On June 16, 1812, Henry Brougham brings a motion in the British House of Commons to repeal the Orders in Council. He speaks at length and eloquently for their repeal. His motion and speech come after six weeks of committee hearings on the issues of the Orders in Council. Lord Castlereagh, the new leader in the House of Commons, responds that the new government of Lord Liverpool has decided to suspend the Orders in Council. Castlereagh adds that the repeal of the Orders is conditional on the United States lifting its embargo. This condition is not considered to be significant as the British understand that the Americans would agree. The change in British policy means that one of the main complaints that occasioned the War of 1812 is resolved, for all practical purposes, prior to the war being started. The American government will not learn of the repeal in time given the distance that the news has to travel across the Atlantic. In two days, on June 18, 1812, James Madison will declare war on Great Britain and her dependencies. Time and distance causing or at least contributing to the war between the two countries. Extracts from Henry Brougham's speech are reproduced below. The full speech can be found here.
House Of Commons—June 16,1812.Sir,—I rise to bring before the House a proposition regarding the subject which has recently occupied so large a share of our attention—the present state of Trade and Manufactures, and the sufferings of the people of England. And I am confident 1 shall not be accused of exaggeration when I say, that it is by far the most interesting and momentous topic which can at this crisis engage the attention of parliament. After six weeks spent in the inquiry—after a mass of evidence unparalleled in extent has been collected— the time is at length arrived, when we are called upon for the result of our investigation, for our determination in behalf of the country, and our advice to the Crown upon the mighty interests which we have been examining. But while I dwell upon the importance of this subject, I am by no means disposed to follow the practice usual upon such occasions, and to magnify its extent or its difficulty. The question is indeed one of unexampled interest, but of extremely little intricacy. Its points are few in number—they lie within a narrow range—they are placed near the surface—and involved in no obscurity or doubt. Its materials are only massive in outward appearance, and when viewed at a distance. There seerns to be a huge body of details. This load of papers—these eight or nine hundred folios of evidence—together with the bulk of papers and petitions lying on your table, would naturally enough frighten a careless observer with the notion that the subject is vast and complicated. Yet I will venture to assert, that I shall not have proceeded many minutes, before I have convinced not only those who assisted in the labours of the Committee—not those merely who have read the result of the Inquiry on our minutes— but those who now for the first time give their attention to the question, and come here wholly ignorant of its merits, that there has seldom been a subject of a public nature brought before this House, through which the path was shorter and surer, or led to a decision more obvious and plain.
House Of Commons—June 16,1812.
There is, however, Sir, one task which meets me in the outset, and one of so painful a nature, that I would fain recede from it. It is my severe duty this night to make you acquainted with the distresses of the people, and principally of the lower orders, that is to say, the most numerous and industrious classes of our countrymen. To handle the question without entering into these afflicting details, or to travel amongst them without the deepest uneasiness, would require an ingenuity or an insensibility which are equally foreign to my nature. For to whom could the scenes which we positively witnessed in the Committee be so distressing, as to those whose anxiety for the welfare of the lower orders impelled them to devote their days and nights to the labours of the Inquiry? And it is now my hard task to give those who were not there to see and hear, some idea of what passed before our very eyes—the strange and afflicting sight of ancient men, the pillars of the trade and credit of the country, coming forth to lament, not that they saw wasting away beneath the fa^al policy of our government the hard-earned fruits of their honest and industrious lives—not that they were approaching to old age stripped of the support which they had been providing for that season—but because they no longer had the means of saving fromabsolute want the thousands of unhappy persons dependent upon them for subsistence—because they had no longer wages to give the thousands, who were eager to work for any pittance to sustain life—because, having already exhausted their whole means, all the accumulations of their lives, in the charitable office of employing those poor people, they were now brought to the brink of that dreadful alternative, either of leaving them to perish, or of shutting their ears to the wants of connexions that had still stronger claims. These are things which I cannot pass over; but I willingly delay entering upon them for some little time; and at present I should prefer calling your attention to more general circumstances, which less directly, though with equal force, prove the unexampled calamities of the times.
