Imágenes de página

blockade of our harbours by hostile squadrons, it must be evident that no more important subject of consideration ever was submitted to the attention of a thinking nation. And we dwell upon the subject with the more earnestness, because, when our situation as a whole is fairly looked in the face, and the policy which duty and interest alike prescribe, is adopted, there not only is no ground for alarm, but the most satisfactory prospects of future prosperity and welfare are opened on all sides to the nation. It is in our colonies that this source of strength is to be found; it is in our descendants on the other side of the Atlantic and the Pacific, that we are to look alike for the only certain market for our produce, and the only undecaying elements for our strength. Some very striking facts on this subject were brought forward upon the late dinner given upon the occasion of the embarking of the first emigrants to New Zealand, at Glasgow; and we willingly give a place to them here, as exhibiting, in a more striking light than has yet been done, the incalculable importance of the British colonies, not merely to the extension, but to the independence and existence of the mother country.

"Let us no longer strain," said Mr Sheriff Alison," after the impracticable attempt to disarm the commercial jealousy of the European states; but, boldly looking our situation in the face, direct our main efforts to the strengthening, conciliating, and increasing of our Colonial Empire. There is to be found the bone of our bone, and the flesh of our flesh. There are to be found the true descendants of the Anglo-Saxon race; there the people, who, already imbued with our tastes, our habits, our artificial wants, must be chained for centuries to agricultural or pastoral employments, and can only obtain from the mother country the immense amount of manufactured produce which their growing wealth and numbers must require. So strongly, gentlemen, am I impressed with these principles-so clearly do I see the future path traced out to England, not less by her duty than her interests, that there is no one circumstance in her present condition, not even those which are most justly considered as pregnant with danger and alarm, that may not be converted into

the source of blessings, if a decided and manly course is taken by the nation and its Government in regard to its colonial interests. Indeed, so clearly does this appear, that one is almost tempted to believe that the manifold political and social evils of our present condition, are the scourges intended by Providence to bring us back, by necessity and a sense of our own inte rests, to those great national duties from which we have so long and so unaccountably swerved. Are we oppressed with a numerous and redundant population? Are we justly apprehensive that a mass of human beings, already consisting of five-and-twenty millions, and multiplying at the rate of a thousand souls a-day, will erelong be unable to find subsistence within the narrow space of these islands? Let us turn to the Colonies, and there we shall find boundless regions, capable of maintaining ten times our present population in contentment and affluence, and which require only the surplus arms and mouths of the parent state, to be converted into gigantic empires, which, before a century has elapsed, may overshadow the greatness even of European re


Are we justly fearful that the increasing manufacturing skill and growing commercial jealousy of the Continental states may gradually shut us out from the European market, and that our millions of manufacturers may find their sources of foreign subsistence fail at a time when all home employments are filled up? Let us turn to the Colonies, and there we shall see empires of gigantic strength rapidly rising to maturity, in which manufacturing establishments cannot for centuries take root, and in which the taste for British manufactures, and the habits of British comfort, are indelibly implanted on the British race. Are we overburdened with the weight of our poor-rates and the multitude of our paupers, and trembling under the effect of the deep-rooted discontent produced in the attempt to withdraw public support from the maintenance of the adult and healthy labourer? Let us find the means of transporting these healthy workmen to our colonial settlements, and we shall confer as great a blessing upon them as we shall give a relief to the parent state. Are we disquieted by the rapid progress of corruption in our great towns, and

[ocr errors]

alarmed at the enormous mass of female profligacy which, like a gangrene, infests these great marts of pleasure and opulence? Let us look to the Colonies, and there we shall find states in which the population is advancing with incredible rapidity, but in which the greatest existing evil is, the undue and frightful preponderance of the male sex; and all that is wanting to complete their means of increase is, that the proportion should be righted by the transfer to distant shores of part of the female population which now encumbers the British isles. Are the means to transport these numerous and indigent classes to these distant regions awanting, and has individual emigration hitherto been liable to the reproach that it removes the better class of our citizens who could do for themselves, and leaves the poorest who encumber the land? The British navy lies between, and means exist of transporting, at hardly any expense to the parent state, all that can ever be required of our working population from that part of the empire which they overburden, to that to which they will prove a blessing. Gentlemen, I agree with my eloquent and esteemed friend, Dr M'Leod, that it is astonishing the attention of Government has not ere this been turned to this subject. And why, I would ask, may not part, at least, of the British navy be constantly employed in transporting emigrants of all classes to our Colonial possessions? Why should two hundred vessels of different sizes, that are now in commission in the British navy, be employed only in useless parades, when hundreds of thousands on the British shores are pining for the means of transport across the seas, and millions of acres on the other side of the ocean, teeming with verdant fertility, await only their robust hands to be converted into a terrestrial para dise? Why should the British navy not be employed, like the Roman legions in time of peace, in works of public utility? and why should their efforts not construct causeways across the deep, which would bind together the immense circuit of the British Colonial dominions, as strongly as the highways constructed by the legions cemented the fabric of their mighty empire? In this view the last inconvenience attending a redundant pauper population that of being with diffi

culty removed, would be converted into an element of national strength, because it would induce all classes cheerfully to acquiesce in the duplication of our naval force, from which they all derive such obvious advantages; the navy would augment in size and grow in usefulness under such a salutary system; and the very quality which Adam Smith long ago remarked as the greatest obstacle to the improvement of the human race, that of being the lumber which it is of all others the most difficult to transport, would become the means of augmenting the maritime force of England, and strengthening the unseen chain which holds together the far distant provinces of its mighty dominion.'

