HC Deb 20 February 1855 vol 136 cc1659-713

said, that in moving for a return of the Russian exports from Archangel to this country during the present year, he wished to ask the attention of the House for a short time, while he brought before them this matter, of which he had given notice. It was a question most intimately connected with the subject of the war now pending, and was, he felt certain all hon. Members would allow, a matter of very considerable importance. He had framed his Motion in the shape of asking for Returns, as it seemed to him that on the accession of a new Government it would be premature to pledge the House to any opinion in the shape of a Resolution. He was desirous to hear from the Government an explanation of the past, and he thought the House was entitled, to some extent, to have a statement of their intentions for the future. Should those explanations be satisfactory, the object of his Motion would be attained; should they not be satisfactory, it would be still open to him to consider whether he should state the policy which he con- sidered advisable in the form of a substantive Resolution, and upon which he would take the opinion of the House. He must say for himself, and he believed he might speak on behalf of the great majority of the House, that, so long as the Government carried on the war with vigour, they had no desire to interfere with it, but, on the contrary, were most anxious to give it their most cordial support. It was only when the Government failed to carry on the war with vigour that it became the duty of the House to interfere and to call for explanations and information. The peculiarity of our trade with Russia was well known. It was well known that in Russia there could scarcely be found to exist any industrial, commercial, or manufacturing class, such as existed in other continental countries. The wealth of Russia consisted almost entirely of serf labour and the productions of the soil, produced for the benefit of the nobles. Tallow, hemp, linseed, were commodities of that description. It was well known that for these commodities this country was the customer of Russia to an amount ten times greater than any other country, and to a larger extent than all the rest of the world beside. These productions were raised in a great measure by advances of capital from British merchants, by the aid of which the landed proprietors of Russia were enabled to produce a great many of those articles he had described, and which we afterwards bought of them. Should, therefore, that supply of English capital which stimulated the productions of Russia be stopped, it would at once diminish the productive power, and consequently the resources, of Russia. At the outbreak of the war fully as much was expected from the injury to be done to Russian commerce as from the prowess of our arms in the field. It was said, truly, that we were not a great military Power, and that the country had not a great standing army, but that we had fleets which, if they could not destroy the forts and fleets of Russia, could at least blockade every port that Power possessed. It was, therefore, anticipated from that blockade that the commerce and wealth of Russia would be so crippled that it would be impossible for the Emperor to continue the war for any lengthened period. History was appealed to in order to show that the short war with Russia in 1801 produced such disastrous consequences to that coun- try, and, the prospect of still further disasters being imminent, the war became unpopular among the nobles, and no doubt contributed to the catastrophe which so soon followed. Russia was subsequently induced by the Emperor Napoleon to join the continental blockade, and she became in consequence a serious sufferer. Upon these and other occasions the rouble, which might be called the "pulse of Russian commerce," had declined in value, and whenever that had happened to any serious extent a succession of financial difficulties had fallen upon the Emperor of Russia. At the outbreak of the present war, the rouble fell from par—38d.—to 32d., and it was confidently anticipated that before the war had lasted many months, it would fall much lower, that a serious financial crisis would overtake the Emperor, that ruin and poverty would fall upon the landed proprietors, and that national bankruptcy must ensue.

Let the House now see how far those predictions have been realised. If our armies had hitherto failed in their efforts —and he wished to be understood as not doubting their ultimate success—but if they had hitherto failed, let them inquire how our operations against the commerce and wealth of Russia had succeeded. That our efforts had not met with the desired result was certain, but, indeed, the reverse. So far from our having blockaded the principal ports, the exports from that empire had been greater than ever. The whole case might be summed up in the statement that Russian commerce had not been much injured; that 10,000,000l. of English money had gone to Russia instead of 11,000,000l.—the ordinary amount; and that the rouble, which had declined to 32d., had risen to par. That fact alone was conclusive that Russian commerce had not materially suffered in consequence of the war. When he said that 10,000,000l. had gone to Russia in place of 11,000,000l., he must explain that we were in the habit of paying in three modes for what we imported; first, by exports from this country; secondly, by consignments of foreign goods to Russia, and lastly by money. The first two sources had been cut off, and therefore all our payments had been made in money, in the shape most convenient, during warlike preparations, for the Emperor of Russia, and which enabled him to equip those forces with which he attacked us. He would venture to say that if they were to rely fur a termination of the war solely upon the measures hitherto adopted against the enemy's commerce, that war would in all probability survive the youngest Member of the House. He would now proceed to inquire into the cause of the signal failure of our measures. He believed that much was expected from the blockade of the ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff, because the blockade there could not be evaded by land carriage, the distance being too great. On account of the great interest of the subject, several questions were put to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty, some of whose answers he would read. On the 1st of June the right hon. Baronet said— He had on more than one occasion endeavoured to give a distinct answer to a question nearly identical with that now put. istinct orders had been sent by the Governments of France and England to institute a rigorous blockade of the principal Russian ports both in the Baltic and the Black Sea, and the effect of that blockade would apply to ships of all nations, whether neutral, French, or English. No official information had yet been received either from the Baltic or Black Sea that those blockades had been instituted, and, in the absence of such official information, no proclamation had been made either in the London Gazette, or, on the part of the Government of France, in Paris. He should state, however, that, in the absence of that official proclamation from the Government, a blockade de facto, with an efficient force, would be effectual either in the Baltic or in the Black Sea, and would not allow the entrance or departure of neutral ships where it was established. Again, on the 13th of June, the right hon. Baronet said— I have repeatedly answered questions on this point, and I have endeavoured to make my answers as clear as a sense of duty would allow me. Orders were given some time ago to the admirals both in the Black Sea and in the Baltic to institute a strict blockade of the Russian ports; and I have every reason to believe that these blockades have been instituted. And on the 11th of July similar statements were made. He did not wish to make an attack upon the Government, but he felt bound to state these facts. It was a fact that that blockade was not instituted —up to the present time it had not been established. A blockade was notified to commence on the 1st of February, then was put off to the 14th, and, if any blockade at all existed, it had only been instituted within the last two or three days. A memorial had been forwarded to him by the Chamber of Commerce at Hull, a body that had taken a good deal of pains to obtain information on this subject, which, referring to the trade carried on through the ports of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff, contained the following statement— Shipments of linseed have continued to be made from the Russian ports of the Black Sea and Sea of Azoff, on a scale unprecedented in any previous year. Since the declaration of war, that is, from May to December, 380 to 400 ships, carrying about 700,000 quarters of linseed, have sailed from the Russian ports of the Black Sea and Sea of Azoff, representing a value to Russia of about a million sterling in this one article only. The greatest previous annual export of linseed was in 1852 and 1853; that in the entire twelve months of 1853 being 640,000 quarters, and in the entire twelve months of 1852 only 445,000 quarters; whereas in the eight months of this present year of war, in the face of an assured blockade, we have the enormous export of 700,000 quarters, and that in an article of the first magnitude as respects the trade of the Black Sea. He was told that during the remaining four months of the last year trade had been carried on to the same extent. The document went on to state— The injury to British merchants, as alluded to in the foregoing memorandum, has continued through the interim since July. The reiterated assurance on the part of Ministers that blockade would be strictly enforced, has had the effect, not only of placing this considerable trade in the hands of foreign houses, but the counter operations into which the said British merchants were driven in consequence of their being so warned off from the Black Sea, are threatened with loss owing to the immense import from the very quarter from which they were thus interdicted, and from which Government assured them repeatedly nothing would be allowed to come. As a collateral consequence, the neutral shipowner has found his vessels employed at high rates, whereas, imports of the like articles from neutral countries on which British ships could have been engaged, have been proportionally discouraged. Now, although the ports of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azoff had not been blockaded, the mouths of the Danube had been blockaded, and by that blockade of the mouths of the Danube this country had been deprived of a large supply of grain that might otherwise have been obtained from the Danubian Principalities. The fact was, that the mouths of the Danube, which ought not to have been blockaded, had been blockaded, while the ports of the Black Sea, and of the Sea of Azoff, which ought to have been blockaded, and which the public were assured were blockaded, had not been blockaded. The consequence had been that, during the past year, the exports of Russia had been more considerable than, he believed, in any previous year; that the British merchants who, believing the assurances of the Government, had made extensive arrange- ments for procuring articles which we now obtained from Russia from other quarters, and who had opened up markets in India and elsewhere for linseed, hemp, and other produce, when they brought their commodities to this country suffered an enormous loss, and that the only parties benefited were the Greek merchants who all along were wise enough to disbelieve in the blockade, and, acting as if there was no blockade, had been considerable gainers in consequence, and made enormous fortunes. He thought the House would agree with him that some explanation was due to the public on this subject, and he would be very glad if a satisfactory explanation could be given. The hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, the other night, in what he (Mr. Collier) might call his celebrated Serpentine speech—for he suggested the propriety of turning that river through the Horse Guards—admitted, with a frankness which did him honour, and which would doubtless be greatly approved by his constituents, that the war had been disgracefully conducted, and that there had been great misconduct on the part of those in office, although he could not agree in the conclusion of the hon. Gentleman, that because great evils had existed there should be no inquiry, and that because the officials had misconducted themselves they should continue to hold office. He thought, however, that that hon. Gentleman, when he said that the Admiralty were blamed by nobody, and had nothing to explain, had gone rather too far. He (Mr. Collier) was anxious to hear the explanation that would be given on this subject by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and knowing the great administrative talents of that right hon. Gentleman, and the ability with which the affairs of the Admiralty had generally been administered, he had no doubt that right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to give a satisfactory explanation so far as he had any concern in the matter. He thought, however, they might venture to lay down this rule as applicable to all departments —that the head of a department was answerable for failures unless he could show who were the culpable parties. If there had been remissness or negligence in any department, and the House was informed who was to blame, and the person whose conduct had been culpable was censured or dismissed, there were some hopes of improvement; but if they were never to know upon whom the blame rested—if they were never to lay their hands upon the incap- able, the incompetent, or the obstructive—he feared the management of public affairs was absolutely hopeless, and that there was nothing before them but an endless career of disaster and disgrace. He applied this observation to the authorities at Balaklava, who, he was sorry to say, had [...]n removed, but a Commission, they were given to understand, was to be appointed to inquire into their conduct. He [...] the inquiries of that Commission would be satisfactory, but he entertained considerable doubt upon the subject, and he thought that little good would be effected without the removal of those anarchical spirits — Filder and Boxer. He thought the House was entitled to know from the heads of departments what had been the causes of failure, and if blame attached to any parties who those parties were. The First Lord of the Admiralty might possibly be able to show that there had been reasons for changing the policy of the Government with regard to the blockade—that, for instance, our fleet was insufficient to blockade the ports of the Black Sea. He (Mr. Collier) could not, however, conceive how such a reason could be assigned, when a single steamer might have blockaded the Straits of Kertch, and thus have cut off the communications of the ports in the Sea of Azoff, from which goods to the amount of 2,000,000l. had been exported. Single steamers might also have blockaded Odessa, and other ports of the Black Sea. He would not enter into the nice question whether a blockade of the Dardanelles or the Bosphorus would have been sufficient; but if they had a competent force to maintain an efficient blockade, and if orders had been sent out to the admirals to establish such a blockade, he wished to know why those orders had not been obeyed.

He would now pass to another part of the subject—the blockade of the Baltic. They had had two great fleets, one operating in the Black Sea, which had not blockaded at all, or done anything, as far as he knew, beyond firing a certain number of shots at the forts of Sebastopol, and another operating in the Baltic, which had, indeed, established an effectual blockade; but that blockade had been entirely evaded by means of land carriage. He thought he would be able to show that the blockade of the Baltic had been substantially evaded in a manner which no doubt was not anticipated, and for not anticipating which he threw no blame upon the Government.

