페이지 이미지
PDF

colony exclusively beneficial to the parent state. It was certainly the case, that the wants of mankind were always increased in proportion as they found the means and opportunity of indulging their desires; and he saw no method so likely to increase those means and that opportunity, as allowing that free scope to capital and industry which he now proposed. If this were true with respect to the British West Indies—if it held good with respect to those colonies which he considered, in one sense, and without meaning any thing offensive, as mere sugar plantations--as plantations cultivating a particular production, which was admitted into this country for the benefit of owners residing here--in how much greater a degree would this system prove advantageous to the British provinces of North America? There the whole population was free— there, whatever course their industry took, it would be prose

cuted for the advantage of those.

who were on the spot—there the population considered, and justly considered, the country as their own. Whatever means of exchange and barter they possessed with other countries was called into action to procure a fair and necessary supply of articles which their own country did not produce. Under all the circumstances, the situation of the British North American provinces was more favourable to a change of system than the state of the West India islands: and it was, he conceived, impossible not to hope that the greatest advantages would result, in the course of a few years, from the projected alteration. The present population of the British 1825,

North American provinces he estimated at 1,000,000 of inhabitants. With the fertility which distinguished many parts of their soil—with their noble forests— with their extensive fisheries— and with the facilities which they possessed for entering into foreign markets—it was impossible, if the boon of free trade were granted to them, that they should not feel, in consequence of that liberal treatment which would secure their wealth and prosperity, a very great desire to connect themselves more closely with this country. It was impossible, under such circumstances, that they could wish to unite themselves with any other state, or to shake off their connexion with Great Britain. They would not feel, with sentiments of jealousy and envy, the rapid growth of other states, in their immediate neighbourhood, and in other parts of America, because they would feel that a due regard was paid to their interests. The British American provinces possessed at present some advantages over their neighbours. The duties exacted from them were more moderate, and they had one very superior advantage—he meant the exclusive advantage of British shipping. They also possessed all the civil rights which the people of this country enjoyed. It was impossible not to feel that no motive could be adduced sufficiently strong to make them risk those advantages, in conjunction with others that would be conferred on them, by endeavouring to change their connexion. He therefore considered that with respect to these provinces, the alteration in the system would not only greatly

Q conduce conduce to the mutual prosperity of both countries, in point of commerce, but that it would tend to cement and strengthen the connexion between them. It would bind them still closer in all those mutual ties of interest by which it was possible that colonies could be bound to the mother country; and it would secure, as far as human arrangements could effect that object, a perpetual connexion between them. Even if that connexion chanced to be unfortunately dissolved, that event would not be attended with that jealousy or regret which attended the separation of America from this country. He feared he had detained the committee too long ; but he assured them that he felt these to be most important points. If they granted to the British North American provinces this indulgence— he was about to say boon; but in fact, the benefit would result to this country — those provinces would unquestionably flourish. Without it those countries could not keep up an equal competition with their neighbours and rivals, the United States of America. He could adduce many reasons which would show, that, with respect to the United States, they were placed in a disadvantageous situation in several points of view. But, perhaps, one example would prove, better than any series of argument, the consequences which would follow from this change of system, and the necessity that called for it. At the present moment, one of the most valuable products of the industry of the people of Nova Scotia was to be found in her fisheries. Her rivals were the neighbouring provinces of the United States. Now, he

would suppose a cargo of fish to be sent out from one of the ports of the United States, and another from Halifax. The terms up to this point were equal—so far the advantage on each side was the same. But let the committee go a little farther. He would suppose the cargo of the United States vessel to be carried to Brazil, and there exchanged for sugar, cotton, or any other production of that country. The captain might then proceed to the Baltic, and there he might exchange his Brazilian cargo for hemp, iron, sail-cloth, or various other productions, which he might either want for his own use, or, if he pleased, dispose of in any other quarter. If the British ship, with a cargo of fish, proceeded in the same manner to Brazil, there the cargo might be sold; but if the captain desired to take in a cargo of Brazilian produce for his own country, he could not do so. He eould not carry sugar or any other production of the Brazils to Halifax, even for exportation. Could he go with a cargo to the Baltic * Yes, he might dispose of it at St. Petersburgh. But could he take back the productions of Russia? No, he could not. This was the disadvantage which the British North American provinces laboured under, as compared with the United States. By this ill-considered policy a premium and bounty were given to the United States against the interests of the British North American provinces. The consequence was, that we lost this branch of commerce, as well as the carrying trade which was connected with the transportation of the fish. This was, he thought, a very good proof of the mischief which arose from these restrictions. They were, in effect, bounties on the trade of those countries that did. not impose similar duties. Having stated generally the whole view which he took of this subject, it was now necessary for him to say a few words on the general principle of the alterations which he meant to propose. He would not detain the committee by stating the alterations which he contemplated in detail; they would be seen in the resolutions and in the bills which would be subsequently introduced. But he felt it right to call the attention of the committee to one or two circumstances of the change which he deemed it farther necessary to propose. The committee was aware that the sugar of the Mauritius was at this moment admitted into Great Britain at a different rate of duty from that which was paid on West India sugar. The duty paid on the sugar of the Mauritius was 10s. over and above that paid by the other colonies. He, in the last year, entertained the project of placing Mauritius sugar on an equality with the sugar of the West India colonies. It was then stated as an objection to the plan, that the sugar growers in the Mauritius, though they had not a monopoly of the home market, as the West Indies had, still possessed considerable countervailing advantages. Such was the statement made at the time. But, considering the situation of the colony of the Mauritius—seeing that the cultivation of sugar there was carried on precisely in the same way as the cultivation of sugar in the West Indies, he could perceive no advantage which it enjoyed over the West India colonies. That, colony was at a

