commerce had suffered considerably from the blind and ignorant system which it had recently pursued. He believed that at this moment the Portuguese Government saw the error of its course, and that a feeling was springing up among the principal men in the Cortes which would lead before long to the formation of arrange- 891 ments more beneficial to the commerce of the two countries. It was idle to suppose that any one country could adopt a system of discriminating or of prohibitory duties with advantage to itself; for, if so, every country would adopt a similar system. The fact was, and it was happily undisputed, that such a system was as injurious to the country which adopted it, as it was to the country against which it was levelled; and it was only necessary to let a country taste the bitter fruits of such a mistaken policy to bring it to the adoption of a better system. With regard to Spain, he believed that the Board of Trade had not yet issued directions for any retaliatory proceedings against the shipping of that country. But if such directions had been delayed, there were circumstances in the peculiar situation of that country at present which accounted for our forbearance. Those circumstances, however, had now ceased to operate. We had now reason to flatter ourselves on the improved prospects of that country, notwithstanding all the prophecies to the contrary which had issued from the other side of the House; yes, notwithstanding all the principal speakers on the other side had pledged their reputation and skill as statesmen to the success of the cause of Don Carlos, that cause had miserably failed, and the civil war which had so long desolated Spain had been brought to a termination. The time was, therefore, now come in which we could call upon Spain to liberalize her system of navigation, or meet those retaliatory measures which we should be justified in applying. But those who had so successfully established the liberties of Spain, must in the course of the struggle have imbibed liberal principles of commerce, which would teach them that Spain would best consult her own interests by sweeping away its present impolitic tariff, which impeded its commerce, foreign and domestic, and by substituting in its stead a more liberal system, would give additional elasticity not only to its own resources, but also to those of other countries. With respect to the embargo which had been laid on our vessels at Bilboa, a discussion was still going on between the two Governments. Hitherto we had not been successful in persuading the Spanish authorities to view the question in the same light in which we viewed it. But we ourselves had not always been open to con- 892 viction on points where foreigners differed from us, and therefore allowance ought to be made for the reluctance of the Spanish authorities to admit concessions which they imagined would interfere with their local revenues. That point, however, would not be lost sight of by her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord had touched on a few points to show, as he said, the neglect of the commercial interests of the country by a Government which had boasted that no former Government had done half so much for their enlargement as the present. He begged to disclaim ever having made any such arithmetical proposition. He had never made that boast; but as he was compelled to speak on that subject, he would assert as his opinion that no former Government had ever attempted so much to improve the commerce of the country, or had ever attempted it with so much success. The noble Lord in his commercial review had omitted all notice of the various treaties of commerce which we had obtained from other countries. The noble Lord had also intimated, that if the office in Downing-street had done such great things, it was passing strange that all the rest of the world should be ignorant of it. He would not take up the time of the House by entering into matters which had been discussed before. He would just call the attention of the noble Lord to the different amounts of imports and exports in different years. He was, at least, entitled to say, that if during the period in which he had the charge of the foreign interests of the country, our imports and our exports had continually and largely increased, that was a proof that the commerce of the country had been increasing, and that, whatever complaints had been made by particular interests, applicable to particular quarters of the globe, on the whole, if Ministers had not paid attention to the interests of British commerce, they had at least been very fortunate in seeing it advance progressively. He held in his hand a statement of the exports from the United Kingdom. He would take 1830 as the first year, and he found that the total official value of the exports in that year was 38,000,000l.; in 1831, it was 37,000,000l.; in 1832, 38,000,000l.; in 1833, 39,000,000l.; in 1834, 41,000,000l.; in 1835, 47,000,000l.; in 1836, 45,000,000l.; in 1837, 893 42,000,000l.; in 1838, 50,000,000l.; in 1839, 53,000,000l. The exports, then, had risen between 1830 and 1839, from the value of 38,000,000l. to the value of 53,000,000l., a very considerable increase. It might be said, that we export without being gainers by the process—either giving commodities away, or selling them at a reduced value. But, if it appeared, that during the same time, the imports also had increased in the same proportion; it was quite clear, that it would thereby be established that the wholesome and substantial trade