Slike strani

by this agent of the accusers as being, beyond all doubt, of French manufacture. What followed? These thirty-seven pieces were seized, and the Frenchman was put upon his proof that they were made in this country. How did he prove it? By producing, one after another, the very men by whom every one of these thirty-seven pieces had been made; who proved, upon their oaths, in the most irrefragable manner, that every inch of these goods had been woven by themselves Where? Not at Lyons-not in France-but in Spitalfields and Man


I have stated these facts with feelings, I own, bordering on disgust. I cannot but think it humiliating, if not discreditable to my countrymen, that an unprotected foreigner should have been maligned and persecuted, instead of receiving countenance and encouragement for having transported his capital and skill to this country, and for being the first to set the example of great and successful improvement in our silk manufacture.

But how does this detail, into which I have entered, bear upon the present argument? It shows, in the clearest manner, that, if you continue to seize silk goods, in private houses, in shops, or upon individuals, you have now lost your former test, by which you could prove them to be of foreign origin. The most expert judge of such articles, it is now legally proved, cannot discriminate between the British and the foreign manufacture. Prohibition, therefore, has lost its only recommendation; it retains no advantage over a well-regulated duty.

If this be so, let us not talk of the difference in the expense of labour between this country and France. Will it be said, that a French child cannot earn in the silk manufactory 1s. 6d. a-week; and that, without working from fourteen to fifteen hours out of the four-and-twenty? Certainly not. Supposing, however, the average earnings of these 500,000 persons (an exaggerated number I am convinced) to be 10s. a-week, thirteen millions of money would then be the annual amount of wages alone in this manufacture. To this are to be added, the interest on capital, and the price of the raw material: so that the value of the goods sold could not be less than eighteen or twenty millions sterling. This, however, I consider too high a calculation. The Lords' report estimates the whole amount at only ten millions; but, allowing for increased consumption since 1821, it may, perhaps, be fairly rated at twelve or fourteen millions, exclusive of the quantity smuggled in from the continent.

If, then, fourteen millions of silk goods are about the annual consumption of this kingdom, what would happen, if, according to the predictions of the honourable member for Taunton, the British manufacture should be annihilated after next July? We should not, I take it for granted, consume a less quantity of silk goods: the only change would be, that we should have them, as it is alleged, of a better quality, and at a less price. But, all the goods so consumed, would, in this supposition, have paid a duty of 30 per cent on their importation; and the produce of that duty, consequently, would exceed four millions sterling. This large sum would be levied without, in the smallest degree, abridging the comfort or enjoyment of any other class of the com

But appeals have been made to our compassion; and our feelings have been alarmed by the statement, that above 500,000 individuals are at present engaged in the silk trade, and that ruin must in-munity. It would bring with it no inevitably be entailed on this large and meritorious class of the community, if the old law be not restored.

Now, supposing the number of persons employed in the silk manufactory to amount to 500,000-their wages, I assume, cannot be less, one with another, than 10s. a-week for each person. 1 have been told, indeed, that a considerable portion of this number are children, some of whom do not receive more than 1s. 6d. a-week; and, for this pittance, the hours of work in the mills, when the trade was brisk, I have been assured, were, from five in the morning till eight or nine at night.

crease of burthen upon the consumer of silk goods, and consequently no diminution of his means of consuming other articles. It would simply be the premium of monopoly transferred to the Exchequer, and the capital, for which this monopoly was created, would be set free, to give employment to other branches of industry.

Such, certainly, would be the ultimate result, if the speculative fears of the silk trade should be realized. But, of such an issue, I am persuaded there is no risk. The whole consumption of silk goods in France is not equal to the consumption in England. Now, supposing, when the bill

Not a letter from the hon. baronet, I can assure him; for he has given us to understand that, in mind, at least, he belongs to the Brobdignagian age of this country. But I think I have hit upon that which would infallibly make fortune at Laputa: I will tell the hon. baronet what it is.