The traffic by land carriage, which had been organised by the Emperor of Russia, with the connivance of Prussia, had been brought to a degree of perfection that could scarcely have been anticipated. A Commissioner, a very able man, was appointed by the Emperor of Russia with a competent staff, to make good and efficient roads, and these roads had been overflowing with Russian commerce, vast stores of tallow, hemp, flax, and linseed, flowed through Prussia to Memel—the countries through which this trade passed deriving from it great advantage, in consequence of which the war was exceedingly popular in Prussia. Indeed, this stream of commerce going through Prussia gave that country good grounds for wishing to maintain her neutrality in this war. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. J. L. Ricardo) had written an able pamphlet on this subject, in which he described thus the flow of Russian produce through Prussia— 'One of the custom houses on the frontier has taken as much as 1,000 thalers a-day for import duties, and as many as 500 cartloads of hemp and flax have frequently arrived per day at Memel. Throughout the summer the town has presented an extraordinary spectacle. Every warehouse, coachhouse, stable, and outhouse has been literally crammed with merchandise; the streets and open spaces have been piled with it; while upwards of 100 ships have been kept lying in the harbour, unable to discharge their cargoes, on account of all the landing-places being occupied. Landlords have realised rents, taverns and shopkeepers have obtained prices comparable to those which resulted from the rush of emigration to Melbourne.' It is estimated that the extra cost paid on Russian produce belonging to the British merchant, for its transport by the Russian peasantry to Memel, is no less than 2,500,000l. This is exclusive of the goods carried to Archangel for shipment, and the loss from damage and destruction to them on the road, where insurance is impossible. He agreed to a certain extent with his hon. Friend, as, for example, when he said that it was humiliating to see how the blockade had been evaded, and how we were in the first instance put to the expense of imposing a blockade, and then we had to pay a further cost for its evasion of 2,500,000l. But his hon. Friend was for no blockade at all. Now, that was a view which any gentleman might reasonably and logically adopt; but to say that we should have a blockade and that it should be ineffectual, was to hold ground utterly untenable. When his hon. Friend had arrived at the conclusion that there should be no blockade, he ought in consistency to oppose the Navy Estimates; for, if there was to be no blockade, why so great an increase in our fleet as was proposed in those Estimates? What he contended for was that either they should have no blockade or an effectual blockade. If they could not stop this transit through Prussia, then, by all means, let us have our goods direct from Cronstadt, and thus save both time and expense; but to institute a blockade that could be evaded was an untenable measure and one which it was impossible to do ought than condemn. He would not attempt to dictate to the Government the precise course which they should adopt. That was a matter of policy which it would be better to leave in their own hands; but he would shortly state the notions he had formed as to the mode of dealing with the subject. In the first place, then, it seemed to him that Prussia had substantially been guilty of a breach of neutrality—that the trade carried on through Prussia was not only a trade of private individuals, but one organised in a great measure between the Governments of Russia and Prussia for the express purpose of evading our blockade. A convention had been entered into for the formation of a railway, and Prussia derived great revenue from the Russian commerce which passed through her dominions. This transit trade through Prussia was entirely a new trade, and it was carried on to the detriment of ours. It had been laid down by publicists—and in fact there was a rule known as the rule of 1756—to this effect, that a neutral was at liberty to carry on his accustomed trade in time of war, but not a new trade to the prejudice of either of the belligerents. On that subject he would refer hon. Members to the dictum of Lord Stowell, who said the general rule was that a neutral had a right to carry on in time of war his accustomed trade to the utmost extent to which that accustomed trade was capable, but the law was different in the case of a new trade which the neutral had not previously carried on. Now, here was, in fact, a new trade carried on by Prussia for the advantage of herself and Russia, in evasion of our blockade, and distinctly to the detriment of one of the belligerents. This, in his opinion, afforded ground for remonstrance on our part with Prussia. They had a right to call on Prussia in this case, and, at all events, if Prussia joined the Western Powers—which he trusted she would do—he hoped one stipulation would be, that Prussia should seal her frontier to the transit of Russian produce, so that the blockade might be effectual, and he trusted that no stipulation would be made with Prussia except such an arrangement was entered into by that Power. Close the Black Sea and the Baltic and the Prussian frontier, and the commerce of Russia would be so far crippled that she would not be able to carry on the war for any length of time. But he had been told there were other measures that might be adopted; they might institute a search if neutral vessels for enemies' goods coming from neutral ports. They might do so on the ground that it was necessary for the enforcement of the blockade, and he apprehended that they would have a perfect right to do so. He did not put it on the footing of interfering generally with the rights of neutrals, but he merely suggested that it might be adopted in this particular case, for this particular object, and in consequence of this particular necessity. There was one measure which they undoubtedly had a right to adopt, and that was to prohibit the importation of Russian productions into this country. They had a right, without offence to any other nation, to prohibit the importation of Russian produce into this country. The objections that might be made to that were twofold. In the first place it might be said that the prohibition would not be effectual, and next, that it would injure ourselves. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent, in his able pamphlet, argued that we should not prohibit Russian produce on the latter ground. What might be done was, that certain specified articles, such as hemp, tallow, &c., should not be admitted without certificates obtained from the British Consul in the country from which they came that they were not the produce of Russia—an oath to be taken to that effect—and also an oath by the importing merchant to the same effect. It might be said, there would be perjury; but the House must bear in mind the peculiar character of the Russian trade. It was carried on by few houses, those being of great respectability and employing a large amount of capital. Without a large amount of capital it was impossible to engage in the Russian trade with effect, because it was carried on by large advances. Now, he believed that if the importation of Russian produce was rendered unlawful, the Russian merchants as a body would refuse to have anything to do with it. In St. Petersburg, before the war commenced, the merchants in that city engaged in this trade informed Sir Hamilton Seymour in a memorial that, if the trade were prohibited they would have nothing to do with it whatever, and a similar conclusion was come to in London. The consequence was that the rouble fell from 38d. to 32d., though now, as he had previously stated, it had again risen to par. He believed he could state confidently that those merchants—and one of them would second the Motion he should now make—would supply the country with any article we now got from Russia from other parts of the world—from India, from the coast of Africa, from Italy; and he had reason to believe that the prohibition would be in a great degree effectual. There might be some smuggling possibly. Inferior houses might engage in the contraband trade, but the great merchants generally would keep agents at the foreign ports to look after the contrabandists, and he had no doubt the stream of Russian produce, if not altogether stopped, would be at least dammed back. He had been told that the prohibition would be evaded in various ways, that Russian tallow would be melted down as German tallow, the German tallow would be liberated and sent to this country, and that manufactories would be established on the continent for the purpose of sending articles here in a manufactured state. Now, with respect to the substitution of Russian tallow for German tallow, the quantity liberated could not be to any great amount, and to evade the prohibition effectually a new trade would have to be organised, and altogether a new system established. So with respect to manufactories. A manufactory was not built in a day, but required skill, labour, machinery, and capital; and was it likely that the Germans would invest any considerable sums in these operations when any month might render the outlay of their capital unavailing by bringing either a general peace or a general war? In either case their efforts to establish a new trade would be rendered entirely nugatory. If they were sure that the war would last twenty years there might be something in the argument; but, as it might be over at any day, it did not seem likely that any considerable amount of capital would be invested in Germany for the purpose of evading our prohibition. It was further said that the people of this country would injure themselves by this measure. He freely admitted that they would; but did any man suppose that they were to enter upon a war without incurring serious injury to themselves? Were they to go about their affairs in the usual manner, to pass their Reform Bills, and busy themselves with matters of external legislation, and if they had any surplus cash to spare expend it in crumpling up the Emperor of Russia? If they were not prepared for the sacrifices of war they ought never to have undertaken it. If they were not prepared for the sacrifices of war they had better conclude peace at once, and on whatever terms they could make. But should it be said of this country that it hesitated not to sacrifice the lives of the best and bravest of its children in the cause of liberty, that it could contemplate with comparative calmness the calamities of the battle field and the hospital, but that there was one thing it could not contemplate without agony and despair, and that was a rise in the price of tallow? Was it to be said that they were not prepared to succumb to the Emperor of Russia, and that they would take every measure for the purpose of prosecuting the war with vigour, except one, which was likely to injure their commercial interests? If they were only prepared to carry on the war in that spirit, they were rightly called a nation of shopkeepers, and they had better stay at home. [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear, hear!] He was cheered by the hon. Member for Manchester, and the views of the hon. Gentleman on this subject were perfectly consistent. The hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying that they should not have entered upon this war unless they were prepared to make peace at once, or that, unmindful of their trade, their flax, or their tallow, they were determined to carry on the war with vigour, and at every sacrifice, if they were prepared to carry it on at all. But, after all, they were not likely to be driven to any great stress in consequence of the loss of Russian produce, and, perhaps, the House would allow him to quote a passage from the Economist newspaper, which, intimating that the trade with Russia was stopped, consoled them with the reflection that they were able to obtain from other sources the supplies which they had been accustomed to procure from Russia. In the Economist of April 1, before it was anticipated that the blockade would be evaded, the editor, after expressing infinite contempt for those "dealers in grease," as he called them, who were doing what they could to alarm the country touch- ing a scarcity of tallow, proceeded to state:— The import of tallow, therefore, is stationary or declining, the quantity from Russia not increasing, while our growing demand for materials of that description is supplied by the increasing quantities of palm and cocoa-nut oil. In like manner, the largely increasing supply of hemp comes less from Russia than other quarters. He then went on to say:— It should not be forgotten by those who anticipate still higher prices for Russian produce that oily matters, which can be substituted for tallow in many cases, may be obtained from the vegetable as well as from the animal kingdom, and that numerous substitutes may be found for hemp, as well as wheaten bread. Afterwards the editor of the Economist went into a long statement to show that we could procure tallow, hemp, corn, and other articles from other parts of the world, and he concluded with this sentence:— We may expect, therefore, from the impediment which war will lay in our way of getting tallow, hemp, and corn from the uncivilised space the Czar governs, that art and industry will know how to obtain from the whole of the rest of the world a greater abundance than hitherto of useful articles than stationary or retrograding Russia can possibly supply. In reference to the supply of hemp from Russia, he would beg to read to the House an extract from a circular of Messrs. Noble, which said:— In the early part of the present year, when it was expected the supply of hemp from Russia would be stopped, we called the attention of several of our friends to the hemp from India, and they have forwarded us samples of superior qualities, well adapted for all the purposes of Russian hemp; but it would take some time before any large quantity could be obtained, properly prepared for the purpose, and arrangements were made for so preparing the crop that would have come in next year; but, after it was discovered that the supply from Russia would be regular through Prussia, there was no inducement strong enough to urge them to carry out these arrangements, and they have, therefore, fallen to the ground, and instead of our getting the large supply we expected, there will be very little more than the usual supply from those places. If, however, it were certain that the trade with Russia would be stopped for one year only, it would give such an impetus to the growers of fibres in the colonies that we might for the future leave them entirely to themselves, and we should be sure, in the year 1856, and after that, to receive such quantities and quality that would make us perfectly independent of Russian hemp, as the producers would be able to send it (after they were once fairly started) at prices that would compete with Russian hemp when at its lowest price, and it would also be of great advantage in doing away with the prejudice now existing on the part of consumers about trying a new article. He had been glad to hear the announcement the other day that arrangements had been made for procuring hemp in any quantity from Italy. Flax, also, to any amount could be grown in Ireland, and could be obtained from other quarters; tallow could be obtained in great quantities from Australia, and palm and cocoa-nut oil from the coast of Africa. In fact, there was no article which they now got from Russia which they might not obtain from other parts of the world, and principally from their own colonies. Once open these quarters, and he had every reason to suppose that the produce of Russia could be dispensed with. The courses he ventured to recommend as calculated to enforce our claims on Russia were, either to exercise the right of searching all vessels from Russian ports, or prohibiting the importation of Russian goods into this country. We should not by such prohibition give the rest of the world a great advantage over us, for we were almost the only customers of Russia. Russia could not obtain elsewhere the advances she obtained from this country. Without the advances of English capital, which she had hitherto received, the power of Russia must be very much lessened and diminished. If he were told that there were grave objections to the measures which he bad suggested, then he could only revert to his former position, and call upon the Government to abandon the blockade. If the blockade was to be kept up at all it was absolutely necessary to resort to some of the means he had mentioned for enforcing it and rendering it effectual. If an announcement were made to-night showing that the Government were in earnest in endeavouring to stop the contraband trade now passing through Prussia, he believed the effect would be serious and immediate on the finances of Russia, and that the rouble would immediately fall. He firmly believed that a large amount of English capital was at this moment in London waiting for its destination, and which, if it went to Russia, would supply her with the means of carrying on the war and of sending fresh armies into the field. It now, doubtless, would find its way to India and other parts of the world for the purpose of supplying us with the produce we formerly, got from Russia, if the importation of Russian produce into this country were at once wholly and effectually prohibited. The success of our troops did not depend merely upon our own numbers, but upon the numbers opposed to us; and at present we were supplying the Emperor of Russia with gold to enable him to raise armies for the purpose of resisting our troops. Russia was not a large commercial country, and, as compared with Russia, we were as a great commercial company compared to a small trader. Our commerce with Russia was small, but the commerce of Russia with this country was almost all she possessed, and to put a stop to it would be nearly to reduce her to a state of bankruptcy. The Emperor of Russia had more men than we had, and if he could insure the loss of one of our soldiers by two of his he was a winner. On the other hand, we could lose two sovereigns to his one, and still be the gainers. He (Mr. Collier) trusted, then, that he should hear from the Government that they were prepared to manage the war in this respect with vigour and effect; and he might say that, as long as they were disposed to carry on the war thoroughly and in earnest, to apply to it all the resources of the country, they would form a strong Government, and would meet with the hearty, the unanimous, and the enthusiastic suppport of the country. If, however, they still went on as the former Government did, proposing half measures, showing themselves unequal to the occasion, and requiring to be goaded into activity by the press or by public opinion, the sooner they fell the better. He, for one, was inclined to give them his support, and he trusted that their explanation upon the subject he had now brought before the House, and upon the conduct of the war generally, would be satisfactory to the country.