of the country was advantageous while it had gone on progressively extending. In 1830 the official value of our imports amounted to 46,000,000l.; in 1831, to 49,000,000l.; in 1832, to 44,000,000l.; in 1833, to 45,000,000l.; in 1834, 49,000,000l.; in 1835, to 48,000,000l.; in 1836, to 57,000,000l.; in 1837, to 54,000,000l.; in 1838, to 61,000,000l.; in 1839, to 62,000,000l. Here, therefore, the imports had increased between 1830 and 1839 from 46,000,000l. to 62,000,000l., a clear proof, that notwithstanding the local and temporary checks which our commerce had experienced, on the whole the commerce of the country had gone on steadily improving, and that between the two periods it had increased not much less than from two to three. Looking generally to the interests of British commerce, as well as to those various other measures which had tended to the development of the internal resources of the country, he thought he might assume that they had acquired confidence for their adherence to an enlightened system of Government, as well as by securing the interests of British commerce by means of treaties and other relations with foreign countries. He contended, therefore, that so far from the noble Lord being entitled to say that he had established his charge against her Majesty's present advisers, the commercial interests of the country had been greatly improved, its commerce had increased in the ratio which he had mentioned, and he had established a claim to some pretension, at least, of having successfully attended to the commercial interests of the country.
§ Mr. Maclean
was of opinion, that the noble Lord who had just sat down, had not fairly answered the speech of his noble Friend. His noble Friend had ex- 894 pressly said, that he meant to circumscribe his observations within certain portions of our foreign relations, and to exclude from them, for instance, the entire eastern question. Yet the noble Viscount opposite had made a speech, which if any speech could have such a tendency, was calculated to delude the country on the subjects of his address. He had endeavoured to prove, that the commerce of the country had been gradually increasing from 1830 to 1840, but had omitted to mention for what portion of that increase we were indebted to our own colonies, and what portion had arisen from that successful vigilance which, in dealing with our foreign relations, the noble Lord bad taken credit to himself for having so assiduously applied. He could not, however, forget the attacks which had been made on the Government for its utter indifference to our interests in connexion with the gum trade at Senegal and Mozambique—the repealed animadversions which bad proceeded even from the other side, from hon. Members in the confidence of the Government, on the mode in which that important branch of commerce had been treated, when they were constantly assured that the matter was still under consideration, and told that, though British merchants were suffering year after year from unnecessary procrastination, they were notwithstanding to rest satisfied that their negotiations would terminate to the entire satisfaction of those individuals who were such diplomatic sufferers? His noble Friend had put forward his most prominent cases, to which the noble Viscount's reply was, "True, we are not able to do as might be desired with Spain and Portugal; but Spain is now pacified, and has established her constitutional government." But did he forget that it was not through the instrumentality of the Foreign-office that the constitutional government of Spain was established, but by the energy of the French Government, which having entered with us into the Quadrupartite Treaty, and abandoned the strong ground which they took in the early period of the operation of that treaty, at last acted in so energetic a manner as to decide the contest in Spain? The noble Lord had no right whatever to plume himself on his policy as having produced this result. Were they now to be told of the noble Lord's influence with Spain, when he not 895 only could not succeed with a negotiation for a commercial treaty, but was unable to -obtain the liquidation of claims admitted to be in no manner doubtful—claims which remained still pending, to the eternal disgrace of the country for which these men had fought, and also, he must add, of the country which had sent them to pour out their blood like water, for a dynasty which made them so ungrateful a return? His noble Friend had refrained from alluding to the great question of the East, more especially with reference to the Black Sea; but he could promise the noble Lord, that this subject would be submitted to the notice of the House early in the next Session. An opportunity had then occurred, of which the noble Lord might have availed himself to advance the commercial interests of this country, and to which the Foreign-office had by no means attended with the due degree of care. Some time since, a discussion had arisen in that House with reference to the treaty of Unkiar 'Skelessi, and the particular position in which that treaty placed England with respect to Russia, Turkey, and Austria. Since that treaty had been made, he had never understood that the noble Lord had given his assent to it. In the affair of the Vixen, it was always extremely difficult to ascertain the noble Lord's real opinion. Up to the present time the opinion of the Foreign-office remained in obscurity as to whether Russia obtained possession of the coast of Circassia by the 6th article of that treaty, and