We cannot help thinking that the suggestion here made, of directing a part at least of the British navy to the removal of such part of our population as desire it, to our colonial possessions, is well worthy of the most serious consideration. It must be evident to every one who considers the extraordinary reduction which has taken place in our naval force during the last thirty years, and which has brought it down from two hundred and forty ships of the line to eighty, that we have fallen now into an economical and commercial generation; and that the rulers of the state, and the democratic constituencies who direct the rulers, are entirely governed by that passion for present economy, and that disregard of future objects, which is the invariable characteristic of the masses of mankind. No surprise need be excited at a democratic community being influenced by such want of foresight, when all the eloquence of Demosthenes was unable to persuade the most enlightened of the states of antiquity to take any steps to ward off the danger arising from the invasion of Philip of Macedon; and all the wisdom of Washington, was unable to communicate to the greatest republic of modern times, sufficient strength or foresight to prevent its capital being taken, and its arsenals pillaged, by a British division not four thousand strong. It is of the last importance, therefore, to discover some method by which the increase of the navy, evidently essential to our national independence, and to avert the hor rors of the actual blockade of our

harbours, may be rendered popular with the masses of the people. That these masses would make the most strenuous exertions to support the independence of the British flag, if a war actually broke out, may be considered as certain; but will they be equally ready to make those efforts during peace, and when the danger is as yet distant, which are requisite both to insure its success and shorten its duration? Experience proves that they will not; for, though menaced by maritime dangers of every kind, they have, in the last five-and-twenty years, let the royal navy sink down one-third of what it was during the war, and one-half what it was before its commencement. The only mode, therefore, that is apparently practicable of bringing up the royal navy to a level at all commensurate either with the strength of the state or the dangers with which it is threatened, is by giving the masses some present and personal object of advantage, which is to be gained by the expense requisite for its increase. Now, no object would be so generally popular, or universally felt to be important, as that which furnished the means of gratuitous emigration to a large proportion of our surplus working population. Every class in the country, every part of the empire, would at once feel the benefit of such an arrangement :-the poor, by the safe and easy means of emigration that would be afforded them to countries where their condition would at once become prosperous; the landholders, in the diminution of the number of paupers and the burden of poorrates, which would be occasioned d; the manufacturers, in the vast increase in the colonial market for their produce which would be opened up; the colonies, in the boundless supply of robust and efficient labourers with which they would be furnished. The increase in the population, now so much the object of concern to the mother country, would cease to be regarded with any disquietude; it would be considered only as the harbinger of the increased growth of our colonial possessions, and an increased vent for our produce for our colonial wants. The British navy would really become the chain which holds together the far distant parts of its immense dominion; the

means of uniting them in peace-the force to protect them in war; and the prosperity and extension of the far and distant parts of the empire, acting and reacting upon each other, would tend only to augment their mutual and highly beneficial dependence on each other, and to increase the strength of the naval force which was to protect alike all parts of the empire.

The British commercial policy, ever since the reciprocity system began, may be characterised in two words"Colonial Neglect and European Propitiation." As this system has now been in operation for sixteen years, ample time has been afforded to demonstrate, by experience, its effects, whether for good or for evil. The following statement of the effect of this system, which commenced in 1823, was made by Mr Alison at the Glasgow dinner above referred to:


Standing as I do in the midst of this great commercial city, second to none, after the metropolis, in the British empire, I need not say that we are people mainly dependent on commerce and maritime strength; and we have only to look around us, and contemplate the narrow extent of these islands, compared with the vast population already crowded within their shores, to feel convinced that any serious and permanent obstruction to our foreign commerce, or decline in our maritime power, would not only be attended with the greatest danger to our independence, but fraught with a degree of wide-spread misery, perhaps unparallelled even in the long annals of human suffering. But, gentlemen, when we minutely examine our maritime and commercial situation, we shall find many causes for serious alarm, and many reasons for concluding that our policy in these respects has hitherto been mainly directed to fruitless or unattainable objects; and that, in their prosecution, we have overlooked or neglected the certain elements of strength lying in our own bosom, in the growth of our colonial empire. If we look to our exports and tonnage returns, we shall see that our maritime resources for the last forty years have been far from keeping pace with our commercial growth, and that our exports to the countries whom we have made the greatest sacrifices to propitiate, have been constantly and rapidly declining, while those to our co

lonies, for whose interests we have done so little, have been as constantly and rapidly increasing; and that it is the growth of the latter which has concealed and counterbalanced the decay of the former. Let us look at our total exports, imports, and tonnage in the present time, as compared with what they were during the peace of Amiens. They stood as follows:




