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ping had it thenceforward in its power, by adopting our plans in the spirit of retaliation, to compel us to a relaxation of our code. It is worthy of remark, that amidst all the complaints that have been made by British shipowners of the abandonment of their interests by their Government, it has never been attempted to question the propriety of the American treaty, nor to complain of its results." *
Such were the expectations and predictions of the supporters of the reciprocity system. Let us enquire now, how far " Experience, the great test of truth," has established their principles or justified their anticipations.
Let us first enquire what has been the effect of the reciprocity system upon the maritime strength and resources of the empire, and then examine whether or not these effects have been counterbalanced by the increase of foreign trade and commerce with the countries with whom reciprocity treaties have been concluded.
One of Mr Porter's Tables exhibits the growth of our foreign trade and shipping for every year from 1801 till the close of 1822, being the period when the change of policy was introduced, and from it it appears that during the period of twenty-two years, when the old system was in operation, the progress of our own shipping had been rapid beyond all precedent in this or any other state, theforeign shipping employed in conducting our trade had been altogether stationary, or rather declining. During that period the British ships and tonnage had about doubled, while the foreign ships and tonnage had declined, viz. from 5497 ships and 780,000 tons, to 4069 ships and 582,000 tons. Another table again shows the progress of British and foreign shipping from the year 1823, when the reciprocity system came into operation, to the close of 1830, and it shows that during the twelve years that the present reciprocity system has continued, the British shipping has increased only from 11,733 vessels and 179,700 tons to 14,347 vessels and 2,500,000 tons, while the foreign shipping outwards has increased from 563,000 to 1,035,000 tons. It is clear to demonstration, therefore, that under the reciprocity system, notwithstand
ing, as we shall immediately see, the prodigious growth of our colonial trade during the same period, the relative proportion of foreign and British shipping employed in carrying on our trade has been totally changed; that the former has doubled, while the latter has only augmented hardly more than a fourth; that of the 3,500,000 tons now employed in conducting British trade, no less than 1,000,000 belong to foreigners; and that if the same relative proportion shall continue between them for twelve years longer, the quantity of foreign shipping employed in conducting our own trade will be equal to that of the whole British empire; in other words, we shall have nursed up in our own harbours, a foreign maritime force equal to our own.
In order still farther to illustrate this important point of the stationary condition of the British commercial navy, we refer to two tables, showing the number of ships belonging to the United Kingdom and its dependencies, in Europe and our colonies, from 1803 down to the commencement of the reciprocity system in 1822, and from that period down to the present time. From these tables, which every intelligent reader must see to be of incalculable importance, three things are evident.
1. That, under the navigation law system, the British shipping iu Europe increased, in twenty years, from 18,000 to 21,000 ships; that is, by a sixth.
2. That, under the reciprocity system, the British ships declined, in twelve years, from 21,042 to 20,388, being nearly a tenth.
3. That the loss thus experienced in the reciprocity system, in Europe, was counterbalanced, and more than counterbalanced, by the extraordinary growth in our colonial trade, during the same period, to which the reciprocity system did not apply, as it was exclusively reserved, on the principle of the navigation laws, to ourselves, the vessels engaged in that trade having increased, during these twelve years only, from 3500 to 5432, and theirtonnage from 230,000 to 442,000. It is not difficult, in those circumstances, to see in what quarter the real strength and future hopes of the British empire are to be found.
* Porter's Progress of the Nation, II. 159, 160.
The same result is shown by another Table, exhibiting the proportions in which the British and foreign seamen are employed in the trade with Prussia, Denmark, France, Sweden, and Norway, with whom reciprocity treaties have been concluded.
It distinctly appears that, under the reciprocity system, the trade with the Baltic States, Prussia, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark has, for the most part, fallen into the hands of foreigners. And, as an illustration of the way in which the foreign shipping has grown up, so as to overshadow the British, we refer to another
Table, showing tho progress of the trade of these countries, from 1322 to 1831, by which the relative progress of the British and foreign trade with those countries where reciprocity treaties have been concluded is clearly demonstrated, and which is calculated to shake the nerves of even the most ardent supporters of the reciprocity system. Under the operation of the reciprocity system, the British ships employed in the trade with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Prussia have declined; and the foreign shipping employed in the trade between these countries and Great Britain has increased as follows :—
British declined with Prussia from 539 ships to 270
Prussian ship.--, with Great Britain, increased from 258 to 903
Danish, 44 to 024
Norwegian, ...... 558 to 785
Swedish, . . . . . . . 71 to 250
Thus, under the reciprocity system with that country, the trade has increased between 1822 and 1836, from 138 ships to 226 ; while the American has increased only from 500 to 542. And the British tonnage swelled from 37,385 to 86,383, while the American tonnage has increased only from 156,054 to 226,483.