whether we were not excluded from the whole coast of Abasia. Whether the Turks had a right to cede it, or the Russians to take possession of it, was a question that was likely to be set at rest by the continued exertions of that magnificent race of men—he could give them no other title. If the invaders were driven from the stronghold of which they had unjustly possessed themselves, and the whole of that line of coast, 200 miles in extent, were opened to British commerce, he should be glad to hear from the noble Lord whether it were his intention, and the intention of his Government, to admit the validity of this secret article in the treaty of Unkiar 'Skelessi, and shut up the Dardanelles against English commerce, by which it had already received such material detriment, as instanced in the Vixen affair. He should be glad to know whether, upon the cessation of that 896 treaty, Government was prepared to act with energy, without which our commerce with the Black Sea would be entirely sacrificed, the independence of these brave men would ultimately become a dead letter, and the noble Lord's Government would do much to advance a power which had proved itself most inimical to British interests, and more particularly to British commerce in the Black Sea. He greatly deplored the speech of the noble Lord the other night. It was with great regret that he heard him let fall the declaration, that although the integrity of Cracow was guaranteed by France and England by solemn treaty, and that although that treaty was violated while the commerce of Cracow by that violation was annihilated—though this was all proved, and though the noble Lord had pledged himself to send a commercial agent to Cracow—in the face of all this, he lamented to hear the noble Lord say, that as Russia, Austria, and Prussia were powerful, it was necessary to act with prudence—that though they had violated a treaty to which we were parties., yet it would be unjustifiable to plunge the nation into war—because, in fact, they were strong, the Government should be satisfied with mere demonstrations. What was this but holding out to the world that where a nation was weak, as in the case of Naples, the British Government would act with great energy; but that, in such cases as those of Cracow, Buenos Ayres, and Mexico, they would act with great caution? Though he did not believe the noble Lord would be capable of carrying out a policy so painful to the feelings of Englishmen, yet such a speech as that of the noble Lord would lead foreigners to imagine that powerful nations might injure and insult us, as in the case of Cracow, or the insult given by the French to our flag in Mexico, or the gum trade at Portendic, with the most perfect impunity; that we would, in fact, submit to any insults rather than go to war—insults which, in the time of England's greatness, would not be submitted to for a moment. The noble Lord took credit for the settlement of the Mexican question, but then it took two years to obtain that settlement, during which the British merchants connected with that country suffered severely. Neither was the question much touched upon relative to the opium and China trade. The noble Lord was cer- 897 tainly taking active steps, but while he was fighting the Chinese, the English merchants, and still more the Parsee merchants, were exposed to very great suffering. The noble Lord might rely upon it, that very early in the next Session of Parliament, he would be called upon to give a much more explanatory account of the foreign policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Hawes
had hoped, that the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, would have suggested something valuable in the way of taking off restrictions, or altering our own tariffs with a view to improving the commerce of the country. But the noble Lord's speech was most extraordinary, for though a Member for a great commercial town, he had absolutely suggested nothing of the sort. He had talked of Mexico and of Spain, and would have this country proceed by blockade with respect to Mexico, and by retaliatory duties with respect to Spain. He congratulated the people of Liverpool upon possessing a representative who was so well acquainted with their interests. As to the hon. Member who had just sat down, he had made a speech de omnibus rebus—but he was all for cannon balls. He had spoken in the true Tory spirit, which always meant cannon balls. He would ask those hon. Gentlemen if they would propose to reduce any of the duties which formed a restriction to commerce? Would the noble Lord (Sandon) propose to reduce the duty on sugar? or on corn? or on timber? Not one of those duties would he propose to abate or ameliorate in order to encourage commerce. Not one Gentleman on the other side of the House, had ever proposed a single reduction of duty with a view to the increase of commerce, nor had they ever proposed any reduction with a view to lessen the burdens of the people. With respect to the course we ought to pursue, in order to placing the commerce of the country on a proper footing, he would quote the words of the late Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), who had placed the subject in the most concise, and, at the same time, most forcible point of view that he remembered. "Why," said the hon. Gentleman, "should we practise folly because other nations lack wisdom?" If this country were to resort to blockade in every instance similar to that of Mexico, it would soon have its hands full. And 898 even in