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port duties on this important class of produce, the completest, as well as the simplest, view of the question is to be found in the following account of the total importations of all sorts of grain since 1847.
Whatever speculative politicians may say about “ remunerative prices” and “independence of foreign supplies," one thing is certain, that, during the last three years, and since the cessation or mitigation of the potato-blight, the annual importations of all sorts of grain into the United Kingdom have averaged nearly TEN MILLIONS OF QUARTERS. This quantity of foreign grain has been imported, has passed the Custom-house, has been brought into consumption, and its price has been duly paid in British goods. As long as foreign grain was virtually excluded (except at moments of scarcity) it was impossible to measure, by any certain test, the extent of the privation which the consumers of this country endured. Those persons who gave a high estimate of the quantity of food excluded by law, for the purpose of keeping up rents and prices, were treated with derision and contempt. " But the experience of the years since 1846 has furnished a sure practical test of the quantity of food shut out by the old corn law. It has gauged the capacity of the real effective demand of the country, and has proved, by the demonstration of facts, the extent of the privation previously suffered by the community. It has taught a practical lesson, which the public will never forget, as those who call themselves the “ farmers' friends" will infallibly discover if they ever seriously make an attempt to restore a protective duty on corn, and so shut out the millions of quarters which now diffuse the blessings of abundance and cheapness over this industrious and peaceable land.
AN ACCOUNT SHOWING THE QUANTITIES OF CORN, GRAIN, AND MEAL IMPORTED INTO THE UNITED KINGDOM IN EACH YEAR FROM 1847 TO 1851,
1847. 1848. 1819. 1850. 1851. Wheat & wheat-meal.qrs. 4,464,757 3,082,230 4,835,280 4,856,039 5,355,687 Barley and barley-meal.. 776,122 1,054,293 1,389,858 1,043,082 832,560 Oats and oat-meal...... 1,742,542 971,253 1,307,904 1,169,811 1,211,704 Rye and rye-meal.
293,220 73,178 245,833 94,354 26,467 Peas and pea-meal
157,771 217,792 234,451 181,438 100,476 Beans and bean-meal.. 443,700 490,361 457,993 443,306 318,505 Indian corn and meal.... 4,022,265 1,653,660 2,253,511 1,289,523 1,824,313
11,900,377 7,542,767 10,724,830 9,077,553 9,669,712 Connected with the trade of the country is its navigation ; and as the state of this interest has been naturally influenced by the recent repeal of the Navigation Laws, it will be fitting to show what the influence of that important legislative measure has been.
With this view we will state, very briefly, what the provisions of those laws were before the passing of the act 12 and 13 Victoria, cap. 29. No goods, the growth, production, or manufacture of Asia, Africa, or America, could be imported for use into the United Kingdom or its dependencies from any port in Europe, so that (what indeed frequently occurred) our manufacturers might be at a stand for want of raw materials which existed in superabundance, and consequently at a low price, in Continental markets. As regarded the produce of Europe, cer. tain "enumerated articles,” which in fact comprehended everything that was of importance in Commerce, could be brought to our shores only " in British ships, or in ships of the country from which the goods were to be brought;" so that a cargo of Spanish wool might be lying unsaleable at Rotterdam, while the article was scarce and exorbitantly dear in Yorkshire, and only a ship under the Spanish, Dutch, or English flag, was privileged to bring it to us for use. All intercourse between the United Kingdom and its possessions in all quarters of the globe, including the Channel Islands, was confined to British ships; and the like restriction was applied to the inter-colonial trade. No goods might be carried from any British possession in Asia, Africa, or America, to any other of such possessions, nor from one part to another in such possessions, except in British ships. No goods could be imported into any British possession in Asia,
Africa, or America, in foreign ships, unless they were those of the country of which the goods were the produce, and from which they were imported.