said, that in seconding the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend, he concurred generally with what had fallen from him, but he wished to fill up, with a few details, the outline he had drawn, which details might, perhaps, be necessary to enable Her Majesty's Government to come to some decision upon this question. And, first of all, he regretted that his hon. and learned Friend had changed the form of his Motion. As it orignally stood, it was one directly expressing the opinion of this House—that the trade of Russia ought to be further restricted. He regretted that that course was not persisted in. The Government had had the fullest time to consider this question. Three months ago, in answer to a deputation from the flax merchants of Dundee, the Earl of Clarendon said the subject should receive the fullest consideration from Her Majesty's Government, and, considering the present Government to be almost identical with the former one, he thought his hon. and learned Friend might have ventured to bring forward his original Motion, and, if the explanation of the Government was not satisfactory, to obtain a direct vote of this House upon the subject. He, himself, feeling strongly as he did in reference to it, should have brought the matter forward at an earlier period; but he confessed he had been pusillanimous. He allowed himself to be deterred by a fear lest it should be said that he and others who moved in this question were holders of Russian produce in London, and therefore advocated the measures of which his hon. and learned Friend had sketched the outline to-night. Now, within the last ten days a deputation representing the Russian trade in this country had had an interview with Lord Clarendon. That deputation represented not merely speculative holders of Russian produce in England, but gentlemen who had necessarily large amounts of fixed capital locked up in Russia—people whose entire trade was with Russia, and whose direct interest it was, therefore, that that trade should be carried on, provided that it could be carried on on a proper and honourable footing. He repeated, they were not speculative holders of Russian produce. It might happen that they all held a certain amount; and when had they not done so? But, for himself—though he felt almost ashamed to occupy their time in repudiating any improper motives in the course he was now taking—he believed that he did not hold one-third of his usual amount of Russian stock at this moment. Almost all his neighbours were in the same position, but their interest was the same as the interest of the public. That interest was, to have this war brought to a close as speedily as possible, so as to enable those merchants—leaving patriotic views entirely out of sight—to carry on their legitimate trade with Russia, and to make use of that dead capital which was now locked up and absorbed in Russia. This was the motive which animated them, and his opinion was, that in the course they were pursuing they were advocating the general interests of the country. He believed that the deputation to which he had alluded, which included nearly all the gentlemen who had establishments in Russia, had expressed but one opinion in the course of their in- terview with Lord Clarendon. He believed, also, that that opinion was entertained by every one who had a knowledge of the trade of Russia, who had been a long time in that country, or who had means of communication with those who lived in Russia. This opinion was that the most powerful lever which the English Government had to bring this war to a termination, was to stop the trade with Russia. Having himself passed his whole life in the Russian trade, he had naturally sought to converse with those who were in the same position on the subject, and he had found but one opinion prevailing, which was, that more powerful than our armies would be the stoppage of our trade with Russia. Nearly all the produce of Russia was raised by serf labour, and belonged either directly to the nobility or came to them in the shape of rent, which must be paid by the grower of the produce to the nobleman who possessed the soil; and if that produce did not bear any value, of course the cultivator could not pay any rent. Experience had proved that there was one, and probably but one, lever with the Emperor of Russia, and that was the power of the nobility of that empire. The House would recollect that the Russian nobility were almost the only possessors of military power. There were some German generals in the Emperor's service, but the nobility were almost exclusively in the chief commands. You, therefore, brought to bear upon the Emperor one most potent lever, when, by stopping the sale of the produce of Russia, you destroyed the rents of the nobility, and, consequently, reduced them to poverty. Of course there were men among the Russian nobles, like Prince Demidoff and some others, who had accumulated enormous fortunes; but, as a general rule, those nobles lived up to their income. Well, already, by this war, the nobles were losing their serfs, and were paying large war taxes; and if you added to this the total stoppage of their rents, which would be the direct effect of the stoppage of the trade with Russia, his opinion was that the Emperor himself, with that sagacity which distinguished him, would at once yield to the opinions of the nobility, and would no longer wish to prosecute this war. This stoppage of Russian trade would also have a direct effect upon the exchange. It was a fact that, notwithstanding the enormous issue of paper money since the war—notwithstanding the export of gold from Russia was now pro- hibited—the exchange had been generally at par, and was very little below par now. How could this be accounted for? It could only be accounted for by the influx of money into Russia, in return for the export of goods.

Now, as to the various modes in which that capital had been supplied. Take the case of the Black Sea. Before an effective blockade was established, about 1,000,000 quarters of linseed were shipped from the Black Sea to all quarters of the world. The present value of that article in London was 63s. a quarter, and the whole of that money had gone into the pockets of parties either professedly neutral or directly hostile to this country—to the Russian producer, and to Greek merchants who were notoriously hostile to this country, or the neutral shipowner. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) early in the Session had stated distinctly that a blockade would be established. The consequence was, that nobody in this country thought of taking steps for procuring linseed from the Black Sea. They considered, as a matter of course, that, as the First Lord of the Admiralty had given distinct notice that a blockade would be instituted, it would be hopeless to think of supplies from the Black Sea. The Greeks, however, who were on the spot, very soon found out that the right hon. Baronet's instructions were not carried out; they had, therefore, systematically gone on with the trade, and he had just learnt of he did not know how many cargoes of linseed as being in process of shipment from the Black Sea. Here was 3,000,000l. which had gone directly, in the face of the assertions of the Government that a blockade would be carried out, either to the enemy or to neutral shipowners. What had been the result in other ways? The direct statements of the Government as to the blockade and the consequent failure in the supply of Russian produce had led to orders being sent out to India for linseed, to the extent of 150,000 to 200,000 quarters, which, on its arrival here, had to be sold at a ruinous loss. In consequence of the maintenance of the supply of Russian produce, the price fell 15 per cent, and this Indian linseed had to be sold at that loss; so that, of course, put a stop to further purchases in India. What had happened, too, had this further effect—that until the blockade was actually established nobody would believe a word of it, and no arrangements would be made to procure a supply from India and from other quarters. Well, while the Government had been doing this, they had, from the month of May last, instituted a most rigid blockade of the mouths of the Danube. Now, there never had been any great importation of corn into this country from Russian ports in the Danube, and he believed the greatest quantity imported in any one year was 50,000 quarters. Corn was the only article exported from the Danube, and some time prior to May the Emperor of Russia had entirely prohibited the export of corn from any port of his in the Black Sea. Consequently the Government need not have troubled themselves much to blockade the Danube. But what was the effect of their operations? Why, they were allowing 1,000,000 quarters of linseed to be shipped from the Black Sea under the very nose of our admiral, and they were preventing the shipment of 2,000,000 quarters of Turkish corn lying in the Danubian Principalities. He might be told that the Government had no information upon this subject. But, if that were the case, surely it was the duty of the Government to get full information from those quarters from which they might easily have obtained it. But to leave that subject and to come to time question of the blockade in the Baltic, he was prepared to go upon either of two grounds—either to institute a real and effective blockade in that sea, or to institute none at all. He knew perfectly well the value that the Emperor of Russia attached to that trade; in fact, so great was the value attached to it that when the roads communicating with the ports through which that trade was carried on were out of repair the Russian soldiers were employed to repair them. He knew that such was the value of that trade that he believed that a convention might be entered into under which all the Russian ships of war would remain in the harbours of Cronstadt and Sweaborg, if British ships of commerce were permitted to enter into the ports of the Baltic; in fact, that if the Government would agree that trade in that sea should go on as in time of peace, there would be no necessity for the presence there of a British fleet at all. Now, what he wished to press upon the Government was, either that some such course as that should be adopted, or that a strict and effective blockade should be maintained.

He had been furnished with a statement drawn up under the auspices of the Rus- sian Government of the quantity of goods despatched from the Russian ports for shipment through Prussia before the blockade of Riga. All the goods referred to had not yet been shipped from Memel, but no doubt they all would be. According to that statement the quantity of tallow despatched for shipment through Prussia amounted to 30,500 tons, time average cost of which, delivered free on board at Memel, was 60l. a ton, making the total cost 1,830,000l. The quantity of hemp and flax was 70,756 tons, which, at 50l. a ton, made a total of 3,537,800l. The price of the quantity of bristles, linseed, and other goods despatched to Memel was stated at 1,000,000l. The trade with Archangel amounted also to about 1,000,000l. With regard to that trade he might remark that a most strict blockade of Archangel had been instituted after all the goods had been shipped away. The trade in the Black Sea amounted to about 1,500,000l., so that the total amount of the trade with Russia was not less than 8,867,800l. He found also from the average exports of the three previous years that, independently of corn, the exportation of which was now prohibited, the quantity of goods despatched to the frontier during the last year did not amount to more than two-thirds or three-fourths of the whole quantity of goods shipped from Russia in former years. Now, the average cost of the exports in former years was about 10,000,000l., so that the result of the war hitherto had been that we had paid 8,867,800l. for two-thirds of that which formerly cost us 10,000,000l. He could not conceive a case more monstrous or more absurd.