the case of Mexico, had the Government pursued such a course, they would very soon have the right hon. Member for Pembroke (Sir J. Graham) coming down to the House with a long motion demanding to know why the Government had plunged the country into a war. He perceived, by a paper he held in his hands, that additional customs duties were to be levied on certain articles. Would the noble Lord oppose those duties, or would he propose a reduction in any of those existing? [Lord Sandon No:] No; because the noble Lord had peculiar interests to contend for, the colonial interests; there was to be 100 per cent, paid upon coffee—would the noble Lord take off that, or the duty on corn, or any other duty whatever; no. No hon. Member on the noble Lord's side of the House even proposed taking off a duty, no matter how beneficial to commerce might be the reduction. With respect to the commerce of the Black Sea, the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, and the coast of Circassia, which had been spoken of by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Maclean), it seemed to have escaped the hon. Member that Lord Aberdeen had more to do with these than the noble Lord—and that the name of the former was much more conspicuous in the correspondence.
§ Lord Sandon
said, that if the revenue was in a flourishing condition, he would support a proposition for the reduction of duties; but as there was at present a positive and acknowledged deficiency, he could not be the person to propose a reduction.
§ Mr. E. Tennent
said, it was no doubt true, that the blockade of Mexico had been raised; but had France, he would ask, abated one jot of her iniquitous demands on that country? Had France remitted one shilling of the 800,000 dollars she claimed? France had refused, and Mexico, in order to replenish her exhausted treasury, had imposed a duty of 25 per cent, on British goods consumed within her territories. The effect of this measure, he knew, was, that extensive orders for British goods had been already countermanded. Why had not the noble Lord, he would ask, interfered to stop the blockade of Buenos Ayres? So long as the foreign affairs of the country were managed as at present, that blockade could not be expected to terminate ex- 899 cept, as the Mexican blockade had been terminated, on the terms and at the moment when France pleased. What protection had the noble Lord granted our commerce in Brazil? It was now five years since the question of the injuries done to British subjects at Pora had been under the noble Lord's consideration, and he should like to know what progress had been made in settling it? A memorial on the subject was sent to the noble Lord in 1835, and it was not till the middle of 1836 that he had even condescended to acknowledge its receipt. The noble Lord might say, there were legal difficulties in the way of settling the question, but it had now been before the law officers of the Crown for three years. At Bahia also, British subjects had been robbed of their property. A memorial, detailing the grievances of our countrymen at that place, had been put into the noble Lord's hand in March last, and up to the moment at which he spoke no answer had been received to it, not even the mere answer of ordinary civility, or acknowledgment of its being received. The noble Lord boasted of his readiness to interfere for the protection of our merchants; but he could venture to say, from an extensive knowledge of the merchants of Liverpool and of London, that not one of them placed any confidence in the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Sheil
complained that the hon. Member had brought forward his accusations against the noble Lord, when by the forms of the House, the noble Lord was unable to reply to him. If the hon. Gentleman had brought forward his allegations at a time when the noble Lord could have risen, he would have made retaliatory statements; but it was a deviation from the ordinary course, after a Minister of the Crown had delivered his speech, to come down upon him with a charge which he was precluded from answering. It appeared to him that the hon. Gentleman ought to have avoided allusion to Spain. Supposing the hon. Gentleman's aspirations had been heard, and his wishes granted, supposing the cause of despotism had triumphed, and that liberty had fallen—supposing Don Carlos had ascended the throne of Spain—what had that to do with the question? The question before the House was of a commercial nature, and yet the hon. Gentleman asked if payment had been obtained for the arms sent out to Spain. Was that a commercial question? Was 900 that within the scope of the motion of the noble Lord? Why, the question rather belonged to the Secretary at War. And why introduce Cracow into this discussion? Was it legitimate to lug a question that had been already fully discussed into a topic of another kind with which it had nothing whatever to do? With regard to Portugal and Spain, it was not by bringing forward isolated points of import and export, as the noble Lord opposite had done, that a question like the present was to be judged, but by looking to broad and general results. He held in his hand the customs returns, which in a short compass presented a splendid picture of the prosperity of the country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the increase of our exports and imports in a series of years previous and subsequent to the passing of the Reform Bill, and said,—these were facts, and such facts could not be contradicted or mistaken.