Some other minor obstacles were placed in the way of intercourse with foreign countries by this law for the encouragement of British shipping, which it is not necessary to describe. By the Act passed in 1849 the provisions above recited were repealed from and after the 1st January, 1850; so that we have now two years' experience of the effects of that repeal, and shall proceed to describe the same so far as they can be gathered from the employments of our shipping. Of the bindrances to Commerce which by the same measure were removed, it is manifestly impossible to give any. account, but some idea may be formed on the subject by a glance at the following list of importations during the year 1850, which would have been illegal previous to that year :Articles,
Countries whence imported.
Holland, France, Spain.
Hanse Towns, Holland, France, Spain. Cochineal
Hanse Towns, Holland, France, Spain. Cocoa.
Hanse Towns, Holland, France, Portugal. Coffee
Russia, Denmark, Prussia, Hanse Towns, Holland, Belgium,
France, Portugal, Spain, Italian States. Indigo
Russia, Hanse Towns, Holland, Belgiuno, Spain, Italian States. Logwood.
Hanse Towns, Holland, Belgium, France. Nutmegs
Holland, Belgium, France. Palm oil.
Hanse l'owns, Holland, Portugal. Spain. Pepper.
Hanee Towns, Holland, France, Portugal. Pimento.
Hanse Towns, Holland.
Russia, Sweden, Prussia, Hanse Towns, Holland, France, Portugal Tea.
Russia, Sweden, Norway, Prussia, Hanover, Hanse Towns, Hol
land, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain. We may generally understand the opinions of men in business by their acts fully as well, or better, than from their assertions. To judge from the latter we should have been led to the belief, that when their monopoly, as above de. scribed, should be removed, the shipowners of England would have no chance for success in competition with foreign rivals, but judging from their deliberate acts we are forced to the very opposite conclusion. The amount of tonnage built and registered in the United Kingdom was considerably greater in 1850 than in either of the two preceding years, viz:
137,530 149,599 And from the accounts which have reached us from time to time during 1851, we are fully justified in believing that the tonnage newly built and registered last year will be among the largest on record.
The tonnage of British vessels engaged in the trade with foreign countries and our dependencies, in the above three years, was as follows:
1850. Tons ....
9,289,560 9,669,638 9,442,544 These include all vessels under the British flag, whether with cargo or in ballast. A fairer comparison will be made by taking only those ships which entered and cleared with cargo.
The tonnage of British ships which entered and cleared from ports in the United Kingdom, excluding those which came and went in ballast, in each year from 1844 to 1851, was1844.. 5,691,680 | 1847. 7,444,750 | 1850...
8,039,308 1815 6,617,110 | 1848 7,674,192 1851.
8,635,263 1846. 6,714,156 | 1849..
It will be observed that the tonnage in 1850, the first year after the repeal of the Navigation Law, exhibits a falling off as compared with 1849, but that the ground then lost was more than regained in 1851, the largest of the series. It is further worthy of remark, that, doubtless owing to the removal of the restriction which prevented the importation of any save European produce from ports in Europe, a less proportion than usual of shipping now sails unprofitaby in ballast. The tonnage thus unprofitably engaged in 1850 was less than in 1849 by 113,845 tons, in itself no slight advantage to shipowners. These gentlemen are very much in the habit of considering that every ton of foreign shipping engaged in the trade of this country is an injury to them, and an unfair interference with their rights. It can easily be shown, however, that in this assumption there is a great deal more of selfishness displayed than of wisdom.