And here, Sir, I do not allude merely to the numerous petitions preferred to Parliament, setting forth the distresses of the country, and praying for a repeal of the Orders in Council. I will not dwell upon these, nor ground my inferences upon them. And yet I well might avail myself of such an argument on the present occasion. For if the system was adopted for the express purpose of relieving our trade and manufactures, what better proofs of its inefficacy, than the loud and general complaints of our merchants and workmen against it? If the very ground and justification of those measures has always been the necessity of affording relief to the commerce and industry of the country, what can be more in point, while they are urging the merits of the plan, than the fact, that Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Warwickshire, all the great districts of our manufactures, joined formerly in expressing their fears of the relief you were offering them; and now, after four years' trial of its virtues, loudly pray to be saved from such a remedy, imploring you for pity sake to abandon them to the hostility of their enemies, and spare them the merciless kindness of the protection under which they are groaning? Yet I will forego whatever support the cause may derive from the fact of these petitions, in order to dwell upon the more indirect and unexpected, and therefore wholly unsuspicious testimony, which it derives from other quarters. I would beseech the House to cast its eye abroad upon the various projects for obtaining relief, to which of late the people have in different parts of the country had recourse—the attempts and devices to which, in the restlessness of their sufferings, they have been resorting, with the vain hope of shifting or shaking off from them the load of calamity under which they labour. Some of those schemes, I know, are most inadequate to the object—some are nugatory and absurd —some are positively hurtful to them, and deserving of reprobation. But they all proceed from the feverish uneasiness, the impatience of rest, which forms an undoubted symptom of the prevailing malady. Take, for example, the disorders which in different districts have given rise to short-sighted attacks upon machinery and other private property. Of these it is impossible to speak without blame; but when we reflect on the misery which brought on this state of violence, it is hard to avoid mingling pity with our censure. Another remedy, as short-sighted, though unhappily perfectly legal, I have myself had occasion to see attempted in the course of my professional employment—I mean the applications which numerous bodies of manufacturers have made to courts of justice, for enforcing one of the most impolitic laws on the statute book, the act of Elizabeth, requiring magistrates to fix the rate of wages—a law which has been absurdly permitted to subsist, on the pretence that it was not likely to be acted upon, and which, as might have been expected, stands ready to promote mischief at the moment when it may be most dangerous, without the possibility of ever doing good. A third expedient has been thought of, in application to this House for the abolition of sinecure places, or the appropriation of their profits to the expenses of the war. Of this remedy I by no means think so lightly as some do; it would indeed only afford a trifling relief, but it would go far to prevent the recurrence of the evil, by diminishing the interest of many persons in the continuance of hostilities, and would disarm, I believe, some of the most warlike characters of the time.
But I would particularly entreat you to consider the numberless petitions from almost every part of the country which now crowd your table, against continuing the East India Company's monopoly. That some of those applications are founded in the most just and politic views of the subject, I am far from denying; that the great and once opulent city of Liverpool, for instance, the second in the empire, would derive material relief from that participation in the East India trade, to which it has undoubted right, cannot be doubted; and Glasgow, Bristol, and one or two other places, are in the same predicament. But is this the case with all the other towns, I might almost say villages, which have preferred the same prayer to us in equally urgent terms? Is it the case with any considerable proportion of them? What think you, Sir, of places demanding a share of this trade, which have neither commerce nor manufactures? I will give you a specimen of others which have something to export, but not exactly of the quality best suited to those Eastern markets. One district has petitioned for a free exportation to the East Indies, which to my knowledge raises no earthly produce but black horned cattle. The potteries have demanded permission to send freely their porcelain to China; and the ancient and respectable city of Newcastle, which grows nothing but pit coal, has earnestly entreated that it may be allowed to ship that useful article to supply the stoves and hothouses of Calcutta. All these projects prove nothing less than the incompetence of their authors to find out a remedy for their sufferings; but they do most distinctly demonstrate how extensive arid deep-seated the evil must be, and how acute the sufferings which seek relief from such strange devices. They remind one of the accounts which have been handed down to us of the great pestilence which once visited this city. Nothing in the story of that awful time is more affecting, than the picture which it presents of the vain efforts made to seek relief. Miserable men might be seen rushing forth into the streets, and wildly grasping the first passanger they met, to implore his help, as if by communicating the poison to others, they could restore health to their own veins, or life to its victims whom they had left stretched before it. In that dismal period there was no end of projects and nostrums for preventing or curing the disease; and numberless empirics every day started up with some new delusion, rapidly made fortunes of the hopes and terrors of the multitude, and then as speedily disappeared, or were themselves borne down by the general destroyer. Meanwhile the malady raged until its force was spent; the attempts to cure it were doubtless all baffled; but the eagerness with which men hailed each successive contrivance, proved too plainly how vast was their terror, and how universal the suffering that prevailed.