comes into operation, there should be a
greatly increased demand in this country
for French silks—this new and additional
demand would produce a corresponding
advance in the price of the goods, and in
To a
the wages of labour, in France.
certain extent there may be such a de-
mand, especially at the first opening of
the trade; but, I am convinced that, with
the attention to economy which competi-
tion excites, with our improved machinery,
our industry and ingenuity, and, perhaps,
with the lowered prices of labour and the
means of subsistence-a protecting duty
of 30 per cent will be found to be sufficient.
The House is called upon, by the motion
of the hon. member for Coventry, "to
inquire." Has it never inquired before?
Has the House of Lords entered into no
investigation of the subject? And, did
not that investigation take place at a
period when taxation and prices were
very considerably higher than at present?
The country, too, at that time, was labour-
ing under much distress; and the silk
manufacture was suffering its full share
of the existing difficulties. Was that in-
quiry loosely conducted? Certainly not.
A noble marquis (Lansdown) presided
over the labours of the committee, alike
distinguished for talent, for diligence, and
for the soundness of his views on all sub-
jects connected with the commercial policy
of the country. It was the opinion of that
committee, after taking a mass of evidence
on oath, that a duty of 15 per cent would
be an adequate protection, instead of a
duty of double that amount, under which
the experiment is now to be made.

I have stated, too much at length I
fear, the grounds on which it appears to
me, that this House ought not to entertain
the present motion. This statement, I
feel, must have appeared unnecessary to
those who think with me on the subject
of our commercial policy; and I dare not
hope that it has made much impression
on those who are the declared advocates
of the restrictive system-those who be-
long to the same school of political economy
as the hon, baronet, the member for Staf-
fordshire. In his enmity to all improve-
ment, he told us the other evening, that
the ministers of the present day were only
fit to form a council for the island of
Since this intimation of the
hon. baronet's wish to see us banished to
that island, I have turned in my own
mind what recommendation I could take
with me to that land of philosophers.


At the time of the great Bullion controversy in 1810-1811, the main question in dispute turned upon what was the real Standard of our money. We wild theorists said, as our simple forefathers had always said before us, that the standard was, and could be, nothing else than the weight and fineness of the gold or silver in the coin of the realm, according to the commands of the sovereign, specified in the indentures of the Mint. Had this definition been admitted by the practical men there would at once have been an end of the contested point-whether our then currency was or was not depreciated. But, for that very reason, this definition was denied by all who maintained the negative of that question. More than a hundred pamphlets were published on that side, containing as many different definitions of the standard. Fifteen of these definitions, most in vogue at the time, I have since retained, as a curiosity to laugh at: but they may now, perhaps, be turned to a more valuable purpose. number I only recollect three at this moment. The first defined the standard to be "the abstract pound sterling." This had great success till another practical writer proved, that the standard was the "ideal unit." These two practical standards were, however, finally superseded by a third, of which the definition was, sense of value in currency (paper), in This last reference to commodities." standard was at once so perfectly tangible and clearly intelligible, that I consider it as the parent of the famous Resolution of this House, by which the question was to be finally set at rest.

Of that



Now, if I should take with me to Laputa this little, but invaluable collection of definitions, I have not the slightest doubt that my pretensions to have the whole monetary system of that island placed under my direction to be master of the mint-governor of the bank-and superintendent of all the country banks-would be immediately and generally admitted. It is true we have had no authentic account of the progress of political science in that celebrated island for about a cen

tury past; but, it is scarcely to be imagin- | power, it the more becomes us, as the ed that it can have been so rapid, as to enable their greatest philosophers to challenge the pre-eminence of these definitions, on the score of abstraction, metaphysics, and absurdity: and, at any rate, if the philosophers should cabal against me, the practical men could not fail to be on my side.

I am not aware, Sir, that I have omitted to notice any of the objections which have been urged against the important changes lately made by Parliament in our commercial system. That these changes are extensive, as well as important, I readily admit. Whether they will work ultimately for good, or for evil, it becomes not fallible man to pronounce an over peremptory opinion. That the expectation of those who proposed them, was, that they would work for good, no man will do us the injustice to deny. That up to this hour I am fortified in that expectation, by the deductions of reason in my own mind, by the authority of all who are most competent to form a dispassionate opinion upon the subject, by the beneficial result of every thing which has hitherto been done, for giving greater freedom to commerce in this country, and by the experience of the opposite effect which vexatious and unnecessary restraints are daily producing in other countries is what I can most solemnly affirm.

guardians of all that is most valuable in civilised society, to trace the causes of the present calamities, and to prevent, if possible, their recurrence. It is on this principle, that I am anxious to put an end to a system of currency, which leads to ruinous fluctuations in trade, and in the price of all commodities; which, whether in excitement or depression, is alike undermining the sober habits, and the moral feelings of the community; which confounds honest industry with unprincipled gambling: which injures the poor man in the earnings of his labour, and takes from the rich man all security in his property-a system which creates delusive hopes, only to terminate in aggravated disappointments-of which every succeeding convulsion must add to our inability to bear it-and of which the inevitable tendency is, to drive capital and industry to other countries; not in Europe only, but even across the Atlantic. The growing dread of instability here, the growing assurance of increased stability in those countries, would ultimately produce this trans fer; and, with it, the further transfer of the rank and power which England has hitherto maintained among the nations of the world.