He would now come to what had been proposed to put an end to such a state of things. He had given time subject full and careful consideration, and he concurred in the propriety of the course suggested by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth. He was aware that the proposition was contrary to the doctrines of political economy; that could not be helped, and, indeed, he did not think that it would always be advisable to follow the doctrines of political economy in the midst of a great war. Inconvenience must fall on all parties. Consider how many thousands of lives had been already sacrificed! What was to be considered was the advantage of the general community, and if any measure, although it might inflict some slight injury upon a few branches of trade, could be devised by which a speedy end might be put to the contest in which the country was engaged, it was the duty of the Government to disregard that slight injury to trade, and to carry out any plan which offered a speedy termination to the war. It had been stated by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth that the want of British capital would be felt in Russia. The fact appeared to be that from two-thirds to three-fourths of the exports of Russia came into this country, and he believed that even a larger proportion of Russian trade was carried on by means of English capital. Money was advanced, in the winter, to Russian dealers to enable them to go into the interior and to bring produce from thence to the coast in the summer. A trade of that description required a large amount of capital, and, although it might be said that if the dealers of this country were prevented from embarking in that trade, dealers from other countries would, he did not think that such would be the case, for, in addition to large capital, that trade required great knowledge of the people on the spot. A very striking proof of the value of English capital was afforded upon the declaration of war. The declaration of war was made upon the 28th of March, and the general belief among the people of this country was that it was illegal, after that declaration, to have dealings with the Russians, and, indeed, it was generally determined not to continue mercantile transactions with Russian subjects. What was the result? In the town of Riga, the town with which he was best acquainted, the prices of goods fell 15 per cent. On the 15th of April a proclamation was issued, allowing English subjects to trade with Russia, and the result was that the prices of goods in Riga advanced more than the 15 per cent they had previously fallen. That, he considered, was a tolerably decisive proof of the value of British capital in Russia. Assuming that that permission to trade was again repealed, and that British subjects were no longer to be allowed to trade with Russia, then he would say, follow up that measure and forbid the importation of Russian produce. He was persuaded that the withdrawal of British capital from Russia would produce a most beneficial effect towards putting an end to the war, and he believed that the merchants in this country would not object to any such steps being taken. He had no doubt that, if any speculative persons should venture to embark their capital in trade thus forbidden, they would soon be pointed out to the Government and receive the punishment they deserved. His view of the certificate of origin would be that our consuls at the different shipping ports should throw the onus of proving that goods were not of Russian origin upon the persons applying for that certificate. Of course a great deal would depend on the manner in which the consuls did their duty. He trusted that they would justify the opinion which the noble Lord at the head of the Government entertained of them. It was notorious that, hitherto, no tallow had ever been shipped from Prussia, therefore our consuls would be pretty well justified, if an application were made for a certificate in the case of tallow, in suspecting its origin. There was certainly a small quantity of flax sent from that country, but his impression was that due vigilance on the part of the consuls and of those directly interested in the trade would prevent any smuggling to an extent which would assist the trade with Russia, and would materially assist in bringing the war to a conclusion.

Now, as to the effect which this would have upon home interests. No doubt it might possibly do a slight injury, but he thought he should be able to show that it would be as nothing compared with the national benefit of bringing the war to an early close. The three main articles which were sent from Russia and arrived here viá Prussia were hemp, flax, and tallow. Now, at the beginning of the present month there were in London 9,844 tons Of hemp as against 4,825 tons at the same period of 1854, 2,524 tons in 1853, and 4,009 tons in 1852. So that there was a great deal more than double the quantity in London at this time than at any of those former periods. Of tallow there were now 39,536 casks against 39,624 casks in 1854, 43,102 casks in 1653, and 57,847 casks in 1852. The quantity of tallow, therefore, was rather less. The great market for flax was Dundee, and he believed that in Dundee there never had been such a stock of flax as at this moment. But, in addition to this, let the House consider how easy it was to find substitutes for these articles. Since the repeal of the soap duties it was pretty well known that rape oil, linseed, palm, cocoa-nut, and all kinds of oil, had been largely substituted for tallow; and every year we were using less of tallow and more of its substitutes. This would be proved by a reference to the prices. On the 26th of December, 1853, several months before war was declared, the price of tallow in London was 59s. per cwt. At present it was 56s. So that it is now 3l. a ton lower than it had been fifteen months ago, when no war was anticipated. Palm oil, on the contrary, which at the former date had been 41l. a ton, was now 44l., having risen precisely to the same extent as tallow had fallen. This was a clear proof that palm oil had been used as a substitute for tallow. With reference to the substitution of German tallow for Russian, he had already shown that German tallow was never sent to this country now; and when it was considered that in order to effect this the tallow of Russia would have to be sent to all the different little villages at which certain productions of tallow took place, and there used for local purposes, while the German tallow was sent thence to England, it would be seen that the expense would be so great that nothing but a very large differential value in this country would be likely to lead to any great substitution of German tallow for Russian. His own impression was, that there would be no such differential value as to repay the expense of the substitution in question. Next, with regard to hemp. There had been recently a considerable importation of hemp from India, and, if the question of transit were set at rest, we might, no doubt, look for large shipments from that country. The First Lord of the Admiralty had lately supplied himself also with an enormous quantity of hemp from Italy—about 5,000 tons—which was nearly three years' average consumption in time of peace in the dockyards. Then, again, within a very short time the patent for wire rope had expired. That article was a most formidable competitor with hemp, and it had lately fallen to one-half its former price, which was of itself an enormous advantage to the manufacturers of cordage. Lastly, he would take flax, and he must especially ask the House to look at this, because a deputation from Dundee appeared to have exercised some effect upon the mind of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs upon this subject. He thought that they had not informed that noble Lord, however, that the price of Russian flax at this moment in Dundee was as low as it had been previously to the declaration of war twelve months ago. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. J. L. Ricardo) stated in his pamphlet that Russian flax was about two-thirds of the whole quantity of flax imported into this country; but he had forgotten the Irish flax, and, taking that into account, the Russian would not exceed half the whole quantity. He (Mr. Mitchell) had only yesterday received a letter from Ireland in which it was stated that in consequence of the present low price of flax it was the intention of the farmers to sow only half their usual quantity. The usual crop in Ireland was 35,000 tons, and if the gentlemen in Dundee, in their pursuit of great wealth, insisted upon reduced prices, they must make up their minds to find the Irish production diminished. A great deal of stress had been laid upon the supposed probability, if a great differential value were created between Russian flax and the substitute for Russian flax, that a vast number of other mills would be started in Prussia. He perceived by a circular from the Belfast linen manufacturers that the whole number of flax mills all over Prussia was nine. Now, that certainly was not a very formidable competition! Was it conceivable for one moment, because the prohibition of Russian flax might create a fictitious difference of some 10 or 15 per cent, that the flax spinners in Prussia or Belgium would set about ordering most expensive machinery for the spinning of flax, which could not be erected much under a twelvemonth; knowing, as they must know, that a termination of the war, which was the only ground of that differential value, might entirely annihilate it at a moment's notice. He had now gone through various items, and might pursue the same line of argument with regard to other articles, but he would not trouble the House further, and would conclude by stating that it was his solemn opinion that by stopping the trade of Russia the Government would adopt the most speedy and efficacious means of bringing the war to a termination.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That there be laid before this House a Return of Russian Exports from Archangel to this country during the past year."


Sir, the Motion which has been brought forward with so much ability by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth is for the production of certain papers, which of course the Government can have no objection to lay upon the table, but probably the House may consider that on a question which has been argued with so much ability, and which has created so much interest both in and out of the House, it is right that I should make a more general statement than I otherwise should, were I to confine its reference merely to the terms of the Motion itself. Sir, when, unfortunately, at the expiration of a peace of nearly forty years' duration we found ourselves once more involved in a war with a European power, it became necessary for us to consider what ought to be the commercial policy of this country, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case, with reference to the enemy we were about to engage, the Ally with whom we were about to be united, and with reference also to the neutral Powers whose good feelings we could not but be desirous of carrying along with us in the war in which we were involved. The consideration of these circumstances naturally led us to these conclusions — that the enemy with whom we were about to contend was peculiarly circumstanced, inasmuch as his ports were situated on the shores of land-locked seas, and so peculiarly exposed to the consequences of blockade; that the Ally with whom we were to be united had differed from us as to the maritime policy and laws which ought to prevail during hostilities; and that the neutral Powers would naturally sympathise with us if we adopted a Maritime policy which would be least unfavourable to their interests. Sir, the declaration of war was accompanied by a declaration of policy on the part of Her Majesty, not waiving any of those belligerent rights for which Great Britain has contended in former wars, but suspending a part of them during the continuance of the present conflict on motives of policy arising from the considerations to which I have alluded, but which I do not think it necessary further to pursue on the present occasion. This declaration, Sir, was followed as a natural consequence by the Order in Council of the 15th of April, extending to our own countrymen the same latitude which the previous Order had given to all other persons, to which the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell) has alluded in terms of disapprobation, and however desirous we might be of carrying on the war with vigour—however (reasons sufficient being shown) we might be ready to agree with the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) to engage in a conflict with Russia, which would cost us two sovereigns for every one it would cost that Power, yet surely to adopt a course the consequence of which must be to inflict an injury on ourselves, while scarcely an appreciable particle of it could reach our enemy, would be neither compatible with the dictates of common sense, nor with the desire to bring this war to a speedy and successful termination. But, says my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth, you have adopted a course the result of which has been totally and entirely ineffective. I took notice of the phrases which the hon. and learned Gentleman used while he was so contending. He said that our operations had signally failed—that the exports from Russia have not been diminished. [Mr. COLLIER: From some of the ports.] But the statistics of the whole trade, those quoted by the hon. Member for Bridport, and those which it may be necessary for me to trouble the House with, lead to a totally opposite conclusion. But, says my hon. and learned Friend, the result of your proceeding by blockade has been ineffective. With that conclusion I most respectfully join issue. I shall be able to show that they have been far from ineffective, even under the circumstances under which they have been conducted. But what are those circumstances? You tell us truly that trade with Russia is peculiar, because in times of peace it is carried on by advances of English capital made in preceding years. It was so carried on, and the natural corollary from that system was, that on the outbreak of a war you should lean to those whose property, invested in Russia, was on its return home—those subjects of your own Crown who were bringing their property from hostile ports, for otherwise you would injure yourselves, not your enemies. Accordingly time was given in the Baltic and in the White Sea, and I will not hesitate to acknowledge, with regard to the Black Sea, that the blockade was rot enforced in that satisfactory manner which may be considered desirable. Making this avowal frankly, I may state some of the causes which led to that circumstance. At the outbreak of hostilities, a blockade was to be carried on by your own vessels in conjunction with those of an ally, it was necessary that communications should be made between the Allied Powers as to the terms upon which that blockade was to be carried on, and as to the vessels by which it was to be conducted. It unavoidably happened that some time was spent in the early part of the summer in communications upon this subject before the blockade was signified, and, at a later period, every vessel which either of the Allied Powers could command was employed in that great expedition which took place in September. Be that, however, as it may, there was time given in the Baltic for the reason I have stated, and there was time given in the White Sea longer than was given in the Baltic, on account of the difference of latitude; and also, because there was English and French property in the White Sea which it was important should be brought home. There was, besides, that inevitable remissness of the blockade in the Black Sea to which I have alluded. You will not expect, under these circumstances, that the comparison of 1854 with preceding years will show that result as respects the pressure upon the trade of Russia which the advocates of effective operations might desire. But do not imagine that I am making this preamble as an excuse for results that when they are laid before you you will consider unsatisfactory. The hon. Member for Bridport says that we have been paying dearer for two-thirds of the usual Russian exports than we used to pay for the whole. Now, Sir, my hon. Friend coupled with that an argument which, I hope he will allow me to say, did surprise me, coming from so acute an economist as himself, and which I shall more fully examine by and by. What, then, has been the actual result of our operations up to this time? First, whatever mercantile navy Russia possessed may be said, for the purposes of commerce, to have been entirely annihilated, while our own ships ride unharmed in every sea, and I do not know the shipowner or consigner of merchandise who would give any considerable insurance in order to be guaranteed against the risk of capture by the Russians. Then, with regard to manufactures, Russia takes great pains to become a manufacturing country. She protects her manufactures by import duties. I have reason to believe that her manufactures have suffered materially by your being able to put upon Russia, by means of your blockade, that very pressure which my hon. Friend is so anxious to induce you to put upon Great Britain, namely, to prevent the supply of raw material with which our manufactories are supplied.

