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during part of 1825. Was there a proportionate falling off in the manufacture of raw cotton, or wool, or iron? No such thing.
Because the Silk Trade has not been in a few months utterly annihilated, Mr Huskisson argues, that all the predictions touching the effects of his change have been falsified. He rates the ruin and distress under which the Trade so long laboured, as nothing; and endeavours to delude the country into the belief that his change in no degree produced them.
When foreign silks were admitted, a powerful feeling against the change of law pervaded the whole community; and the mass of our lovely countrywomen determined to buy British silks only, without any reference to the quality of the foreign ones. The smaller mercers who could not import, spread the opinion far and wide that foreign silks were inferior to British ones. The country generally was in great distress. The price of British silks was at the glut figure; it was one third, nay, nearly one half lower than it had been in reasonably prosperous times. All this conspired powerfully to check the import of foreign silks. Still, in the first six months, such silks were imported to the value of more than L.322,000. If to this value we add one third as duty, foreign silks, to the value of nearly half a million entered the market in the legal way in the first six months. In addition to this, smuggling, from the increased facilities given to it, was carried on to a very great extent.
And now, what is the present condition of the Silk Trade? For the last two years, the manufacturers and throwsters have been carrying on a losing business, and they are doing so at this moment. There may be exceptions, although we have not heard of any; but generally they are at this moment losing heavily by their trade; they are selling at prices which will not protect them from loss, saying no thing of profit. At the spring sale of the East India Company, the greater proportion of the silk was bought by the country manufacturers, who are now offering the goods manufactured from it, in London, at prices which will only return them what they gave for the raw article. Were prices to be raised so far as to afford adequate pro
fits to the master, and adequate wages to the workman, British silks would be undersold by the continental ones imported in the legal manner. In light French goods, and the better kinds of India goods, our manufacturers are undersold by the foreigner, after he has paid the duty.
It is argued by some that few continental silks are imported, because the quantity cleared at the customhouse is not large. The truth is, our importers are not "liberal" enough to pay a duty of 35 or 45 per cent, when they can have the goods for paying what is equal to one of only 15. Mr Huskisson and his "hirelings" maintained, that the admission of foreign silks at a duty would destroy smuggling; we maintained that it would increase it, and experiment has not decided against us. While the prohibition was in force, most kinds of French silks, if not all, and India Bandanas, could be easily distinguished, therefore they could not be openly exposed for sale; but now after a dealer gets them into his shop, he is free from all risk whatever. An importer has only to buy his goods in France and bring them to the coast; people will there solicit him for the honour of smuggling them for him, on their own responsibility, at a premium of 15 per cent; and to gain his confidence, they will prove to him that they are employed by the first London houses. Smuggling is now carried on to a greater extent than ever, and the country is full of smuggled silks.
Mr Huskisson asserts, that "more real improvement has been made in the silk manufacture of this country within the last twelvemonth, than had been made for half a century before." We marvel greatly that any man could be found to make such an assertion. With regard to quality, every one of our fair countrywomen knows, that far more improvement was made in British silks in the few years that pre ceded the opening of the trade, than has been made since; and with regard to price, the cheapness arises mainly from the loss of the manufacturer, the bad wages of the workmen, and the low price of the raw article. Improvements have, we believe, been made in machinery and in dyeing, but these alone have had no material effect on either price or quality.
If the assertion were correct, and if the improvement had been produced solely by the change of law, we should still protest, as we have formerly protested, against the tyrannical and diabolical principle, that compulsion may be employed for producing improvement-that our manufacturers may be told by their rulers, You shall improve or be ruined. But the improvement, be it what it may, cannot be wholly ascribed to the admission of foreign silks; without this, our silk manufacture could and would have improved. Every one knows that the greatest improvements were made in our manufactured articles, when foreign competitors were prohibited from entering the market.
Mr Huskisson observes" I say, that at this moment, those (the British) manufacturers are not only fearless of the rivalry of France in foreign markets, but, in some articles, are able to undersell the French manufacturer, even in his own market."
Now, what is the fair legitimate meaning of this, according to the common construction of language; and what is the opinion which it is calculated and intended by its author to produce in the country? Simply this, that our manufacturers can compete with the French ones in foreign markets, not only in this or that petty article, but in all the important productions of the trade-in silk goods generally.
Well, what is the fact? In all the important productions of the trade, our manufacturers cannot compete at all with the French ones in foreign markets-they export none-they are undersold by the French ones in their home market, after the latter have paid from 15 to 40 per cent in premium or duty-notwithstanding that they are selling at a loss, the country is filled with French silks. In some of the important productions of the trade, they cannot compete with the French in quality, putting price out of the question. What they smuggle into France consists of an article which has not been made there, and of the handkerchiefs we are about to describe.