If I have ventured to intrude upon the House by any allusion to my personal feelings, they will, I trust, make I make this declaration, I can assure some allowances for the provocation you, Sir, in all sincerity of heart, and, as which I have received. This is the only far as I know myself, without any mixture place in which I can properly reply to of false pride, or any mistaken feeling of the unmanly appeals which have been obstinate adherence to consistency. I am made to me through other channels. Such the more anxious to make this declaration, appeals, however painful to receive, have in the face of the House, and of the world, no influence on my conduct; neither can because of late I have been assailed, and they detract from the sanguine hope distressed, I will own, by ungenerous which I entertain of better prospects and appeals to my feelings, calling upon me increased happiness for my country. I to commune with my conscience and my hailed with great delight, the other evenGod, and to say, whether I am undering, the assurance of the right hon. memno visitations of compunction and remorse, at having thrown so many persons out of bread, in the trial of a rash experiment, and in the pursuit of a hollow theory. Good God! Sir, that man must have a heart of stone, who can witness without sympathy and the greatest pain, the distress which now, unfortunately, exists in most of our other great manufactures, as well as in that of silk. But, whilst I hope that I am not wanting in the duties and feelings of a man-I have also a duty to perform as a minister. If immediate relief be, in a great degree, out of our

ber for Knaresborough (Mr. Tierney), that he saw nothing in our present diffi culties to create despondency or alarm. In this sentiment I most entirely concur. The existing pressure may, for a short time, bear heavily upon the springs of our prosperity; but if we pursue a temperate course, there is nothing to fear, and every thing to hope, for our future progress. With confidence I cling to that cheering hope; and without looking forward to a long life, I trust that I shall witness its realization.

Whether in a public station or in retire

ment, my greatest happiness will be to feel assured, that the power and resources of this country have been increased by those measures of commercial policy which it has fallen to my lot to submit to parliament.

That such will be their ultimate result, is my firm and conscientious conviction; and, in that conviction, I claim for those measures the continual support of this House.

Mr. Baring rose amidst cries of "adjourn," and "go on." The hon. member said, that at that late hour he could not hope for the attention of the House, if he were to attempt to follow in detail the many topics on which the right hon. gentleman had touched in his very able speech. He would, therefore, compress his observations into as narrow a compass as possible. Here the cries for an adjournment became very general, and the hon. member seemed unwilling to proceed,


Mr. Canning said, that if the question before the House were confined merely to the motion of the hon. member for Coventry, there could be no difficulty in disposing of it on that night; but, as the eloquent and powerful speech of his right hon. friend had-most happily, he would say, for the country-involved the whole of the principles on which the commerce of the country was to be conducted in future, he thought it would be impossible to conclude the discussion that night. He would therefore move that the debate be adjourned till to-morrow.

ability and eloquence of that speech. It had been felt by the House, and universally admitted. But he trusted the House would favour him with a patient hearing, for a short time, while he attempted to show, that able and eloquent as that speech was, it touched very little upon the particular question immediately before the House; namely, the silk trade. His right hon. friend began by complaining of the imputations of insensibility to the distresses of the country, which he imagined had been cast upon him. Now, he knew nobody on his side of the House who had thrown out any such imputations, in the sense in which his right hon. friend seemed to understand them. When they said, that ministers were not sensible of the situation of the country, what they meant was, not that ministers were not capable of feeling for the distress of the country, but that they were not aware of its intensity. He was perfectly willing to do justice to the motives by which government had been induced to enter upon the course they were pursuing. He believed firmly, that they were actuated by a strong and imperative sense of duty. His right hon. friend, in the exposition of the general view which he took of this subject on the previous evening, had referred to a petition which he (Mr. Baring) had presented to that House some years ago, and to the observations he had made on that occa sion. As he was not in the habit of speaking with much preparation or from written documents, and had never but thrice in his life read the reports of his

The motion of adjournment was put, speeches, he would not hold himself_anand agreed to.