Perhaps, Sir, I ought upon an occasion like this to trouble the House with figures, because everything connected with the conduct of the war is naturally of interest in your eyes, and I will, therefore, read to you a few of the the figures which have been supplied to me to show what has been the state of the case in 1854, as compared with 1853, with regard to the exports of Russia to this country in the articles which the hon. Member for Bridport specified as those to which he wished to direct particular attention—namely, flax, hemp. and tallow. In 1853 Russia sent us 1,287,000 cwt. of tallow. In 1854 she sent us very little; but, in order to make the comparison a fair one, I will add the Prussian increase to account for the Russian decrease, and then you will see how far, by means of the overland trade through Prussia, Russia has been able to avoid the loss thus occasioned to her. The Prussian increase in 1854 was 425,483 cwt.—making the net Russian decrease in that article 676,000 cwt., or 52 per cent upon the whole trade. With regard to the diminution in hemp in 1854 as compared with 1853, it was 53 per cent, and with regard to tallow it is 62 per cent. Under the circumstances I have stated, these figures show that the blockade has not been ineffective, and I think it is surprising that so great an effect should have been produced in so short a time, for you will not forget that these are the results of a blockade as yet very imperfect, and that the advances of British capital, by which in time of peace the trade of Russia is carried on, had not yet been discontinued. Now, Sir, with regard to the exports of cotton, the raw cotton sent from this country to Russia has fallen off to the extent of 54 per cent, and I hold a long list of other articles which have fallen in the same proportion. My hon. Friend said that there were other sources from which any vacuum created in these trades might easily be supplied. They have told us that it is quite futile to suppose that new manufactories would be established in Germany; but they have not, I suppose, ever travelled into the manufacturing districts, and do not know the rapidity with which, when money and cotton and corn are cheap, manufactories grow up. I do hope that this country, whether in war or in peace, will never be led into that fancied security which would lead them to suppose that they can trifle with the position of its trade. Depend upon it that in times like these, competition springs up where you do not expect it,— Grows like the summer grass, fastest by night, Unseen, but crescive in its faculty; and, if you pass unwise laws here, you will find out when it is too late a formidable enemy that you have yourself created. I hold in my hand an account of the extent to which other countries than Russia have increased in their exports to this country in the same time, and I find a correspondent increase. With regard to prices, it is notorious that the tendency has been to raise the price of those articles at London, and to depress them at St. Petersburg. I hold an extract from two circulars of respectable Russian merchants, Messrs. Catley and Co., showing a decrease in the prices of tallow, of hemp, of flax, and of linseed at St. Petersburg, between the end of 1853 and the end of 1854, and a correspondent rise of most of those articles in the port of London.


I wish to inquire if the cost of carriage is included in the calculation?


