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navigation system of England, the United States of America long since adopted a law which excluded from their ports all English ships with cargoes brought from third countries, - the law, in other particulars also, being copied from the trading regulations of this country. This American law was simply retaliatory; so that, as a matter of course, when we no longer excluded from our ports the shipping of America, upon its arriving from any third country, their ports were, in like manner, thrown more widely open to our mercantile marine. We have now before us the returns relating to American trade and navigation during the year ending 37th June, 1850, and therefore embracing only six months during which the more liberal system had been in force. The returns in question show, that in those six months there entered the harbours of the United States, with cargoes from foreign ports, in cases where all such trading had been before prohibited, British shipping to the amount of 68,004 tons. Can there be stronger proof that we are able to compete in their own ports, and under circumstances where we cannot possibly possess any advantage over them, with our much dreaded rivals ? It is reasonable to believe, that this competition has been continued, on at least an equal scale, during the second half of the year. Thus, in one single direction, our ships have found a new trade for which, through the operation of the law which was predicted to be their ruin, they have been led by the encouragement of greater profits to abandon for a time the trades to which they had previously been restricted; and this has taken place to an extent sufficient to account for three-fourths of the presumed deficiency, which it has been attempted to convert into a cause of lamentation and despair. A further source of satisfaction may be found in these American returns from the fact, that a still larger amount of British tonnage than that which arrived in the United States from previously forbidden ports, obtained employment in direct competition with American vessels for the conveyance of cargoes from their own ports to foreign countries. This double carrying trade has been prosecuted with almost every part of the world, including the various countries of Northern and Southern Europe, the Foreign West Indies, Mexico, Brazil, and other South American States, China, and the Indian Archipelago, It needs not to be remarked that our shipping thus employed must have been at least delayed for several months on their return home, and could not possibly, therefore, have figured in the list of our arrivals in 1850.
The enterprise of our merchants, now left to their unprotected energies, is daily exploring fresh channels for the employ
Cheapening of British Shipbuilding.
ment of their capitals. Among these new employments a trade which promises some extension has sprung up between Hong Kong and the west coast of North and South America, to which many of the products of China are now conveyed. During the first half of 1850, thirty ships, measuring 10,776 tons, left Hong Kong with cargoes of those products, consisting of silks, lacquered wares, tea, sugar, and numerous other articles, together with considerable quantities of building materials fashioned by the industry of our own subjects on that island, - such as wrought granite, wooden frame houses, and planed lumber. The proportion of English shipping so employed was 18 ships of 6,842 tons burden, while the Americans furnished only 5 ships of 1,156 tons burden. - But, what is the direct experience furnished by our own ports? We should now look there in vain for those evidences of distress on the part of shipowners which, at different times, while protection to the national trader was the order of the day, were wont to salute our eyes in the form of the broom at the mast-head of scores of stately vessels. In one of those documents, from which the best commercial knowledge may frequently be derived -a broker's printed circular, compiled a very few months ago at Liverpool, we find it stated; that, The continued scarcity of British shipping in the port obliges many foreign vessels to be taken for the Brazils and
other parts which would not otherwise be the case; whilst so • actively employed elsewhere are our best A 1. ships that great
difficulty is found in procuring vessels for which a tonnage of • 300 to 400 tons is only admissible.' Nor is it in our own ports only, that the want of British shipping is experienced. In a letter which we have seen, dated from Galatz in September last, it is mentioned, that, " The grain trade is likely to suffer 'very much from want of shipping, and extravagant freights 'may rule. At least 200 vessels are wanted for England, perhaps 300 may be wanted, and it does not appear that 100 are on their way to the Danube.'
Among the alarmists, whose fears were the most loudly expressed when our restrictive system of Navigation Laws was changed, were to be found our shipbuilders. They declared their total inability to meet the competition of the north of Europe and of the United States of America; and statements were brought by them before the Committees of both Houses of Parliament, showing the greater cost of British-built ships in comparison with those dreaded rivals. These fears have proved to be altogether groundless. In the whole of 1850 the foreignbuilt vessels registered in the various ports of this kingdom and its foreign possessions were in number only 57, of 10,499 tons burden; a truly insignificant amount when it is considered that in that year our market was first opened to the foreigner, and that the outcry raised concerning the greater cost of our ships would naturally induce foreigners to send here for sale such vessels as they might desire to part with, and which they might expect to replace on cheaper terms through their own shipwrights.