Friday, February 24. SILK TRADE.] On the motion for resuming the adjourned debate, on Mr. Ellice's motion, "That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into and examine the statements contained in the various petitions from persons engaged in the silk manufacture; and to report their opinion and observations thereon to the House,"

Mr. Baring rose. He felt, he said, the disadvantage under which he laboured in addressing the House upon this subject, after the able and eloquent speech of his right hon. friend, the president of the Board of Trade. It was not necessary for him to state any opinion as to the

swerable for what might be ascribed to him; but, he was quite ready to admit, that in what his right hon. friend had quoted from the report of his speech, in 1820, there was nothing that he was disposed to deny, or that he had any reason to suppose he had not stated. There was nothing in that speech that he would not stand up, on the present occasion, and contend for, as decidedly as he did then. At that time the country was emerging from the most extraordinary war it had ever passed through. In every branch of the law, relative to customs, trade, or finance, the utmost complexity and confusion prevailed. The embarrassments that resulted from these evils, could be understood only by those who had actually suffered from them. It was impossible for any merchant to know how his business ought to be conducted. The

undivided study of a man's life was insufficient to enable him to know what was the state of the law applicable to the trade in which he was concerned. The objectionable system then existing had grown up under a right hon. gentleman Mr. Rose), now no more, who, though with the best intentions, had, unfortunately for the country, presided for a great length of time over that department. He (Mr. Baring) was certainly one who called for a system of more simplicity, and generally for the adoption of the principles of free trade. In the part he had then taken, there was nothing inconsistent with his present views, as he would clearly demonstrate.-His right hon. friend had made some severe remarks on what he had termed the errors of practical men. He (Mr. Baring) regretted much to observe, that latterly there was more personal irritation and animosity mixed up with the discussion of questions, concerning the silk, cotton, or woollen trade, than he had witnessed on the most violent party question that had ever agitated the country. Whether it was that the absence of party had transferred these feelings to questions of a nature otherwise so little likely to excite them, he knew not; but the fact was, that no question relative to the trade or currency of the country, could be considered without ebullitions of anger and personal hostility. His right hon. friend, he was bound in truth to say, had, under the influence of those feelings, made some imputations of the most severe, and, as he would prove before he sat down, of the most groundless character, against individuals engaged in the silk trade, whom he knew to be the most honourable and respectable men living. He would satisfy the House, that they had done nothing in the management of their business, but what they ought to have done. With regard to the principles of free trade, he contended, that the support he had given to them did not exclude the adaptation of those principles to the particular circumstances in which the country might be placed. The removal of the prohibitive system, in order to the ultimate establishment of perfect freedom of action, was not in the slightest degree incompatible with a case of special temporary exception, where the necessity could be clearly made out. He was aware that the burthen of proof lay with those who called for the exception. But, it was not in the power of parliament to

lay down a rule without an exception, when the state of things in which that rule was to be applied was itself an exception to all ordinary rules. Was not the state of this country one of extreme complexity in all its parts? The answer lately returned to a question respecting coal carried coastwise, was an evidence of the intricate condition of our internal affairs. It was impossible to sit five minutes in that House, and not be convinced, that no particular rule could be applied to the circumstances of this country. Nobody rejoiced more than he, that a professorship had been founded in the University of Oxford for the teaching of the science of political economy. He hoped that a similar course would be followed in the new University of London. It was desirable that the country should be more generally imbued with sound principles than it was at present. He was not so sanguine, however, as to expect that the diffusion of information would prevent endless discussions on that very difficult science. If the works already written on that subject were opened, the doctrines of each would be found to differ from almost every other. Nothing like agreement was to be met with among its professors. So far from their demonstrations being characterised by mathematical rigour and precision, all was vagueness and uncertainty. Hardly any two political economists had written on the Corn laws, between whom there were not radical differences on the most fundamental points. When these learned persons had arrived at some certain truth, on which they were agreed among themselves, he would advise practical men, as they were called, to give way; but, until then, he would beg leave to suggest, that the political economists should refrain from abusing the practical man, and treating him as the greatest fool in existence, because he proved, by facts, that, though the result should, according to theory, be as they stated, it was not always so. His right hon. friend had entertained the House, at some length, in pointing out the inconsistencies in his (Mr. Baring's) conduct. He trusted that his right hon. friend would not suppose him wanting in personal respect, if he presumed to call the attention of the House to the inconsistencies of a more learned doctor-he alluded to the right hon. gentleman himself. When the petition was presented in 1820, he admitted that he held opinions

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