History and experience show us, that trade is liable, from various causes, to great and sometimes to violent fluctuations; and although we have been more than usually free from such fluctuations since the adopiion of a more liberal commercial system, it would be unreasonable to suppose that the tide of our prosperity is never again to ebb. The 14,500,000 tons of shipping which entered and left our ports in 1850, may possibly be subjected hereafter to diminution, and under such circumstances it will be found of no small advantage to the British shipowner that more than five millions of the tonnage of the prosperous year came to our shores under various foreign flags. Any person may inform himself, by consulting our custom-house returns as respects shipping, that in those years in which the trade has been most prosperous, and when the largest amount of British shipping has found employment, the proportion of foreign shipping has been the greatest, and that when, on the other hand, the trade has fallen off, the proportion of British shipping has been greater than when a larger amount of British tonnage has found employment. In 1821 the amount of the national shipping that entered and left the ports of the United Kingdom was less than in the preceding year, and the proportion, as compared with foreign tonnage, was greater than in 1820. In 1825 we had a large trade; British shipping was employed to a grenter amount than in any previous year, and the proportion of foreign to each 100 tons employed fell from 79.83 in 1821 to 67.88 in 1825. In 1826 we had a languid trade; fewer British ships found employment, and the proportion rose to 72.67. It will hardly be contended by the advocates of the late navigation law, that a large proportion of British, when compared with foreign shipping trading to our ports is, under these circumstan. ces, of advantage to the shipowners, who, in order to engross this large proportion, must submit to a positive decrease of employment for their vessels. if the trade of the United Kingdom were a constant quantity, subject neither to temporary enlargement or contraction, it would even then be questionable whether the best interests of the country would require that it should all be carried on under the national fag, since it might well be that a part of the capital embarked in shipping might be more profitably engaged in trading with the goods they carry, and which in such case would be supplied and purchased by foreigners, by means of that part of their capital which would be no longer embarked in shipping. But, as already remarked, there is not and cannot be any such stability in commercial pursuits; and let us imagine that, if our mercantile marine were of adequate tonnage to enrry on the whole trade of the country in a year of great prosperity, what would be the case when the reverse of this condition should be experienced ? Must it not be that, the tonnage being greatly beyond that which could obtain employment, our shipowners would be found competing with one another for the conveyance the lessened quantity of merchandise, that a part of the ships would be idly rotting in our harbors, while those of them which succeeded in obtaining employment must do so through the home competition that would arise at ruinously reduced rates of freight? It is, therefore, manifestly to the interest of our shipowners that foreign vessels should be allowed to compete with them; and the only question to which they should with any degree of anxiety seek for a reply is, whether they are in a condition to bear this competition with their foreign rivals, and to stand their ground under the altered circumstances presented by the repeal of the navigation laws.
This question we are, happily, enabled to answer in the affirmative. We have shown, that, in the second year during which our shipping has been exposed to the full degree of competition, a larger amount of tonnage under the national flag has entered and left our ports, with cargoes, than in any other year of our commercial history. During 1850, the first year in which the new system was in operation, a very greatly increased amount of foreign tonnage visited the kingdom, a much larger than usual proportion of the same being in ballast. This was reasonably to be expected. Our shipowners had so loudly proclaimed their inability to continue the trade in competition with their foreign rivals, that these felt themselves invited to come and reap the golden harvest. The apparent lessening of employment for British shipping in that first year has been amply made up in the second, as shown by figures already given. "It is said apparent lessening, because, in reality, there was no such lessened employment; the tonnage that left our ports exhibited no falling off from the amount of former years, while the diminished amount of entries inwards was fully accounted for by the employment which our shipping found in branches of trade between various foreign countries, and from which trades our flag had been previously excluded, by reason of, and in retaliation for our former exclusive system. During the first six months of 1850, and before the power to do so was gen. erally known by members of the shipping interest in this country, there entered the various ports of the United States, from foreign countries, 214 British vessels, measuring 68,127 tons; and daring the same time there left those ports, in direct and successful competition with the ships of the United States, with cargoes to various foreign countries, 204 such vessels, measuring 76,039 tons. The accounts for