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Two different principles have governed this country in their foreign and colonial relations, from the earliest time when it became a considerable maritime power, down to these days. The first originated with the Long Parliament and the bold sagacious policy of the Protector Cromwell; the last took its rise amidst the liberal ideas and enlarged philanthropy which arose in this country after the glorious termination of the French Revolutionary war. The first system, which endured for 170 years, reared up the greatest, the most extensive, and the most powerful mari. time and colonial empire that ever existed on the face of the earth. The last has been in operation only for fifteen years, and it has already not only brought imminent danger upon the extremities of our colonial dominion, but weakened to an alarming degree the maritime resources by which the authority of the parent state is to be supported and maintained.

The two systems have now at length fairly come into collision. The interests of our foreign trade and our colonial possessions have for long been decidedly at variance, and the mongrel system of policy generated between them cannot much longer be maintained. We must make our election between the two systems. Either we must trust to our colonies, and consider them as the main stay of our national strength, or we must throw them overboard, and rely on the reciprocity system to maintain an extensive commercial intercourse with foreign and independent nations. It is quite impossible we can maintain the advantages of both systems. Either we must give up our colonies and trust to the good-will and interests of foreign nations for our trade, or we must adhere to our colonies, and, relying on the efficient protection, equitable rule, and mutual interchange of good deeds which they receive from us, become comparatively indifferent to the competition, the jealousy, or the hostility of the rest of the world.

It is utterly impossible, we repeat, to enjoy at once the advantages of both systems. The colonial system


is founded upon the principle, that our own industry, whether at home or abroad, is to obtain a decided preference over that of other nations; and that in the benefits arising from the mutual interchange of productions from distant parts of our own empire with each other, we shall find a sufficient compensation for the commercial rivalry or jealous hostility of other states. The reciprocity system is founded on the principle, that the great thing to be considered is, where the commodities which we require can be purchased cheapest; that if they can be got at a lower rate from other states than our own trans-marine possessions, no hesitation whatever should be felt in preferring the cheap merchant in foreign states; and that there is in reality no danger in such a proceeding, inasmuch as the principle common to all nations of buying wherever they can cheapest, and selling dearest, will necessarily lead all states to the great commercial emporium of the world, if no undue restrictions are imposed upon its foreign trade; and that foreign hostility or jealousy need not be apprehended as long as we can attract the ships of all nations to our harbours by the durable bond of their common interests. We shall consider in the sequel which of these two systems is the better founded. At present the material point to observe is, that the policy of the state must, in the main, be founded on the preference given to your own people, or the free admission of strangers, but that it is impossible to reconcile both; for no great colonial empire will continue its allegiance to the parent state, unless, in return for their subjection to the rule of a distant power, its members receive substantial advantages which would be lost by its overthrow.

The vital point which separates these two systems is, whether the ruling power in the dominant state be the producers or the consumers. The producers, whether of grain, of butcher meat, of manufactures, or of shipping, strenuously maintain that the great object of Government should be to give encouragement to your own industry, and prevent the rivalry or competi


tion of foreign states from encroaching upon or injuring your domestic farmers and manufacturers. Under this system, and by these ideas, the commercial policy of the country has been conducted for 170 years before 1820. The object of legislation in all its branches was to secure to their own subjects the benefit of their own trade and manufactures and consumption, and to shut out as much as possible the competition of foreign states. As it was evident, however, that the inhabitants of the British islands, taken by themselves, could not keep pace with the necessity for a vent arising from the extension of our manufactures, it became a leading object with Government to plant colonies in many different parts of the world, and to bend all the national efforts towards the increase of that colonial empire, and the conquest of those similar establishments of our enemies which might interfere with their progress. The leading efforts of the British Cabinet during all the wars of the last century were to enlarge and protect our colonial empire. Towards this object the bulk, both of the naval and military resources of the nation, were constantly directed, and for this end continental operations were almost uniformly starved and neglected. Lord Chatham successfully prosecuted this system through all the glories of the Seven Years' War; Lord North strove, under darker auspices, to prevent it from being subverted during the disastrous contest against American independence; and Mr Pitt re-asserted the same principles during the Revolutionary war, and reared up the greatest colonial empire that was ever witnessed upon earth.

To cement and secure this immense dominion, two principles were early adopted and steadily acted upon by the British Government. The first of these was to maintain, by the utmost exertions of the national resources, a great and powerful navy, capable at all times of striking terror into our enemies, and affording a permanent and effectual protection to the most distant possessions of our colonial empire. Being well aware that this indispensable object could not be gained without the greatest possible

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attention to the support of our maritime power, they not only at all times devoted a large portion of the public resources to the maintenance and increase of the royal navy, but, by a steady system of policy, endeavoured to give our own seamen an advantage over those of foreign nations in the supply of the home market. It was on this principle that the celebrated Navigation Laws of England were founded, the leading objects of which were to secure to our own ships and seamen exclusively the trade with our colonies, and between our colonies and foreign states, and to give greater advantages to our own sailors than those of other nations enjoyed, by imposing a heavier duty on goods brought in foreign vessels than in those which were built in our own harbours and navigated by our own seamen. And also, in many instances, to allow smaller drawbacks upon articles exported in foreign than those exported in British ships. Whatever objections may be stated on theory to this system, there can be no question that experience had demonstrated its practical expedience, as it had raised the British naval and colonial powers in no very long period, from inconsiderable beginnings, to an unparalleled state of grandeur and power, and laid the foundation for the inevitable spread of the British race and language through every quarter of the habitable globe.