This result, however, so far from being a proof that the reciprocity system, in its application to the trade of Great Britain with the old states of the world, is founded on just principles, demonstrates diametrically the reverse. The reciprocity system has proved of advantage to the British shipping in the intercourse with America, because labour and all the articles employed in the building of ships are so much dearer in America than in Great Britain that the British shipowners can carry on the trade at a cheaper rate than the American, and, therefore, under an equal system of duties, the British shipping has gained the advantage. There cannot be a doubt of the expediency of that system in its application to countries where ship-buildmg and navigation are more expensive than they are in this, and, therefore, Mr
Huskisson acted perfectly wisely in concluding a treaty with America on such terms. But the real point of doubt is, not whether such a system k expedient with countries where shipbuilding is dearer, but whether it is expedient with countries where shipbuilding is cheaper than in Great Britain. And, with reference to that point, it is clear that the fact that the reciprocity system has worked to the prejudice of America, which builds ships dearer than England, is founded exactly upon tho same principle in proving that it is prejudicial to England, in her intercourse with the Baltic powers, where it is cheaper.
The following table demonstrates that in sixteen years, from 1820 to 1836, the reciprocity system has proved highly prejudicial to British shipping, and highly advantageous to foreign, in conducting the British commerce; and that if the same system is continued for sixteen years longer, it will, in spite of all the prodigious increase in the British trade with their colonial possessions, render the foreign shipping superior to the British even in conducting our own trade.
Centesimal Proportions of British and Foreign Tonnage employed in tho Import and Export Trades respectively of the United Kingdom in each v year from 1820 to 1836.
Thus it appears that while in 1820 the British tonnage employed in carrying on the British trade was four times the foreign, in 183G it bore to it only the proportion of 70 to 30, or about 2+ to I.
But then, say the advocates for the reciprocity system, although the British maritime interests undoubtedly have suffered from such a system, yet the British commerce has been revived and resuscitated by that change, and what has been gained by our manufacturers and merchants in that respect is much more than what has been lost by our ship-builders.
Even if the fact were as is now stated, we should demur, in the strongest terms, to the expedience of sacrificing, in any degree whatever, our maritime to our manufacturing interests. What renders tho shipping interest of such incalculable importance to a commercial state is not merely that it constitutes tho sinews and basis of its naval strength and national independence, but constitutes the sole bulwark for the protection even of the commercial and msmufacturing interests, which are so unhappily sometimes considered as of superior importance. Admitting that as long as universal peace prevails foreign commerce can be easily carried on by a maritime state which has lost its naval superiority, and is compelled to trust in great part to foreign shipping for production of its commercial intercourse, what is to become of the trade of such a state when, in its own defence, it is forced into a serious war, and it is threatened with blockade in its own harbours by the combined forces of foreign maritime powers? What the better would Groat Britain be of all its foreign trade carried on in foreign vessels if, in consequence of the magnitude of the navy which had thus been reared up in foreign states, it found itself blockaded in its own harbours, and foreign fleots of war lying across the Thames, tho Mersey, and the Clyde? The very magnitude of its foreign commereo would, when such a catastrophe occurred, prove tho most serious of all embarrassments, because it would have reared up many millions of useless mouths, whose sufferings and turbulence, upon the destruction of their only means of subsistence, would render all attempts at prolonging resistance utterly hopeless.
In a word, the magnitude of a commercial nation's foreign commerce, and the multitude of its manufactures, so far from being an element of strength, is, in fact, nothing but a source of weakness, if unaccompanied by a proportional naval power. It is liable, by a single reverse at soa, to bo blockaded in its harbours, and to lose in a few weeks the fruits of centuries of conquest. The condition of a great insular and commercial state, which has come to depend in great part upon foreign shipping for the conduct of its commerce, is precisely similar to that of a fortified town, which abounds with inhabitants and unwarlike mouths, which has little to rely upon but foreign mercenaries for tho defence of its ramparts, and the recall of whom by the powers to whom they belong would necessarily leave it entirely defenceless. The blockade and capture of Athens by Lysander, after the fatal defeat of /EgosPotamos, proves on how unstable a basis the safety of every commercial state is founded where the dominion of the seas does not rest upon a great and indestructible naval power.