So might I now argue, • from the complaints and projects which assail us on every hand, how deeply seated and widely spread is the distress under which the people are suffering. But unhappily we have to encounter its details in many other shapes; although it is not my intention to travel through the mass of evidence on your table, the particulars of which I may safely leave to my honourable friend,* who has so laudably devoted his time and abilities to this investigation. Let me only, Sir, remind the House of the general outline of the Inquiry.
We have examined above a hundred witnesses, from more than thirty of the great manufacturing and mercantile districts. These men were chosen almost at random, from thousands whom we could have brought before you with less trouble than it required to make the selection; the difficulty was to keep back evidence, not to find it; for our desire to state the case was tempered by a natural anxiety to encroach as little as possible on the time of the House, and to expedite by all means the conclusion of an inquiry, upon the result of which so many interests hung in anxious suspense. In all this mass of evidence there was not a single witness who denied, or doubted—I beg your pardon, there was one — one solitary and remarkable exception, and none other even among those called in support of the system, who even hesitated in admitting the dreadful amount of the present distresses. Take, for example, one of our great staples, the hardware, and look to Warwickshire, where it used to flourish. Birmingham and its neighbourhood, a district of thirteen miles round that centre, was formerly but one village, I might say one continued workshop, peopled with about four hundred thousand of the most industrious and skilful of mankind. In what state do you now find that once busy hive of men 1 Silent, still, and desolate during half the week; during the rest of it, miserably toiling at reduced wages, for a pittance scarcely sufficient to maintain animal life in the lowest state of comfort, and at all times swarming with unhappy persons, willing, anxious to work for their lives, but unable to find employment. He must have a stout heart within him who can view such a scene and not shudder. But even this is not all. Matters are getting worse and worse; the manufacturers are waiting for your decision, and if that be against them they will instantly yield to their fate, and turn adrift the people whom they still, though inadequately, support with employment. Upon your vote of this night the destiny of thousands in that district alone depends; and I ask you before you give it to tell me what must become of those thousands, or of the country in which they shall be turned loose? I am aware that the language I use. may be misinterpreted—it may be perverted into a threat; but I speak of incontrovertible facts from the evidence before you, when I affirm, that if you this night say " No" to the petitions against the Orders in Council, you let loose upon the country thousands and thousands—I will not say of riotous, or disorderly, or seditious, or even discontented people— but only of hungry men who must either find food or perish. Look now to Yorkshire, — to the clothing county. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the only conversation I had the honour of holding with him upon this question, was very confident that the case of the petitioners would fail in these districts; you have proved it, said he, as far as respects hardware, but, you will do nothing in the Woollen trade. Sir, we have now gone through the case, and how stands the fact? It is still stronger with respect to the clothing than the hardware! It is more various in its features and more striking in the result, because the trade is more extensive, and employs both larger capitals and a more numerous people. One gentleman tells you that he has twenty, another twenty-five thousand pounds locked up in unsaleable, unprofitable stock, which loads his warehouses. A third has about thirty, and a fourth no less than ninety thousand pounds thus disposed of. In the warehouses of one merchant there a~e eighty thousand pounds worth of Cottons, and in those of another at Liverpool from two to three thousand packages, chiefly Woollens and Cottons, valued on the lowest computation at two hundred thousand pounds, every article of which was destined for the American market, and can find no other vent. In the West Eiding thousands have been thrown out of all employment — but this is nothing compared with the fearful apprehensions which are there entertained, if you this night refuse them relief. I pass lightly over this ground—but the fact is known that in that populous county, the applications to the parish officers have so alarmingly increased, that they have given repeated warnings to the master manufacturers, and I believe to the higher authorities, of their utter inability to relieve the increasing distress, or to answer for its consequences. Among other circumstances which marked this part of the case, there was one peculiarly affecting to every one who heard it.