If my hon. Friend desires it, I will read what Messrs. Catley and Co. say, in extenso. My hon. Friend is dealing with the ease of articles produced in different countries, and having to compete with each other in the common market of London. He has told us that we need not be afraid of Germany, for that the adoption of his plan would not be followed by the erection there of new manufactories to compete with ours. The duration of the war is uncertain, and the confidence necessary for that expenditure would not exist. Why, then, does he suppose that the confidence, and consequent expenditure, for creating in India a new cultivation for our market, could arise from that source which in the other case he has described as so precarious? But if hemp be grown in India to compete with Russia, does he think the additional cost to which you put the Russian in bringing his goods to market is a gain? That doctrine of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridport would lead to extraordinary consequences. I will read the views of Messrs. Catley and Co. on this point:— The expense, risk, and delay attending the overland trade has caused much discouragement and dissatisfaction, and there is little disposition here to continue it. We may state, in explanation of this, that the cost of conveying tallow, hemp, and flax hence to Memel and Königsberg has been from 20l. to 25l. per ton, and that goods have been three and four months on the way thither; and there have been several instances of their having been lost sight of entirely for weeks—left lying in the woods or villages, where the carriers had left them while they took other goods forward at higher rates of carriage. At this moment considerable quantities are stopped by ice on their way down the Niemen, bound for Memel, and other parcels are detained at Kowno, there being no supply of horses to convey them forward to Memel and Königsberg. It has been said by the hon. Member that the cost had exceeded 2,500,000l., but I am willing to take either estimate, and I will say that the greater the cost of bringing the goods into a neutral port the more I am convinced does the pressure of the blockade begin to operate upon the Russian trade. Messrs. Catley proceed to say— It is scarcely credible, but we believe it to be a fact, that the sum disbursed for land carriage in the overland trade above alluded to considerably exceeds 1,000,000l. sterling for exports only. So great an addition to the usual charges of invoice may, in a great measure, account for the comparatively high rate of exchange. Prices in the interior are said to be low, a natural consequence of accumulation of supply and absence of the usual demand; but a change from war to peace would soon alter that state of things. The course of exchange was on the rise yesterday, but a decline may be looked for under existing circumstances. Well, Sir, that is the result of a blockade which is said to be utterly and totally inadequate, and to have produced no effect whatever upon the trade of Russia. Then an hon. Member has founded an argument upon the price of the rouble and the state of the exchanges. Now, it must be obvious that an argument drawn from the state of the exchanges is only another form of the argument already drawn from the other circumstances of commerce. The exchanges are the barometer of commerce, and the mode by which the pecuniary transactions of trade are regulated. But there are so many disturbing causes, connected with investments, the payment of dividends, and the like, that when other indications are accessible, it is safer to rely upon them than upon the state of the exchanges. It is, however, natural and probable that the course of the exchanges, if spread over a considerable period, will bring you to the same result as that at which you would arrive if you argued upon other, and, as I think, safer grounds. Well, Sir, do they bring you to the same result here? When my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth said the rouble fell, at the declaration of war, from 38d. to 32d., but, afterwards, on the Orders in Council, rose again to par he intended you to suppose that the rouble had not fallen, and from that circumstance to infer that there had been no pressure upon the trade of Russia. But is that the fact? and is it not desirable to examine that statement? The fact is, that in time of peace the exchange is favourable to Russia, because advances are made in money for produce which is exported from Russia. Accordingly, in time of peace, the value of the rouble usually indicates the flow of bullion from London to Petersburg. Ever since the declaration of war the reverse has been the case. Throughout the whole time the rouble has been so far depressed that its value has indicated a constant tendency of bullion from St. Petersburg to London. It is true that the first effect of the depression to 32d. was not wholly maintained. My hon. Friend would not have been surprised at this circumstance if he had reflected that at 32d. the export of bullion yielded a profit of 10 per cent. It is clear that this rate could not continue, but must come to something more near the level of the exchanges. The evidence of the exchanges here agrees with and confirms the proofs derived from any other indication in the case. I am sorry to trouble you with this detail of facts, but it is, I think, manifest that, by the operations of the blockade, you have produced considerable effect upon the trade of Russia, that her mercantile navy has ceased to exist for commercial purposes, that her manufacturers have been prevented from obtaining their raw material, that the quantity and the prices of her produce have diminished, and that the cost of transporting her raw material to market has been considerable. Here I must notice a fallacy that crept into the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. It necessarily followed from the system of advances that a considerable part at least of the expenses of transport of Russian produce should at first fall upon the British merchant, because it was his interest to get home the goods for which he had paid; but in future years, when the advances are put a stop to, and contracts are made upon a new footing, the expense of transport will always fall upon the producer, who, coming here, will have to meet other sellers in the open market. That being the result of the blockade, the next question for consideration is, was it in the power of the Government by further measures to inflict still greater injury upon Russia; and would the effect of the measures which have been suggested this evening have been to inflict further injury upon Russia; and would the measures which have generally been advocated have had the effect of injuring Russia or England? Now, it is manifest that if the trade with Russia were entirely interrupted, both countries would suffer, since both countries derive profit from the trade, or it would not be carried on. But a blockade operating on neutrals as well as upon Russia inflicts the maximum of injury on Russia and the minimum injury upon ourselves. Customs regulations in this country against Russian produce would, on the contrary, have inflicted the maximum injury upon ourselves and the minimum injury upon Russia. That was the reason why the Government hesitated to enforce commercial restrictions at home. And here let me ask you to pursue this case and take a particular article—that of flax. Now, you talk as if the sources of supply of the raw material were easy to be obtained. You talk of the great importance of the English market to Russia, and the insignificance of the supply of Russian flax to Great Britain. But the linen manufacture of this country is equal in value to the whole export trade of Russia in flax and all other exported articles. Stop the raw material in the country of its growth, and what pressure do you cause upon the agricultural producer? You drive him from his best customer, and you compel him to go to his second best customer and dispose of his property, though, I admit, at a diminution of profit, which, nevertheless, always has a constant tendency to regain itself. For by your suicidal policy you make those his best customers who had not hitherto been so, and you cause yourselves, who were his best customers, to be so no longer. Well, what is the effect upon the manufacturer? My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Duncan), if he should address the House with that ability and knowledge which he possesses, will be able to tell you much more accurately than I can what is the exact amount of advantage which the linen manufacturers of Yorkshire, Scotland, and Ireland possess over their German rivals. I believe that in the open market that advantage is small, and that a slight difference in price would cause orders to go to Germany. What is the consequence? We are now fighting an equal battle. Hon. Gentlemen have said that there are too many flaxmills in England, that the linen trade is overdone, that more was produced than the manufacturers could find a market for, and that the remedy of the hon. Member for Bridport for an excess of production is to make the raw material dear in order to enable them the better to compete with their rivals! Now, I beg you to observe the effect. You make his raw material dear. You tell him he is to go to India for it. Why does he not go to India now? On account of the difference of price. Then you are going to add a difference of price, which is not added to the price of his competitor. All Russian flax which he does not buy must go somewhere, though at a lower price. It goes to the very persons with whom the Englishman is competing, and, by a double operation, you have made his material dear and cheapened the material of his rival, and all this for the purpose of inflicting a trifling loss on your enemy, the producer in Russia, because, as I have shown you, there is a constant tendency in trade to reduce the small difficulty created to him, and to aggravate the difficulty created to you. I will read to you a chapter of history towards the close of the late war, because these doctrines have not been invented by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) and the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell). These doctrines were held forty years ago by high authorities. They were held at that time by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the Gentleman who filled the office which I now have the honour to hold, and in the year 1811 the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a Bill for laying a duty on the cotton of the United States of America, and, as if in whimsical parallel with the arguments made use of to night, when the late Lord Ashburton objected to the Bill on the ground of the injury it would do to England, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said— As to the supply of cotton, he did not fear but that our own colonies and the East Indies would yield a very sufficient supply in case we should get none from America. The Board of Trade was of the same opinion. Mr. Rose said— That he believed there never could be any deficiency in the supply of cotton wool, as the East Indies could yield a supply to any extent. Now, how were you saved from those deplorable consequences? By the wisdom of this House. The first Sir Robert Peel, Colonel Stanley, the Member for the county of Lancaster, and the late Lord Ashburton did not think that it was desirable that we should go to the East Indies for cotton, and the House of Commons agreed with them, and differed from the Government of that day, so that injurious result was prevented, and the Bill was rejected. The cotton was then a great trade in comparison with the flax trade, and during the interval the cotton trade has immensely increased; but let me ask you to consider what would have been the effect if that doctrine of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1811 had prevailed. Do you think it is no advantage to Manchester that Liverpool should be the cheapest market for cotton in the world? If, in 1811, the Government had succeeded in making Hamburg or some continental town the great emporium for cotton, and their German rivals had been able to get it cheapest near them, while the Manchester manufacturer had to send to a distant market, do you think there would have been that wonderful development of the cotton trade which we have happily witnessed in the last forty years, or that we should now be deriving those immense sources of wealth, of domestic happiness, and of martial power which we do derive in a great measure front that development? You deal lightly with the linen trade, though I have shown you that it is equal to the whole export trade of Russia put together. How can you set limits to the expansion, which, in in the absence of restrictions, the linen trade may attain in forty years? And do not let us confine it merely to a question of trade. It was with great astonishment I heard Ireland pressed into the case, as if it were to the benefit of Ireland. Those doctrines which we heard some time ago, about putting on prohibitions to encourage domestic growth, have reappeared tonight. Ireland, and the north of Ireland particularly, has been quoted as an argument why we ought to have resorted to Customs prohibitions and certificates of origin. Let me appeal from my hon. Friend (Mr. Mitchell) to the Royal Flax Society, who devote themselves with so much advantage to the improvement of the cultivation of flax in Ireland, and permit me to read to you their sentiments on the subject now under consideration, as embodied in their last annual Report:— When war was declared by Her Majesty's Government against the Emperor of Russia, it was at once apparent that the interruption of our commercial relations with that empire might seriously affect the supply of the raw material of the British and Irish linen manufacture, as well as of the seed which has hitherto been obtained from Riga for sowing in Ireland. When it is remembered that of an annual average of 80,000 tons of flax from all countries, nearly 60,000 tons are brought from Russia alone, and that, of the yearly impart of flax-seed for sowing in Ireland, from two-thirds to three-fourths come from Riga, it will at once be seen that the cessation or diminution of the supply of these articles, as a consequence of the war, might be productive of serious inconvenience to the linen manufacturers of the United Kingdom, and to the flax-growers of Ireland. I have said that the linen trade of this country is nearly equal to the whole external commerce of Russia; but supposing you were resolved to prohibit all articles coming into this country by Customs regulations. Observe, that is no part of the ordinary laws of war, and, remember, I have not said a syllable in favour of that relaxation of the ordinary rigour of warfare for which some hon. Members are disposed to contend. I am arguing now against imposing restrictions, the effects of which operate almost entirely on yourselves, and the incidence of which, on your enemy, is minute or imperceptible. But, supposing we had determined it was beneficial, and had set about to do it, how were we to do it? Are we to resort to certificates of origin, which have been proved inefficacious by universal experience? In the last European war, which we waged for years against combined Europe, what were the circumstances which increased the pressure on this country but that you had thrown your own trade out of employment, and the manufacturing districts were in confusion. What has been the experience of history? I will tell you, from unexceptionable authority, from one whose natural inclinations would not indispose him to restrictions. Sir Archibald Alison, speaking of the fruitlessness with which Napoleon, in the plenitude of his power, attempted to accomplish an operation which you speak of as so easy to accomplish, that the Government is culpable for not having carried into effect. Alison, reviewing the history of the last war, says— To such height was this practice carried by the French Emperor that it opened up new channels of commerce to British industry quite equal, on the Continent of Europe, to those his decree had destroyed; and the suffering experienced in England during the continuance of the continental system was almost entirely owing—not to this Berlin Decree—but to the loss of the great North American Market, which the Orders in Council ultimately closed against British industry. But how would you have undertaken to accomplish it? Let me ask, first, would you have proceeded in this war alone, or would you have thought it necessary to consult France? She is your ally. She, like you, is dependent for the seed of flax on the source you seek to close. Are you ready to do it of your own mere motion, without concurrence with her? Do you think it would tend to cement good understanding between the two countries to see a benefit conferred on an ally by her superior sagacity, from which you have thought proper to exclude yourselves? But again, I ask, how would you do it? By certificates of origin! That is to say, that Prussia, being a great exporting country of flax, you would ask your Prussian Consuls to state whether produce exported thence originated in Russia or Prussia. Now, do you believe that such a system would either be efficacious or even practicable? Flax and tallow are the produce of Prussia as well as of Russia. How can a Consul distinguish the origin of any particular consignment? He must accept the affidavits that are sworn. The hon. Member for Bridport said, with truth, that perjury would be the result; but, he added, you need not be afraid of it, for the Russian houses are the most respectable in the world. Let me ask, how long would the trade continue in those houses, and what would be the benefit to this country of destroying the foundations of those houses, which you justly say are most respectable, in order to substitute firms who are willing to make perjury part of their business? I am afraid experience of human nature teaches, that if you want an affidavit of origin, an affidavit of origin can be obtained, the difference being that you would pay for the article and pay for the affidavit also, and I believe that would be the result of requiring Prussian Consuls to give certificates of origin. But, supposing you got over that difficulty—the law of the country, and the law of common sense is, that partial manufacture makes a production the production of the country where it is partially manufactured. My hon. and learned Friend quoted Lord Stowell's language, with regard to the doctrine of 1756, and urged that we should make the overland trade the ground of a remonstrance to be addressed to Prussia. It is necessary before doing so that we should be more accurate in our statement of that doctrine than my hon. Friend. I have no right to contend with my hon. and learned Friend, but when I hold in my hand the Commentaries of Chancellor Kent, I am inspired with a confidence that what he lays down is not deficient in sound law. Chancellor Kent said— It is contended that it is unjust and illegal for neutrals to avail themselves of the pressure of war to engage in a new species of traffic not permitted in peace, and which the necessities of one belligerent oblige him to grant to the detriment, or, perhaps, the destruction of the other. Again, my hon. and learned Friend contended that the right of search for enemy's goods in neutral vessels ought to be revived. That is one of the suggestions which he makes. Would it be prudent, I ask, to announce to neutral countries that we contemplated the reinstitution of the right of search? I presume that is not what we are to contend for. Then, with respect to the prohibition of importing the raw material, what would be the effect of such a measure? What is the law upon that subject? When the raw material is partially manufactured in any country it becomes the manufacture of that country. If Russian flax be combed in Prussia it becomes Prussian flax; if Russian tallow be melted in Prussia it becomes Prussian stearine. What would be the effect, then, of your prohibiting the importation of the raw material from Russia? It would not be to cripple the trade of Russia, but it would be to create a large manufacture in Prussia both of manufactured flax and of stearine, to the prejudice of those branches of trade in this country. But, supposing you were to succeed in putting an end to the importation of partially manufactured articles from Prussia, how far could you carry that policy? You may rely upon it that if you did succeed in prohibiting, by means of certificates, the importation of partially manufactured articles from Prussian ports, you would not be able to prevent those articles from coming in through Holland and other countries of the Continent. Depend upon it means of evasion would be found to follow every enactment you might impose, and what would be the result? You would injure your own trade to the clear gain of Russia. We may derive some experience from the late war as to the effect, not exactly of the system of certificates of origin, but of licences. By the commercial system which we have pursued there has been one signal and conspicuous advantage derived. It has been carried on upon one universal rule; no privileges have been granted, no benefit has been conferred by licences; there have been no favoured traders, no unscrupulous traders; but all have been dealt with alike. During the late war licences were granted by the Privy Council. I may ask whether those licences were not as likely to be free from suspicion as certificates of origin granted by Consuls? But what was the experience of trade with regard to those licences? My hon. Friend the Member for Bridport thinks that a system of certificates would give rise to fraudulent oaths, but what was the case with respect to the system of licences in 1812? So great was the abuse of the system that at that period it led to several lengthened debates in both Houses of Parliament, in the course of which the strongest and most indignant denunciations of the system were uttered. On the 28th of February, 1812, the Marquess of Lansdowne said, "that licences had increased to a most unparalleled extent, and with them a system of immorality, fraud, and perjury which pervaded the whole trade of the country." And what was the opinion of Lord Stowell on the subject? The Marquess of Lansdowne on that occasion quoted the words of Lord Stowell, who said, "that the whole system of the commerce of the country was one of simulation and dissimulation." That was the result of the system of licences granted by the Privy Council; and what, I wish to know, would be the result of certificates of origin granted upon affidavit? But it was said during the late war, and no doubt the same would be said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridport now, that his were not the doctrines of sound political economy, but were exceptional doctrines necessarily adopted in consequence of the pressure of the war. The same thing was said in the debate at the close of the last war. But, surely, the true test of any doctrine is this —is it accurate or inaccurate? Does it lead to a right conclusion or a false conclusion? If doctrines be true, then the more important the crisis, the more serious the consequence of departing from them, the more you are bound in reason and prudence to adhere to them. How can you show that that which is commercially inju- rious would be politically expedient? What would you expect to be the consequence on the mind of the Emperor of Russia or of neutral Powers of adopting a course calculated to injure us more than Russia? Do you think it would produce a discouraging effect on the mind of the Emperor of Russia, and hasten his disposition to conclude a peace? It seems to me it must lead to the opposite result. It is said that Prussia is encouraged in her neutrality because she derives a benefit from the transit trade. Would she be less encouraged if she derived, besides, the profit of having your manufactures transferred to her? What would be the consequence upon the population at home? I believe the capitalists and the working men of this country are prepared to make any sacrifice for the sake of a vigorous prosecution of the war, but they must be satisfied that it is reasonably and thoughtfully done; and when the hon. Member for Plymouth talks of our losing two sovereigns where the Emperor of Russia loses one, I think they will require some proof of the advantage of that system before they consent to adopt it. I think our trade has kept up most remarkably, considering that we are subject to the disasters of a war. It is astonishing to think that as 1853 was beyond all precedent the greatest year ever known in the British export trade, when there came upon us in 1854, a European war, a crisis in America, and a crisis in Australia, the falling off of our trade in 1854 was so small that, although it was two per cent below the year 1853, it was far beyond any comparison with preceding years. You are aware of the temporary check which has been given to our trade in the manufacturing districts on account of the pressure of the war; but do you think that in furnishing the ways and means for a vigorous prosecution of the war it will be any satisfaction to you to find that you have dried up some sources of revenue without inflicting injury on the Emperor of Russia? Do you think, if we were to approach the state of things which existed in this country in 1812, when great distress pervaded the manufacturing districts, and the price of food was high, we should find that any advantage in the way of a vigorous prosecution of the war? It appears to me a most remarkable circumstance that at the end of the first twelve months of the war you should have been able to inflict this serious injury upon the trade of the Emperor of Russia, with every prospect of inflicting a far se- verer blow in the coming year, and that you should have sustained so small and disproportionate an injury yourselves. I submit to the House that it justifies the course which we have pursued in adopting that mode of repression which was calculated to inflict the maximum injury on the enemy and the minimum injury on ourselves, and in refraining from those acts of restriction which would have inflicted slight and temporary injury on the enemy and great and permanent injury on ourselves. I have dealt with the course of events during the past year, and the results which that course of events has produced. I think I have shown you that a vigorous prosecution of the war has been the desire of the Government, and that if they have refrained from adopting the measures which the hon. Members for Plymouth and Bridport have suggested, it has not been from any other motive than the belief that these measures would have been injurious, not to the great empire against which we are contending, but to the manufacturing population of this country—to the agriculture of Ireland—to the revenue of this country—and, speaking generally, to the domestic prosperity of the United Kingdom.