Mr Huskisson then says-" So little do they dread the competition of Bandana handkerchiefs, against which no rate of duty, however high, we were assured, could afford protection,
that silk handkerchiefs are now actually weaving in England for the purpose of being sent out to the Indian market."
This is evidently calculated and intended to produce the belief in the country, that our manufacturers can compete with, and even undersell the Indian ones in Bandanas generallyin the descriptions generally used-in truth, in all descriptions.
Well, what is the fact here? India Bandanas pay a duty, which, on the lowest qualities, amounts to 55 per cent, and yet our manufacturers cannot compete with the middling and best qualities. India Bandanas are selling in the London shops for considerably less than the British ones. The truth is this. Some of the country manufacturers worked up the spun silk-the waste-into Bandanas of the most coarse and wretched description, which we believe they sold for somewhat less than two shillings each. It was intended to send some of them to India on speculation, but the intention was abandoned-the order was recalled, and no British Bandanas are weaving, or have been wove for the Indian market. These are the "articles" in which our manufacturers" are able to undersell the French manufacturer even in his own market." Our manufacturers cannot charge less than thirty-two shillings for such Bandanas as can be bought at the East India House for eighteen shillings.
Bad as the condition of the Silk Trade is, it will soon be worse. The restriction of importing only into the port of London will soon expire, and then the silks of the continent may be brought into any port. The throwster cannot now compete with the foreigner, and the duty on foreign thrown silk will soon undergo a material reduction. The additional wages which the workmen lately gained will soon be taken from them; the masters made the advance solely to get their goods home, that they might not lose the season for selling them. In some of the manufactories, the hands have already been put on short time; the workmen now are in a very miserable condition, and they have nothing before them but a repetition of their late want of employment and distress.
If it be asked, why the silk manufacturers continue in business, when
In entering on the case of the Shipowners, Mr Huskisson attacks those of Scarborough and Greenock, for petitioning Parliament, on the ground that more British and less Foreign Shipping entered these ports in 1826 than in the preceding year. Their petitions, as he admits, complained of the influx of foreign ships, not into these particular ports, but into the British ports generally. Now, the advantages granted to the foreigners have had the same effect upon the ships belonging to the Shipowners of Scarborough and Greenock which they have had upon the ships belonging to other Shipowners. Have ships retained their value at Scarborough, while they have lost nearly half of it at London? Have freights been plentiful and high at Greenock, while they have been scarce and ruinously low at Liverpool? No. The loss of value, want of employment, and losing freights, have necessarily been universal. The Shipowners, therefore, of these two ports had as much cause to petition as the Shipowners of any other port; and they would have had the same cause if not a single foreign vessel had entered either. One gentleman of Scarborough is, we believe, part owner of between thirty and forty vessels. These do not all sail from Scarborough; they sail from various ports, and their owner is practically a Shipowner of London and other ports, as well as of the one in which he dwells. The case is similar with many of the Shipowners.
In examining what he says of the Shipowners, we must, in the first
place, state their leading complaints. These were―
1. That the Shipowners were in the deepest distress.
2. That their distress had been mainly produced by the Reciprocity Treaties, and partly by the new Colonial System.
3. That the Reciprocity Treaties gave the foreigner a great advantage over them, and left them wholly without that protection which had been given to the members of every other interest.
That these treaties had multiplied foreign ships in the European countries with which they had been concluded, and had reduced freights in the trade with those countries to such an extent, that the British Shipowner could no longer compete in this trade with the foreign one. That the glut and reduction of freights in the trade with those European countries had necessarily produced a glut and reduction of freights in the carrying trade generally.
The distress of the Shipowners is admitted by Mr Huskisson; it is disputed by no one.
To have met their allegations touching the causes in a satisfactory manner, the right honourable gentleman ought evidently to have proved, in the first place, that the Reciprocity Treaties do NOT give the foreigner any advantage over them, or deny them that protection which is given to all other interests. Does he do this? No; he passes the matter in silence; he says not a syllable respecting it.
The fact, then, is unquestioned and unquestionable, that these treaties place the foreign ship on a level with the British one in respect of duties-they place the British Shipowner in the situation which the farmer and silk manufacturer would be in, should foreign corn and silks be admitted duty free. They do this when the farmer, the silk, cotton, and woollen manufacturers, &c. &c. are all protected by duties.
Can, then, the British Shipowner build and navigate his vessel at as cheap a rate as the foreigner? Mr Huskisson says not a word respecting it, but he puffs loudly Mr Thompson, the member for Dover, who in his speech asserted the affirmative.
Mr Thompson, we understand, is a partner in a Baltic house in the city of London. He is a stripling, who lately