could not allow a discussion of that kind to terminate without attempting to infuse into it a spirit somewhat more comprehensive than that which had characterized it, and he was anxious to place before the House some circumstances of an extraordinary nature that had occurred within the last ten years. When the noble Lord first assumed the portfolio of foreign affairs, he adopted a new system of foreign alliances, and he told them that the first guarantee of his intention would be a commercial treaty with France. Nine years had elapsed, and that treaty had not appeared. Whether they were any nearer to its accomplishment now than at first was a question he would leave the House to determine. It appeared to him that the noble Lord, in forming his new arrangement, occasioned two of the severest blows to fall upon the commerce of this country that it had ever experienced. With Poland and the Black Sea, this country lost a commerce with twenty-one millions of men, in order to cement the alliance with France. Those were amongst the results of the new system of the noble Lord. In anticipation of the promised commercial treaty with France, we had supported the policy of that country in Belgium, in Spain, and in Portugal. What were the fruits of this support of interests which were not English interests, except so far as France might be considered the friend of England? We had been rewarded by French blockades established 901 in Mexico and at Buenos Ayres, by the interruption of our commerce at Rio de la Plata, by the exclusion of our trade from the eastern coast of Africa, from Portendic and Gambia. Having played us false in seven portions of the globe, the eastern question, which all along had been lowering in the distance, at length developed itself, and then it became evident that the intention of France was to betray us in Egypt. Reluctantly convinced that the vaunted friendship of France was hollow, the noble Lord turned round to Russia, whom he had previously threatened, and endeavoured to obtain the support of a power which had destroyed our trade with Poland, and excluded us from the Euxine. Finding, however, that Russia would only support him in a very limited degree, the noble Lord was fain at last to revert to the principles of his early life, and to strengthen himself by seeking the alliance of the Conservative power of Austria. Succeeding in this return to the Tory principles of commercial policy, the noble Lord came down in triumph to the House and claimed applause for the wisdom of his arrangements. He for one did not object to this part of the noble Lord's policy. He thought that the Austrian connection was valuable. He thought that if ever there Were two countries calculated by nature, and by the relations of trade and commerce, to be great and influential as allies, it was Great Britain and Austria. It was, in fact, the old traditionary policy of the country—but what was to compensate the country for the noble Lord's eccentric and erratic course during the last nine years? Were we, by our recently renewed alliance with Austria, to regain the trade which we had lost in Poland and the Black Sea? Were we to recover the markets of which France had deprived us in seven portions Of the globe? Supposing the noble Lord to have adopted this Austrian alliance in 1832, was it probable that we should have suffered the losses and indignities to which we had been subjected under a different course of policy? For his own part, he thought that British commerce had been more prejudiced during the foreign administration of the noble Lord than in any other period of the like extent in the history of the nation; and he feared that the seeds of events had been sown, which hereafter might mature with consequences that would shake the empire to its centre.
§ Mr. Ewart
, without entering into de- 902 tails, without discussing the policy of a blockade in this quarter of the globe, or a restriction to our commerce in another, was prepared to express his approbation of the general line of policy pursued by the noble Lord. The real question to be considered was, whether the broad principles which had governed the noble Lord's conduct were consistent with the great leading interests of the country? He thought, that fairly weighed, whatever partial defects might be discovered, the general scope and tendency of the noble Lord's foreign policy had been wise and prudent, and generally advantageous to the nation. Thus judging of it, he had the satisfaction of being able to give it his own individual approbation. He was the more disposed to approve of it, because the commercial policy of the noble Lord had throughout been a policy of peace.
§ The question "that the Speaker do now leave the chair" was carried.
§ House in committee, supply postponed.
§ House resumed.