said, he should be quite willing, after hearing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, to leave the argument as it had been stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman who made the Motion and his hon. Friend who seconded it, and as it had been answered by the President of the Board of Trade. But, at the same time, he did not think there could be any policy in letting in a little of the Russian trade, or in admitting that the raw material was what we wanted, and refusing to give every encouragement to those who would furnish it for the purpose which had been so well described by the right hon. Gentleman. Before he replied to what had been said, he was bound to state that no man who knew his hon. Friend (Mr. Mitchell) could attribute to him any motive of self-interest in the course he had taken on that occasion, and the very position of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Collier) who had made that Motion was sufficient to convince anybody that he also was not actuated by any such feelings. Both of these hon. Members did well in disclaiming on behalf of those who urged them to bring forward this subject that any self-interest was mixed up with the patriotic cry for a stringent blockade, of which they were the organs. He (Mr. Ricardo), however, viewed with great sus- picion the source from which this cry proceeded. He could not believe that the Russian merchants were anxious to stop the Russian trade, and when the hon. and learned Gentleman said that Prussia was infringing her neutrality by allowing Russian produce to pass to England he would tell him that if the Russians wanted to sell it, and the Prussians had an interest in allowing it to pass, Englishmen would buy it whether that produce were Russian or not. This always had been, and must always be, the case. The Milan and Berlin decrees were unable to prevent the produce of France from coming into this country. The very corn which was consumed by our army came into this country from France in spite of the restrictions of Napoleon; and the great evil inflicted on us was not caused by the French Government through the decrees by which they endeavoured to deprive us of their trade, but was produced by ourselves through our meeting them half-way by our Orders in Council of 1807, whereby we deprived ourselves of our trade for the benefit of those to whom we were opposed. Now, he must say, that of all the conflicting reasoning he had ever heard adduced to establish one and the same proposition, the mutually contradictory arguments which he had heard that night from the two hon. Members who moved and seconded this Motion were the most remarkable. One hon. Gentleman taunted the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty with omitting to institute a stringent blockade, and said that the only place where such a blockade had been established was at the Danube, and that we had had no corn imported into this country because we had blockaded that river. Now, this was a point worthy of the consideration of the House. The hon. Gentleman held that we ought not to permit Russian produce to enter this country. But the Emperor of Russia said the same thing, and was ready to spare our First Lord of the Admiralty the trouble or necessity of sending out any of our cruisers to prevent Russian corn from being imported into England to feed the people, who he was sorry to see in some parts of the country were up in arms because of the high price at which bread was now sold to them. But the hon. Gentleman wanted to shut out Russian produce altogether. He wanted to establish the system of certificates of origin, respecting which he (Mr. Ricardo) would add nothing to what had fallen from the right hon. President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member for Bridport had discovered a most remarkable means of stopping Russian produce from coming from a Prussian port, and argued that, as no tallow now came from Memel or any other Prussian port, therefore none would hereafter come thence, and so he concluded that when any tallow proceeded from a Prussian port our consul must know that it was Russian, because no tallow ever came from Prussian ports. This was a most extraordinary line of argument, because it was obvious that if we prevented Russian tallow from leaving Prussian ports the Prussians would naturally keep the Russian article for their own consumption and send out their own, which they never used to do before; and it would be quite impossible to tell the one article from the other. We had no means of knowing the origin of corn—whether it was Dantzic corn or any other—and so in the case of tallow. The merchant would only have to mix a ladleful of Prussian tallow with a whole cask of Russian tallow and the article would become Prussian immediately, and all the certificates of origin they could invent would not put a stop to this. It was therefore perfectly ridiculous to say that we would not buy Prussian tallow without requiring half-a-dozen people to swear that it was not Russian. He would undertake himself to convert Russian tallow into Prussian in five minutes by simply taking a ladleful of the one and a ladleful of the other and mixing them together, and then he would not mind taking the oath. [Laughter.] He was only illustrating the construction that was put upon the origin of tallow by the Board of Trade, and put upon it also by all other countries; because, when the article was in the slightest degree manufactured, or to the smallest extent mixed with a different sort, it was no longer dealt with as the produce of the country from whence it originally came. The discussions that had taken place upon the Navigation Laws had, he thought, familiarised the House with that fact. They all knew that, under those laws, cotton proceeding from America could not come to this country in a French ship unless it had been partially manufactured, or mixed in some manner, in France; and this was manifestly a very easy process. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mitchell) said it was quite idle to suppose that we could have any competition in the linen trade, even if we shut out all the flax which entered this country, because he said no body would be such a fool as to build a factory when he knew that the war might be over in six months, and his factory would be of no use to him. He (Mr. Ricardo) would not repeat the able argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), who showed how inexpedient it was to create competition to ourselves, and that it was far easier to lose a market for our goods than it was to recover it again. But how did the hon. Gentlemen reconcile their reasoning on this point with their assertions that we should obtain all kinds of raw material from other countries besides Russia? They had stated that if we excluded Russian hemp, flax, and tallow, we could procure supplies of these articles from Italy, Australia, and India. But he might turn round upon these hon. Gentlemen and ask them, in their own words, whether they supposed that any man in India would be so foolish as to embark his property in the cultivation of flax when he knew that the war might be concluded in six months, and he would have to compete with the Russian producer? The one or the other of these arguments must be fallacious. Either we ran the risk of the manufacture of flax being established in foreign countries, or we had no chance of receiving supplies of the raw material from places which did not grow it now. He next came to the main point in this controversy. Hon. Gentlemen contended that by shutting out Russian produce we could so coerce, intimidate, and impoverish the Emperor of Russia as to compel him to make peace with us upon any terms that we pleased, and that we could make him swallow, not the "four points" alone, but any number of points that we chose to impose upon him. Now, the whole amount of the exports from Russia into this country was 7,000,000l. per annum, and this was not all profit. 10 per cent of it only was the total gain accruing to the Emperor of Russia's subjects, or 700,000l.; but, allowing the profit to be 5 per cent more than that, this would raise it to 1,050,000l. Our prohibition of Russian produce, then, would be equivalent to a tax of 1,050,000l. per annum upon the Emperor's subjects; and was it to be contended for a moment that for such a sum as that they were likely to be induced to coerce their Sovereign into making a peace? The proposition was too contemptible to be entertained for an instant. What did the Emperor of Russia think of the matter himself? Why, by a single stroke of the pen he arrested the export of corn to the amount of 6,000,000l. a year from his own ports without being afraid that his people would turn upon him for taking such a step. It was preposterous, therefore, for us to imagine that by stopping a trade yielding a profit to the extent of 1,050,000l. per annum, we should be able to compel the Emperor of Russia to submit to our dictation. They were advised to shut out this 1,050,000l.; he sanctioned no such proceeding; for it would only tend to make the Emperor of Russia despise us, and give him the idea that we were depending upon such measures rather than upon the vigorous operation of our forces. If they returned to the fiscal measures of 1806 and 1807, and to the miserable economical doctrines displayed in the Orders in Council of that period, sure he was that they would be followed by the same difficulties in meeting the exigencies of the war, and by those scenes of distress which he hoped would never again recur.


said, he thought the House had some reason to complain of the notice which appeared on the paper, and which might have been reasonably supposed to lead to a different sort of debate than that to which the House had been called upon to listen. The terms of the Motion were, "To call the attention of the House to the state of our trade with Russia, and to move for a return of the Russian exports from Archangel to this country during the present year." Now the port of Archangel was closed with ice, and would not be open until the middle of June. [Mr. COLLIER said his Motion was intended to refer to last year.] It was not his intention to trespass long upon the time of the House after the able speeches which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and the hon. Member for Stoke upon Trent (Mr. J. L. Ricardo), but as he had been personally alluded to by one of the hon. Members who had brought forward this Motion, he thought he was bound to offer one or two words of explanation. He had joined a deputation that had waited upon the Earl of Clarendon a few weeks ago, and he, perhaps, might be enabled to enlighten the House upon one or two points. The hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell) had cast some unworthy taunts upon the millowners who were engaged in the manufacture of linen. He would not follow the example of his hon. Friend, for he should be sorry to cast censures upon any large bodies of his countrymen. There could be no doubt that both the hon. Members for Plymouth and Bridport were above suspicion; but he would ask the House to consider the conduct of those capitalists whom they represented. From the declaration of war in March nothing was heard with regard to the proposed blockade. Everything went on smoothly until a larger amount of flax than in any former year was brought into this country. When that amount of flax was brought in certain gentlemen were seized with a sudden fit of activity, and found out that the blockade had not been properly enforced. Soon afterwards deputations of merchants, not of manufacturers, were heard of, as waiting upon the Earl of Clarendon, and endeavouring to impress upon him the necessity of enforcing the blockade. He, having heard of those deputations, accompanied a deputation of millowners to Lord Clarendon, and he was bound to state in that House that the noble Earl told them that, whatever might be his personal or private feelings—however anxious he might be to maintain the trade of this country—he thought it right to say that in the position he occupied he should feel it incumbent upon him to take every means in his power to vex, to harass, and to annoy the great enemy with whom we were at war. Considering the difficulties with which all our operations had been accompanied, he (Viscount Duncan) thought that the conduct of the noble Earl did the greatest possible credit to Her Majesty's Administration. He could not for an instant forget that, during what had been called the party shuffles of which they had lately heard so much, there was the greatest unanimity on one point—namely, that, whatever changes might take place, the Earl of Clarendon was not to be removed from the position he so worthily occupied as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He (Viscount Duncan) would tell his hon. Friends who had spoken in favour of this Motion that he had more confidence in the noble Earl's judgment than in theirs, for the noble Lord had carried the country triumphantly through the war as far as his foreign policy was concerned. [The noble Lord then proceeded to read extracts from letters he had received from Russia, stating that prices were 30 per cent higher than during the peace, which must inevitably produce great distress, and that if the present standstill should continue much longer trade would be completely ruined.] Now, while the Russian people were in that state of distress, let the House for a moment turn their attention to the people of Forfarshire, which he represented, and which was largely engaged in the linen trade. Whether they looked there, or to the West Riding of Yorkshire, or to the northern parts of Ireland, they would find that the state of the working classes would be benefited by keeping down the prices of flax to the lowest possible amount. How could the trade of Russia be stopped? Were we to declare war with Prussia? Could we prevent Russian produce coming through Prussia? Even if we could, we should find that Russian produce would come into this country through some other channel, if it was wanted. Was the House gravely to deliberate whether it would cut off the supply of flax at once? No doubt if the war continued, other places might be found from whence supplies of raw produce might be obtained equal to the supplies which we received from Russia, but let the House consider what evils would be inflicted upon the districts he had named by the course which had been suggested by the supporters of this Motion—what dire distress they would have to contend against if the raw material were suddenly cut off. There was distress enough in those districts already. He had that day received letters stating that they had suffered greatly from the war, but that they were still willing to endure any amount of suffering; that they were willing to take their full share of the difficulties, their full share of the pains and penalties, but they were not willing that the Government by any hasty or injudicious step should aggravate their distresses. On the part of his constituents, he publicly thanked the Government for what they had already done in regard to the conduct of the war, but at the same time he must express a hope that by no such course as that suggested by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Collier) would they consent to inflict upon his constituents, and others in a similar position, heavier distresses than they were at present called upon to endure.


said, that he did not distinctly understand the policy of the Government; for while they avowed an intention of carrying on the strict system of blockade which had been pursued in all former wars, the argument of the President of the Board of Trade, if good for anything, went to show that blockades should be entirely done away with, and that free trade should be allowed in time of war as in time of peace. Now, he could not assent to this, for he believed that blockades, by crippling the trade of Russia, were the most effectual means of depriving her of resources for carrying on this war. By a strict blockade, not only the Russian merchant but the Russian noble, who grew the produce to be exported, would be impoverished, if not ruined. The war of the counting house would bring this most miserable contest to an end sooner than battering at the walls of Sebastopol. On this, the political part of the question, he had neither the means nor the inclination of following the President of the Board of Trade. He wished to discuss the mercantile question. What he complained of was, that the Government proclaimed their intention in that House to adopt a system of blockade, but did not, in fact, maintain any blockade. The linseed trade with the ports in the Baltic and Black Sea was the principal one of the town which he represented — Hull. The merchants of that town were more interested than any other parties in the country. Now, it was stated last year in that House, by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, that orders had been sent out to the Black Sea to enforce a strict blockade of the Russian ports there. The result of this was, that our merchants were prevented from endeavouring to import Black Sea linseed into this country, but embarked their capital in the attempt to procure supplies from other sources—the East Indies, Africa, and, he believed, Australia. In consequence of the blockade not having been enforced, and linseed having been imported from the ports of the Black Sea, their enterprises had failed, their capital had been locked up, and they had suffered considerable losses; while certain Greek merchants, who were more knowing than they, and who, disregarding the announcement of the intended blockade, had imported Black Sea linseed, had made large gains. He could not understand why the blockade of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azof, which was announced in July or August last, was not enforced. Surely, from our large fleet in the Black Sea two or three steamers might have been despatched to the Straits of Kertch, which were only twenty-three miles across, when they might easily have prevented any ships leaving the Sea of Azof. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth had read a statement put forth in December last by the Hull Chamber of Commerce. In a subsequent document, dated the 8th nstant, it was stated that ships had since continued to arrive at Constantinople in considerable numbers, from the Russian ports in the Black Sea and Sea of Azof; that from May to December last 452 ships with 770,000 quarters of linseed had thus arrived, being in fact a larger export than had taken place in any previous year. The exportation in 1853 was 640,000 quarters, while, in 1852, it was only 455,000 quarters. This was in linseed alone. This large export was to the prejudice of the English merchants, who, relying on the professions of the Government, had turned their attention to other sources of supply. In fact, the last year's crop of the linseed grown on the shores of the Sea of Azof, and which was usually exported in September, had been exported and had come to this country to compete with the linseed which our own merchants had brought from other places. He wished also to call the attention of the House to another point. The mouths of the Danube, from which a large supply of corn might have been drawn for our own army, had been blockaded, while the port of Odessa, from which the Russian army drew its supplies, had been left open. Certainly, the way in which the city of Odessa had been dealt with from the beginning of this war was one of the most sickly pieces of sentimentality which he had ever met with. That port contained a large quantity of corn, and was, in fact, the granary of the Russian army, and yet, with an amount of inconsistency hardly to be conceived, while we destroyed merchant ships and private property at sea, we spared this town, and made a merit of merely firing on the batteries. Let us have either one thing or another. Certainty was essential to commerce on occasions like the present. Either let us have free trade, or let there be a blockade, and let it be strictly enforced. The President of the Board of Trade had not explained to the House why there had not up to the present time been any blockade in the Black Sea or in the Sea of Azoff. He called upon the First Lord of the Admiralty to explain why, after publicly announcing several times last summer in that House that there was to be a real and effective blockade in the Black Sea, there had been no blockade at all.