În the meantime, an important result has followed from the repeal of our Navigation Law
the cheapening of the cost of ship-building in this country. The method of classing ships according to the materials employed in their construction, supplies an unerring test of comparative value. A ship classed as A 1. for twelve years, or for ten years, may be reckoned equal in value to any other ships so classed for the same number of years; in calculating the cost of vessels it is therefore proper to compare those of equal standing. Judged in this way, it may now be confidently affirmed, that English-built ships are at least as cheap as those built in any other country whatever. It was given in evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons on the Navigation Laws, by an experienced shipbuilder, that the cost of building and fitting for sea a twelve years ship was, in 1847, 221. 10s. per ton in the river Thames, at Liverpool, or in Glasgow, and 181. at Sunderland; and that ' for every year of diminished period for which a ship may be ' adapted to stand on the first letter in Lloyd's register, about • 1l. per ton may be deducted from the cost.' We have before us a list of prices at which ships may now be built at Sunderland and fitted for sea in the West India trade. The following figures show the reduction from the prices of 1847, since the change in our system, by letting in foreign competition, has set our shipbuilders upon economising and on adopting such improvements as may. enable them to set competitors at de
Class of Ship.
Cost at Sunderland Cost at Sunderland
in 1847. A. 1. 12 years
£14 10s. 11
13 10 10
13 0 9
12 10 8
11 10 A ship classed A 1. for thirteen years, which it was said in 1847 would cost, coppered and fitted for sea, 241. per ton, has this year been built and completed, under the most careful inspection, for 151. 10s. per ton. The tonnage built and regis
Criminal Returns from 1846 to 1850.
tered in the several ports of the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands during the last three years, was: 1848
125,940 tons. 1849
137,530 At no period in the commercial history of this country was there more activity than is now shown in our ship-building ports; and it has been remarked, that at no time has the class of ships built been of so high a character as at present: a certain proof that our merchants generally are far from sharing in the fears which were expressed when the question of the Navigation Laws was under discussion. On this point surely Lord Stanley may feel at ease.
In whatever direction we inquire into the results of the Freetrade System, so far as it has hitherto been carried into effect in England, we find the same increased activity, with equal success. Protectionists may strive to get up alarms and endeavour to convince the world, against our senses and the nature of things, that our increased imports and exports, and the augmented burden of the ships on our registers, are proofs of advancing ruin; but their efforts must make less and less impression, as the public become from day to day better acquainted with the subject. Our merchants will laugh to scorn all such absurdities; and while they can refer to their ledgers for records of increased transactions and augmented profits, will be but little likely to join in again putting those shackles upon commerce, under the restraint of which they feel that their action would be crippled and their progress impeded.
Even the criminal returns of the kingdom have been pressed into the service of the Protectionists. By showing that there have been more frequent commitments for serious crimes since the adoption of the Free-trade policy, it has been sought to connect an increase of crime with the cheapening of the means of living by honest labour ; - a connexion which could only be imagined by persons predetermined to set at defiance the first principles of common sense. But let us see how the fact really stands. It is stated that the number of commitments has advanced from 47,668 in 1846 to 74,162 in 1849; a truly appalling increase, if unaccompanied and uncorrected by explanation. But these numbers include the commitments in Ireland, which, from causes notorious to all the world, rose during that interval from 18,492 to 41,982. The unreasonableness of including in any such comparison the criminal statistics of Ireland, -considering the distress, through want of food, which has prevailed there, more or less, during the years in question, and the especial extravagance of attributing the increase to causes which have tended to lessen that distress, must be evident to every one.
We will conclude what we have to say on this point, by a tabular comparison of the real amount of criminality in England and Wales alone during each of the five years from 1846 to 1850:
These figures prove that criminality in England and Wales tested by the returns, was really less in 1850 than in any one of the years brought forward. The actual number, both of committals and convictions, was, indeed, greater in 1850 than in 1846; but taking into the account the increase of the population, it was virtually smaller; while the actual number itself is lower than in any one of the three years following 1846. Compared by the test of punishments awarded, which affords the only rational means for judging of the intensity of crime, the last year of the series presents a more consolatory view of this particular objection; since the number sentenced to death and transportation, which include all crimes of a serious character, appear to have been very considerably less in 1850 than in any other of the five years.
We have thus succeeded, we think, in showing that in whatever direction the condition of our population is examined with reference to the effect of Free-trade measures, there is found a great and manifest improvement, with the sole exception of some part of the tenant-farmers, – that their exceptional distress is fairly attributable to the false position in which they have been placed through the unjust legislation of former years, - and that their relief must now be expected principally from their own energy and judgment in a more skilful application of the resources of science to the work before them.