much greater distance from the mother country than the West Indies. It was more subject to hurricanes, devastation, and loss of crop; and, taking the whole of the circumstances into consideration, he was of opinion, that when they were going to place all the colonies on a free and liberal foundation, they could not, in fairness and with a due regard to principle, refuse to the Mauritius the indulgence they extended to the West Indies. Therefore, though this subject was not contained in the resolution which he should have the honour of moving to-night, he wished in fairness to state, that it was in the contemplation of government, in the present session of parliament, to alter the duty on sugar grown in the Mauritius, and to place it on the same footing with the duty payable on West India sugar. Another point, to which he begged leave to advert, was one with respect to which he was sure the feelings of the committee would not fail to go along with him—he meant the great importance which this country ought to set on her North American colonies, These were not sugar colonies, nor did they produce articles similar to the productions of any tropical climate; but they were possessed of one article which assimilated with a very extensive production of this country—he alluded to corn. That was the staple of those colonies, which formed a part of the British empire, and which were as much entitled to protection as any other portion of it. That staple they had not actually prohibited, but they had loaded it with such heavy duties, as, for the last five or six years, had virtually amounted to a

Q 2 prohibition.

prohibition. Now, when he stated that the greatest quantity of corn ever imported from Canada, had, he believed, been short of 50,000 quarters, he would suggest, when he was speaking to gentlemen who had seen the great advantages which had been derived from the free corn-trade granted to Ireland, that they ought not to deny to Canada something of a similar description. The great disadvantage which Canada laboured under was, the not knowing whether the ports of this country were open or shut. Corn might be deposited in our warehouses for five or six years; but, while it depended on a fraction, on a halfpenny, or a penny, whether it would be admitted to come into the market, it was impossible that the Canadian farmers could know how to act—it was impossible for them to pay for the goods which were sent out to Canada from this country for their use. He thought that there could not be a wellfounded feeling of jealousy or apprehension cherished on this subject by the British farmer. He would farther state, that the distance from which this corn was to be carried, and the greatness of the expense . of freight, gave a very considerable advantage to the British farmer. The freight from Quebec to England was from 12s. to 14s. a ton, and there was a duty of 5s., which he conceived was a sufficient protection for the British corn-grower. Considering those heavy charges, he thought Canadian flour might be fairly admitted into the market; and therefore, on some other evening, he would point out the necessity for an alteration in the present law respecting the importation of

corn from Canada, so as to allow that trade to be free, and to enable the Canadian farmers to know what they had to trust to. He repeated that 12s. or 14s. freight, and 5s. duty, together with the limited supply of corn afforded by Canada, could leave no ground for apprehension in the minds of those who took even the most jealous and narrow view of the subject. There was yet one point to which he would now briefly advert. It was very desirable, when trade was thrown open, when it was rendered perfectly free, that those who engaged in it should have the full benefit of that free trade, unincumbered with those impositions and burdens by which even our own commerce with the colonies had been too long shackled. The hon. member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) had called the attention of the house to the large fees that were collected in the West Indies. Those fees were applied to the payment of revenue officers, of naval officers, of governors, and other parties connected with the colonies. They were a grievous burden on the commerce of this country; and, when the West India islands come to be freed from those restraints, it would operate most inconveniently if the system were not altered. Therefore, measures would be arranged by his right hon. friend (the chancellor of the exchequer) and the treasury, for removing this evil; and he should propose that those fees should be abolished altogether. It would be proper that the revenue officers should be paid out of the duties to which he had already referred. That was the proper

fund out of which the expense

ought to be defrayed. There

Were

were several officers in those different colonies, at present drawing very large fees, whose services would no longer be wanted. In fact, they would be in the way of the new system, instead of facilitating it. At present there were many naval officers employed in watching over the trade; but when that trade was freed, there would be no longer any necessity for their services, as the revenue of ficers would be able in all respects to make such inspection as would be required in the same way as they proceeded in this country. Compensation would of course be made where the parties dismissed had any vested rights in those offices; and to others who had no such right, such remuneration would be made as the case might require. The facilities thus afforded for relieving the trade of the colonies from such a heavy burden, would give them a better chance for entering into a success

ful competition with the produc-.

tions of other countries. He believed that he had now stated nearly all—indeed, he might say the whole of the alterations which it was his intention to bring under the consideration of the committee on the present occasion. He would now reserve himself until Friday next, when he trusted he should be able to state the alterations which he meant to propose in other parts of the system. He thanked the committee for their patient attention, and would conclude with moving a resolution, the effect of which was to recognize the propriety of amending the acts to which he had already referred. The right hon. gentleman then moved—“That it is the opinion of this committee that it

is expedient to amend several acts of the 3d and 4th of his present Majesty, relative to the British possessions in North America, the West Indies, and other parts of the world; and also as far as relates to the warehousing of goods.” Mr. C. R. Ellis said, as to the general plan of his right hon. friend, he must say that the restrictions which he sought to put down had long pressed on the interests of the West India colonies, perhaps more than that of any other part of the colonies of Great Britain. When those restrictions were first proposed, the effect of them was very different. At that time they did not press very hard on the colonies, who were then in full possession of the home market. Many alterations had, however, been since made, and as our colonial possessions had been much extended, it was impossible to continue the system of keeping the trade of those colonies entirely to ourselves. It therefore became necessary to alter the colonial code. Those bills to which his

right hon. friend had alluded, and

on which he meant to legislate, were in consequence introduced; the one allowing a direct trade in British ships from the colonies to Europe, and the other for facilitating the intercourse between the colonies and America. He expected much benefit from those measures, but in that he was disappointed. British merchants did not avail themselves of the permission to trade direct between the colonies and Europe; and the West India planters found it impossible to overcome the difficulties of their situation, and to divert an old established system of commerce into new channels.

He

« 이전계속 »