But let us come a little closer to the point, and examine whether the assertion of the great extension of our foreign commerce by means of the reciprocity system, and with the countries with whom reciprocity treaties havo been concluded, is in reality well founded.
Keeping in view that the reciprocity treaties hitherto concluded have been with Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, America, Brazil, and Columbia, we refer to the table exhibiting the progress of the exports to these countries from 1827 to 1836.
This table is in the highest degreo instructive. From it it appears that the export trade to Prussia, for tho increase of which Mr Huskisson, in 1823, was content to repeal the navigation laws of England, the bulwark of our national strength, has declined, in ten years before 1836, from L. 174,000 to L. 160,000; that with Denmark has declined from L. 104,000 to L.!) 1,000; while that of Germany has remained perfectly stationary through tho whole period. The trade with France is the only one which has evidently increased, but that is the result entirely of the equalization of tho duties on wine; and accordingly that of Portugal has fallen off in nearly a similar proportion; while the trade with the United States of America, under the reciprocity system, has, upon the whole, remained nearly stationary, or rather declined. The great exports of 1835 and 1836 to that country were entirely fictitious, and the result of the joint-stock mania there, during these years, which led to the terrible commercial crisis of l 837, when the exports of Great Britain to the United States sunk to L.3,500,000.
But what is still more curious, it appears from another table that the trade with the countries with whom we have concluded no reciprocity treaties, but with whom we still deal on the old restrictive system, and that with our own colonies, which is entirely and rigidly confined to ourselves, has increased much faster than that with the reciprocity countries; and that in truth it is the vast increase of our trade with those countries, who are out of the reciprocity pale, which has compensated all the evils arising even to commerce itself, from the adoption of that system with the other states. From this table it is manifest that our trade with distant quarters of the world with whom we have no reciprocity treaties, such as Spain, Italy, Turkey; and our own colonies, as Australia, the Canadas, the East Indies, &c., has doubled, and in some instances tripled, during the very years that our trade with the countries with whom we had concluded reciprocity treaties was stationary or had declined, affording thus a striking contrast to the miserable and languid state of our trade with the Baltic powers, to preserve or increase which we sacrificed the old and powerful bulwark of our navigation laws.
From the Parliamentary returns it appears also that our trade both with northern and southern Europe has declined under the influence of the reciprocity system; and is considerably less in the five years preceding 1836 than it was in the five years preceding 1819. So clear is this decrease in our foreign trade to Europe, during the working of the reciprocity system, that Mr Porter, although a strenuous advocate for its principles, makes the
following candid admission as to the falling off of our foreign trade, from the commencement of the present century, down to this time, with the exception of the two years of inordinate commerciid activity of 1835 and 1836.
"If the following tablo is taken in this way, as the test of the progress of our foreign trade, during the present century, it will be seen that little or none has been made—that, in fact, if we except the last two years (1835 and 1836), the amount of our foreign trade has not been equal to that which was carried on during some of the years when we were at war with nearly all Europe, nor to that of the first five years of peace that followed. The average annual exports of British produce and manufactures in the decennary period from 1801 to 1810 amounted to L.40,737,970. In the next ten years, from 1811 to 1820, the annual average was L.41,454,461; from 1821 to 1830 the annual average fell to L.36,597,623. Since that time the amount has been progressively advancing, and, in 1836, exceeded by L.1,705,543 the amount in 1815, the first year of the peace, which, with the exception of 1836, was the greatest year of export trade, judging from the value of the shipments, that this country has ever seen."*
"That part of our commerce 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 fallen off under this aspect in a remarkable degree. The average annual exports to the whole of Europe were less in value by nearly twenty 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; that our exports to the United States of America, which, with their population of only twelve millions, are removed to a distance from us of 3000 miles across the Atlantic, have amounted to more than one-half of the value of our shipments to the whole of Europe, with a population fifteen times as great as that of the
Porter, II., P. 100.