1802, L.58,369.990 L.29,8.6,210 L.2,167,000 1838, 105,170,549 61,26%,320 2,90,601 "Thus, gentlemen, you see, that while from 1802 to 1838, that is in six-and-thirty years, our exports have advanced from 38 to 105, that is about 280 per cent, and our imports from 29 to 61, that is about 210 per cent, our whole tonnage has only increased from 21 to 28, that is about 33 per cent. This broad and decisive fact is calculated to excite the most serious alarm in every rational bosom, as to the maintenance in future of the maritime superiority of Great Britain. For who has carried the remainder of our merchandise abroad, and wafted the remainder of our imports to our shores? Somebody must have done it. The conclusion is unavoidable that it was done in great part by foreign states, that is, by vessels and seamen that may any day be ranged against us by our enemies. And, gentlemen, the number of these foreign seamen and vessels now employed in the British trade, and the rapid encroachments they are making on British maritime strength, is decisively proved by the Parliamentary Tables collected with so much care and accuracy by Mr Porter, at the Board of Trade: for from them it appears that the relative proportions of Foreign and British shipping employed in conducting our trade at these two periods were as follows:

[blocks in formation]

that is, nearly tripled. This, gentlemen, is the general result; and unquestionably it is sufficiently alarming to every one who considers how essential our maritime superiority is to our foreign commerce; and what would be the condition of the British population if the empire of the seas were wrested from it, and the Thames, the Clyde, and the Mersey, were blockaded by hostile fleets? But the particulars of our trade with separate countries are far more instructive, because they demonstrate, in the clearest manner, where it is that the decay of our trade and shipping is going on, and where the counterpoising sources of strength and revival are to be found. It appears from Mr Porter's Parliamentary Tables, that since 1823, when the reciprocity system commenced, our tonnage with the countries with whom the reciprocity treaties were concluded has been decreasing in the most alarming manner, while no increase whatever has taken place during the same period in the amount of the goods which they take off our hands. The British and foreign shipping employed in the trade with Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, since 1820, have stood as follows:British declined with

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

71 to 250. Such, gentlemen, is the working of the reciprocity system with these countries; and even in regard to America our trade stands thus:

[blocks in formation]

very extension of our export of manufactures, be nursing up a foreign, and possibly hostile, commercial navy, which would ere long wrest from us the empire of the seas. It is needless to go farther into details; for the fol

lowing is the general result of the change which the tonnage of our foreign commerce with all parts of the world has undergone during the last thirty-six years:

"The trade of Great Britain with all Europe has declined from 1802 to 1836,

[merged small][ocr errors]

These facts may be considered as decisive against the reciprocity system, so far as the maritime interests of the empire are concerned. They prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, after the most ample opportunity of trying the system by experience has been given, that under the recipocrity system the British flag is gradually becoming extinct in the trade with Continental Europe; and that, if it is continued for ten or fifteen years longer, our whole traffic with Europe will be carried on in the vessels of foreign states. Indeed, it is evident, from the extraordinarily rapid growth of foreign shipping in carrying on the British commerce, that if the present system continues many years longer, the foreign sailors and tonnage employed in carrying on our commercial intercourse, at least with the States of Europe, will be greater than our own; that is to say, we shall have nursed up a race of foreign seamen in our own harbours, and in conducting our own trade, superior in number to those of the British islands-in other words, sharpened, and put into the enemy's hands, the dagger which may at any moment pierce us to the heart.

Real reciprocity with these countries would evidently have consisted Countries.


[ocr errors]

from 65 to 48 per cent.

[blocks in formation]

in stipulating, that in consideration of our admitting some article in which they had advantages over us, on the same terms as they admitted ours, that they should do the same with some article of our manufacture in which we had the advantage, and they had the worst of it by nature. But we never thought of doing this, but contented ourselves with surrendering to them the whole advantages which the navigation laws gave to our shipping, without ever stipulating even the smallest corresponding advantage in favour of our cotton, hardware, or woollen goods, inwhich we had by nature the start of them. The consequence has been that our own shipping employed in carrying on the trade with these nations has been almost destroy. ed, while no benefit whatever has been gained in our exports to these nations by the sacrifice. This decisively appears from comparing our exports to the powers with whom we concluded recipocrity treaties for the last ten years, during which time, in consequence of the action of these treaties, our shipping with them has been dwindling away to nothing. The following table exhibits the value of our exports to the Baltic powers, in 1827 and 1828, and 1835 and 1836 :

[blocks in formation]

1827. 1836. £1,408,970 £1,318,936 £1,752,775 £1,742,433



Denmark, Prussia,




39,129 53,582



[blocks in formation]


It is needless to go farther into details, for the following statement by the learned and indefatigable Mr Porter, of the Board of Trade, on that subject is decisive:-" That part of our commerce," says Mr Porter, "which, being carried on with the rich and civilized inhabitants of European nations, should present the greatest field for extension, will be seen to have






179,145 fallen off under this aspect in a remarkable degree. The average annual exports to the whole of Europe were less in value by nearly 20 per cent in the five years from 1832 to 1836, than they were in the five years that followed the close of the war; and it affords strong evidence of the unsatisfactory footing upon which our trading regulations with Europe are established,

« AnteriorContinuar »