said, the constituency which he represented had suffered most grievously, in consequence of the statements made by the Government with respect to their intention of instituting a blockade not having been carried out. In answer to a question which he had put in the course of the last Session the Government had stated that it was intended immediately to put a blockade in force, and, on the faith of that assurance, the merchants had immediately taken steps to obtain from other quarters the articles necessary for their operations. The blockade, however, never having actually been enforced, the consequence was that the very same articles which they had procured elsewhere at exorbitant prices were introduced into the market by the Greek houses at a much lower rate. If the failure of the blockade had been brought about by the natural incidents of the war, he believed not a murmur would have been heard, but up to the present time no satisfactory explanation had been given by the Government of the reasons why the assurances given on this subject had not been carried out.


Sir, I have had some hesitation as to whether I should break silence upon this subject or not, because I am conscious that I sinned during the last Session by saying too much with reference to our intentions as to blockade, and somewhat indiscreetly, from time to time, with an honest desire to give information to the commercial interests of this country, I answered questions put to me in a searching manner, and, as I now think, I answered them somewhat prematurely. But, Sir, as the matter now stands, I have been taxed, in terms not intended, I am sure to be disrespectful, but somewhat harsh, by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. I have been pronounced by him to be both incompetent and incapable. [Mr. COLLIER: No, no!] I certainly understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to have used terms somewhat of that description. I am very sorry that I should have incurred displeasure by misconducting myself in an official capacity upon this question, in which I feel that great interests are concerned, and great caution ought to be observed. The hon. and learned Gentleman did me justice when he said that he was certain that, at the time I gave the answer, it was intended by the Government that a rigid blockade should be instituted in the Black Sea. Orders to that effect had been issued. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in the admirable speech he has addressed to the House this evening, stated correctly to the House that it was necessary to remember that we were conducting this war in alliance with a ma- ritime Power, and that it was not possible for us to adopt any policy, in regard to a blockade either in the Baltic, the Black Sea, or the White Sea, except after full discussion with France. The order to institute a blockade was issued in the month of May, after consultation with the Government of France. The order to the English and French Admirals was express that a blockade should be instituted. The mode in which the order was to be carried into effect was left to their discretion. The House will remember that this order was conveyed to the authorities 3,000 miles distant. The French and English Admirals received this order, and, after consultation as to the mode in which it should be executed, they came to a decision as to a mode which would have been most effectual, and which, if contrary to the law of nations, was by no means inconsistent with the course which common sense would naturally suggest. They thought that the most effectual place at which to institute the blockade would be in the Bosphorus, at the entrance into the Black Sea; and, to give effect to their intention, they prepared a notice, declaring that, from a time fixed, a blockade should be instituted in the Bosphorus, and that vessels should be stopped on their passage into and from the Black Sea. This notice was communicated to the French and English Ambassadors at Constantinople. They entertained the gravest doubts as to the validity of the notice, and it was sent home to their respective Governments. After full consultation with the highest authorities, and after due consideration, it was held to be an invalid notice, and no effect was given to it. The consequence was, that nearly three months were lost. After the expiration of that time, the great movement from Varna to the Crimea was undertaken by the naval forces of France and England, having to convey an immense army—one of the largest naval operations of modern times — and the whole naval force of France and England in the Black Sea was for some time occupied with the preparation and execution of that expedition. At the investment of Sebastopol it was thought necessary by the naval and military commanders that the whole naval forces of the two countries should be present. I have now accounted, I trust, for the various delays up to the month of October. After that period the English force was available, but it was necessary that the blockade should be a blockade instituted by the presence of the combined forces. Circumstances, into which it will not be necessary for me to enter, and which, I am sure, the House will not press the to explain, rendered it inconvenient that the combined forces should be so employed. I have now, without disguise, and with a strict adherence to exact truth, explained to the House the circumstances under which that blockade, so promised and so intended by the Governments of France and England, has not until a very late period been carried into effect. At the present moment I have no doubt that a blockade, de facto, does exist both at the mouth of the Sea of Azof, at Odessa, and in the offing of every port in the Black Sea, with the exception of the mouth of the Danube. Now, it was held to be most important, with reference to the military operations, that while Russia occupied the Principalities, all contraband of war should be barred in its passage from Odessa through the Sulina passage to the Bessarabian branch of the Danube occupied by Russia. It was of comparative indifference to the mercantile interest whether that blockade were or were not instituted, because, as I stated on a former evening, the military occupation by forts and batteries of the left bank of the Danube for about forty miles above the Sulina passage, does give to Russia a complete command of the navigable portion of the Danube, the deep water being on the Bessarabian side. Therefore, while Russia occupies in force that position, she does, whether or not the Sulina mouth be blockaded, command the passage of the Danube; and the blockade was held to be necessary only for the purpose of intercepting the military communication between the Principalities and Odessa. Circumstances have altered, and it is no longer necessary to maintain that blockade for military purposes. It is quite sufficient that a force shall be present at Odessa and the Sulina mouth to intercept contraband of war. The blockade of the Danube has been raised. I hope, and am confidently persuaded, that at this moment every other Russian port in the Black Sea is closely blockaded. Then, Sir, with respect to the White Sea, the circumstances attending the first declaration of war, as relates to the mercantile interests both of France and England, have been most accurately explained by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. The course of trade had always been that large advances were made in the antecedent year, for Russian produce to be exported both to France and England. In the course of trade, these advances had been made in the autumn of the year antecedent to the last. If France and England had determined to institute a strict blockade from the first moment that the White Sea was open, the only effect would have been, the French and English merchants having made their advances, that Russia would have been in possession both of their money and of the produce for which they had paid. Acting upon their common interests, and in obedience to common sense, France and England did not think fit to institute that blockade until their merchants had secured the export of the whole of the produce purchased by them and still in possession of the enemy. In the Baltic, it is not alleged that any possible precaution in reference to the blockade was omitted. Henceforward France and England are completely of one mind, that from the earliest moment at which it is possible a blockade shall be enforced in the White Sea. The blockade will be repeated with the same rigour in the Baltic; and I am convinced, as I have just stated, that at the moment I am addressing the House there is not an open port in the Black Sea—France and England are sole masters of the navigation beyond the Bosphorus.


said, he felt bound to express his thankfulness to the right hon. Baronet, representing as he (Mr. Duncan) did a large commercial community interested in the trade of the White Sea, for the considerate manner in which he had protected the interests of the merchants of Dundee, and of the mercantile classes of this country generally. Many of his constituents having remitted money to Archangel for goods, he at an early period waited upon the right hon. Baronet and the President of the Board of Trade to inquire whether their goods could be brought away, The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) stated that he could not authorise a direct trade with the enemy. He (Mr. Duncan) said he should not ask for anything of the sort, and explained the circumstances under which he made the application. On the 10th of May he received from the right hon. Baronet authority to intimate to his constituents that they might bring away the goods. He asked him if he could give any time? and his answer was, "Get them away as fast as you can." The result was, that large freights were given to neutral vessels, and the goods were eventually brought away. He believed that in taking advantage of the licence afforded to them of bringing home that property they did not enter upon any fresh trade to the value of even a shilling. His constituents were now enabled to prepare for the spring trade, but if the restrictions which had been talked about had been placed in the way of their receiving Russian flax last year, which they had already paid for, he questioned much the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of recovering it. He could not tell whether it would have been easy to find means to feed the 40,000 people dependent on that trade. It was said that flax might be obtained from India and from Ireland; but what were they to do in the meantime? If once they lost a market, even for a short space of time, it would be no easy matter to recover it. Thanking the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for the admirable and distinct statement which he had made, he would conclude by offering his best thanks to the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty for allowing the British merchants to bring away their property, which would otherwise have been confiscated by the enemy.


in reply, said, he must beg to explain that any expression he had used with regard to the blockade was not intended to apply to the administration of the Admiralty by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), but he had alluded to the conduct of some of those intrusted with the administration of the navy at Balaklava. With regard to his complaint on the subject of the blockade in the Black Sea, he should leave it to the country to decide how far it had been satisfactorily answered. With regard to the blockade in the Baltic he had urged that either there should be a good blockade or none, and he had asserted that the blockade bad been seriously evaded. He wished to call attention to a serious mistake which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell). The right hon. Gentleman had in his argument taken the returns of the Board of Trade of imports from Russia into this country during the last year; but the fact was, the imports were now carried on by means of land carriage, by which goods were detained longer in transit; and the question was not what quantity of goods was imported, but what quantity was ordered and on its way. When, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the returns to show a diminution of 62 per cent in the imports last year, he adopted a fallacious test of the extent of the trade, as the returns of the next two months would show. He (Mr. Collier) had before him a paper signed by all the principal merchants of St. Petersburg, which stated the quantity of tallow sent from Russia last year. The result was, that in the year 1854 there had been exported from Russian ports 82,567 casks of tallow, while in 1853 there were 102,453 casks, and in 1852, 82,717 casks; so that the quantity of tallow sent from Russia in 1854 was about the same as was exported in 1852, and only a third less than the exports of 1853. He was justified, therefore, in his position that almost the same quantity had been sent out from and ordered in Russia by British capitalists in this year as ever, although it was detained longer on its way by land carriage. The error of the right hon. Gentleman applied not only to tallow, but to hemp and flax. He (Mr. Collier), therefore, was not removed from the position he had taken when he asserted that the blockade in the Baltic had been evaded. He had suggested what he thought the most effective way of stopping the trade, namely, by remonstrating with Prussia, and, if she joined the allies, to insist on her really closing her frontier to the produce of Russia: next, that the right of search to a limited extent should be enforced; and, last, the prohibition of the import of Russian produce into this country if the war continued. If all those failed, he would assert that it would be better to give up the blockade altogether, and in that opinion he was supported by the hon. Member for Stole-upon-Trent (Mr. J. L. Ricardo). The arguments of the hon. Member for Stoke and those of the right lion. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) were identical and most decisive against any blockade. The right hon. Gentleman said we could not do without the raw material of Russia, and that we would suffer more by not having it than Russia would lose by not sending it. If so, why should there be a blockade? Let that principle be carried out to its logical conclusion, and let there be no blockade; let us not stultify ourselves by pursuing so absurd a course as continuing a blockade, and sending a large force to stop the front door, and yet leave the side door open. That was his position, and it had not been controverted.


said, he wished to know whether the hon. Gentleman meant that he had been guilty of a serious error only in argument, or whether he meant a serious error in fact.


No, not in fact.

Question put, and agreed to.

The House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.