—It had been proved that at Kidderminster, where the great Carpet manufacture is almost entirely destroyed, the wants of the poor became so pressing that they were forced to part with their little stock of furniture, which used to make their cottages in some degree comfortable, and even the clothes off their backs, to raise food, until the pawnbrokers, having already loaded themselves with such deposits, refused to issue any more tickets. But at Sheffield, the same feature recurred in a heightened and still more striking form. The workmen in the Cutlery trade, unable to obtain any longer their usual market, from the master dealers and merchants or brokers refusing to purchase any more, were compelled to pawn their articles at a very low valuation, for money, and even for food and clothes — so that this extraordinary state of things arose—the pawnbrokers came into the London market with the goods, and there met the regular dealers, whom they were able greatly to undersell; in such wise as to supply in a considerable degree the London and other markets, to the extreme augmentation of the distresses already so severely pressing upon this branch of trade.
I might detain you, Sir, in an endless repetition of this same tale of misery, through its different shapes, were I to describe its varieties in the other districts to which the evidence applies. But I shall only refer to the cotton trade; and that, not for the sake of stating that here too the same picture was presented of capital locked up—men of great nominal wealth living without income—trading, or seeming to trade, without profits —numberless workmen dismissed—those who remain employed earning only half or quarter wages—parish rates increasing—charitable supplies failing, from the reduced means of the upper classes, and the hourly augmented claims upon their bounty—and the neverceasing feature of this case in all its parts, the impending necessity of instantaneously disbanding those who are only now retained in the hopes of your favourable decision; but I would draw your attention to the Cotton districts, merely to present one incidental circumstance which chanced to transpire respecting the distresses of the poor in those parts. The food which now sustains them is reduced to the lowest kind, and of that there is not nearly a sufficient supply; bread, or even potatoes, are now out of the question; the luxuries of animal food, or even milk, they have long ceased to think of. Their looks, as well as their apparel, proclaim the sad change in their situation. One witness tells you, it is only necessary to look at their haggard faces, to be satisfied what they are suffering; — another says that persons who have recently returned, after an absence of some months from those parts, declare themselves shocked, and unable to recognize the people whom they had left. A gentleman largely concerned in the Cotton trade, to whose respectability ample testimony was borne by an honourable Baronet*—I cannot regularly name him— but in a question relating to the cotton trade, it is natural to think of the house of Peel—that gentleman whose property in part consists of cottages and little pieces of ground let out to work-people, told us that lately he went to look after his rents—and when he entered those dwellings, and found them so miserably altered—so stript of their wonted furniture and other little comforts—and when he saw their inhabitants sitting down to a scanty dinner of oatmeal and water, their only meal in the four-and-twenty hours, he could not stand the sight, and came away unable to ask his rent. These feelings so honourable to him—so painful to us who partook of them—were not confined to that respectable witness. We had other sights to endure in that long and dismal inquiry. Masters came forward to tell us how unhappy it made them to have no more work to give their poor men, because all their money, and in some cases their credit too, was already gone in trying to support them. Some had involved themselves in embarrassments for such pious purposes. One again, would describe his misery at turning off people whom he and his father had employed for many years. Another would say how he dreaded the coming round of Saturday, when he had to pay his hands their reduced