The reciprocity system is founded upon principles diametrically the reverse of these. The principle on which it rests is, that, however advantageous such a restrictive system might have been when other nations chose to submit to it, it necessarily became detrimental as soon as foreign states resolved to assert their independence, and threatened us with measures of retaliation; and that the moment the resolution to adopt such measures was seriously entertained and acted upon by other states, there was no alternative but to embrace a genuine fair reciprocity system, or to submit to see ourselves excluded from the commerce of the greater part of the civilized world.

Mr Porter, in his late valuable statistical publication, thus explains

Porter's Progress of the Nation, II. p. 162,

the Reciprocity Acts (4 Geo. IV, c. 77, and 5 Geo. IV. c. 1). " These acts authorized his Majesty, by Order in Council, to permit the importation and exportation of goods in foreign vessels, on payment of the same duties as were chargeable when imported in British vessels, in favour of all such countries as should not levy discriminating duties upon goods imported into those countries in British vessels; and further, to levy upon the vessels of such countries, when frequenting British ports, the same tonnage-duties as are chargeable on British vessels. power was, on the other hand, given to the Crown by these Acts of Parliament, to impose additional duties upon goods and shipping against any countries which should levy higher duties in the case of the employment of British vessels in the trade with those countries. The concessions thus made met with only a feeble opposition, the principal act having passed the Commons by a majority of 5 to 1.


"Under the authority of these Acts of Parliament, reciprocity treaties have been concluded with the following countries, viz. :

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under the name of the Navigation Act. The foundation of this act was laid during the Protectorate, and the system was perfected by the 12th Charles II. chap. 18. This act provided that no merchandise of either Asia, Africa, or America should be imported into Great Britain in any but English built ships, navigated by an English commander, and having at least three-fourths of their crew English. Besides this exclusive right imparted to British shipping, discriminating duties were imposed, so that goods which might still be imported in foreign ships from Europe, were in that case more highly taxed than if imported under the English flag. The system here described continued to be steadily and pertinaciously maintained during more than 160 years, and was looked upon as a monument of wisdom and prudence, to which was mainly attributable the degree of commercial greatness to which we had attained." "The earliest deviation from the Navigation Act that was sanctioned by Parliament, arose out of the treaty with the United States of America in 1815. The States, soon after the establishment of their independence, had passed a navigation law in favour of their shipping, similar in all its main provisions to the English law; and it affords an instructive lesson, that the practical carrying out of this restrictive system to its fullest extent by the two nations was found to be so unproductive of all good effect as to call for its abandonment. By this treaty the ships of the two countries were placed reciprocally upon the same footing in the ports of England and the United States, and all discriminating duties chargeable upon the goods which they conveyed were mutually repealed. It adds greatly to the value of this concession, that it was made by no disciple of free-trade doctrines, but was forced by the very consequences of the system itself, from a Government opposed to all change in the direction of relaxation. From that moment it was easy to foretell the abandonment of all the most effective parts of our long-cherished system of protection, since every country that desired to remove the disadvantages under which we had placed its ship

Porter's Progress of the Nation, II. p. 163.

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 exainine 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.

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

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, the foreign 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 1836, 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


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 in 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 their tonnage from 230,000 to 442,000. It is not difficult, in these circumstances, to see in what quarter the

* Porter's Progress of the Nation, II. 159, 160.

real strength and future hopes of the British empire are to be found.

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







And thus much for the reciprocity system on the interests of our maritime force in our intercourse with the Baltic trade.








British declined with Prussia from 539 ships to 270

57 ships to 16 168 ships to 15 123 ships to


There is one country with whom, under the reciprocity system, commenced in 1816, that system has been attended with remarkable advantages, and that is the United States of North America. The example of the effect of this system with that country is fre

Prussian ships, with Great Britain, increased from 258 to 903

44 to 624

558 to 785
71 to 250

Table, showing the 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:




United States.


quently referred to, by the reciprocity partisans, as the strongest proof of the justice of their principles; but, in reality, it is the strongest confirmation of those which we are now supporting.

The following Table exhibits the progress of foreign trade between Great Britain and the United States, both in British and American bottoms, from the year 1822 to 1836.



Men. Ships.
138 37,385 1,770 500
63,606 2,998 509
157 44,994 3,166 460
133 38,943 1,843
158 47,711 2,245 448
3,424 646
3,646 372
2,773 450
2,948 609
4,204 639
4,251 452

238 73,204

256 80,158


61,343 197 65,130

289 91,787

284 95,203

226 86,383 3,575 524




156,054 6,866 165,699

7,121 153,475 6,451 196,863 8,487 151,765 6,595 217,535 9,447 138,174 6,049 162,327 7,052 214,166 9,185 229,869 9,807 167,359 7,161 226,483 7,799

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