the second half of the year have not as yet reached this country from America, but it is fair to presume that they will show at least an equal amount of successful rivalry on our part. If this assumption should be confirmed by the fact, we shall find the diminished amount of entries inwards of British ships in 1850, niore than accounted for by the new trades thus opened to us by means of our altered regulations with one single country; certainly the most important, but, as will be seen from the following figures, by no means offering the only profitable field for the employment of our ships in the indirect trade. With these statements before us, it is not possible to give in to the fears of our shipowners, so loudly expressed when the repeal of the navigation law was under discussion, that our vessels, which under the shield of protection were to be seen on every ocean and in every port, would be driven, by the more cheaply built and more cheaply navigated vessels of America and of northern Europe, from one trade after another, until they would be restricted to the coasting trade, still preserved from the intrusion of foreigners, and that, with this wholesale extinction of our mercantile marine, we should lose what is of even greater importance to us as a nation, our supremacy on the seas, and sink to the rank of a second or third-rate power among the nations. It is proved by the fact, that not only can we maintain and increase the amount of tonnage required for carrying on our ever-growing trade between the United Kingdom and every other country approachable by sea, but that we can and do successfully compete in every trade open to us that is carried on between different foreign countries. This being the case now, we may confidently anticipate that our power of successful competition will be rendered still greater, when the spur of competition shall have produced its full effect in urging us to the adoption, as it is beginning to do, of those improvements in naval architecture of which the art is now seen to be susceptible, and which will enable us to maintain the superiority we have hitherto enjoyed; while, as regards the cost of construction, we have succeeded to a degree which, until the incentive was applied, no one thought possible, but which we may believe to be by no means the measure of cheapness to which it is probable we shall hereafter attain, and which will enable our shipbuilders to set all their foreign competitors, of whom they affected to feel such dread, at defiance.
The change made in our system caused a like change to be made in the system of the United States, whose navigation law was copied from and adopted in
FROM AND TO
retaliation for our own. Under it we were, consequently, not allowed to import into any of the ports of those States, under the British flag, any produce save that of these United Kingdoms, so that our ships were shut out from any branch of the transit trade, which was reserved for their own vessels. The consequence of this restriction was, that British ships left our ports for those of the United States either in ballast or with half cargoes, while American ships procured full ladings, and could be sailed profitably both out and home, and English ships could gain a profit only from the conveyance of the return cargo. All
this is now changed, and we are enabled fully and fairly to compete with our rivals in a large and constantly increasing branch of trade to our manifest profit and advantage. STATEMENT SHOWING THE NUMBER AND TONNAGE OF BRITISH SHIPS THAT ENTERED AND
CLEARED FROM THE UNDERMENTIONED FOREIGN PORTS, ON
Cleared for foreign ports.
foreign ports. Ships. Tons. Ships.
82 16,148 52 10.326 Trieste
55 14,117 101 23,059 Antwerp..
3,872 Leghorn (1849).
102 17,044 112 20,663 St. Petersburg...
72 13,318 164 34,762 Cadiz ......
32,098 We are not as yet informed concerning the amount of shipbuilding that took place in the United Kingdom during 1851, but if we are to judge from the number and tonnage of vessels launched during that year in the single port of Sunderland, from which we have obtained the requisite information, we shall find that this great and important branch of industry has been prosecuted to a greater extent than during any former year. There were launched there in the year 1851 no fewer than 146 vessels, of the aggregate burden of 51,823 tons, showing an average tonnage of 355 tons per vessel, and thus proving that it is not for prosecuting the branch of navigation still preserved exclusively to the British Aag—the coasting trade—that this large amount of construction has been effected, but that a considerable part of these new ships must have been intended for the foreign and colonial trades, in which we are more than of old exposed to rivalry and competition, and where, consequently, our shipowners must feel that they are in a condition successfully to carry on that competition. At this time there are on the stocks at the same port 73 vessels, whose aggregate burden amounts to 27,955 tons, showing the still larger average burden of 383 tons, and their quality may be understood from the fact that they are classed in Lloyd's register as follows: A 1 for 5 years.
73 These facts ought to induce our merchants and shipowners to change their opinions in regard to the value of our once cherished Act of Navigation, and to convince them that, by means of cheaper vessels, better management of them, and the extensions of trade which have followed upon its repeal, they can promise themselves a larger and more profitable trade than they ever enjoyed under monopoly.