wages, incapable of supporting them; how he kept out of their way on that day, and made his foreman pay them; while a third would say that he was afraid to see his people, because he had no longer the means of giving them work, and he knew that they would flock round him and implore to be employed at the lowest wages; for something wholly insufficient to feed them. Indeed, said one, our situation is greatly to be pitied; it is most distressing, and God only knows what will become of us, for it is most unhappy! These things, and a vast deal more—a vast deal which I will not attempt to go through, because I absolutely have not the heart to bear it, and I cannot do it—these things, and much more of the same melancholy description, may be seen in the minutes by such as did not attend the Committee; or as far as 1 have been able to represent them, they may be understood by those who have not heard the evidence. But there were things seen in the Committee which cannot be entered on its records; which were not spoken in words, and could hot be written down; which I should in vain attempt to paint—which to form any idea of, you must have been present, and seen and heard. For I cannot describe to you the manner in which that affecting evidence was given. I cannot tell you with what tones and looks of distress it was accompanied. When the witnesses told the story of the sufferings of their work-people and their own sufferings on their account, there was something in it which all the powers of acting could not even imitate; it was something which to feel as I now feel it, you must have seen as I saw. The men to whom 1 am now alluding belonged to the society of Friends—that amiable body of persons—the friends indeed of all that is most precious to man—the distinguished advocates of humanity, justice, and peace, and the patterns, as well as promoters of all the kindest charities of our nature. In their manner of testifying to this cause, there was something so simple and so touching, that it disarmed for a season the habitual indignation of the learned father of the system,* and seemed to thaw the cold calculations of its foster parent, f and his followers of the Board of Trade and Shipping Interest-!
Sir, there is one circumstance in these melancholy details, which I have refrained from touching upon, because it seemed always to excite a peculiar degree of soreness: I mean the scarcity. We have often been taunted with this topic. We have been triumphantly asked, "What! Is the scarcity too, owing to the Orders in Council V Certainly we never thought of ascribing the wet summer, and the bad crop, to the present commercial system; but as for scarcity, I imagine there may be two kinds of it equally inconvenient to the people—a scarcity of food, and acarcity of money to buy food with. All the witnesses whom we examined were, without exception, asked this question, "Do you recollect the scarcity of 1800 or 1801?" Yes, was the answer, we do remember it; the dearth was then great, greater than at present, for there were two failing crops." But when we asked, whether the distress was as great, they flung up their hands and exclaimed—" 0 nothing like it, for then the people had plenty of work and full wages, whereas now the want of money meets the want of food." But further, Sir, have you not taken away the only remedy for this scarcity—the only relief to which we can look under a bad harvest—by closing the corn market of America? Did we not always say, in arguing upon these measures, prospectively, "Where are you if a bad season comes, and there is a risk of famine?" Well—unhappily this calamity has come, or approaches; the season is bad, and a famine stares us in the face, and now we say as we did before— "Where are you with your Orders in Council, and your American quarrel?" Why, Sir, to deny that those measures affect the scarcity, is as absurd as it would be to deny that our Jesuit's bark bill exasperated the misery of the French hospitals, for that the wretches there died of the ague and not of the bill—True, they died of the ague; but your murderous policy withheld from them that kindly herb which the providence that mysteriously inflicted the disease, mercifully bestowed for the relief of suffering humanity.
Before I quit this subject, let me entreat of the House to reflect how it bears upon the operations now carrying on in the Peninsula. Our armies there are fed from America; supplies to the amount of eight or nine millions a-year, are derived by them from thence; the embargo t'other day raised the price of flour in the Lisbon market above fifty per cent.; and when the news of this advance reached London, you heard from one witness that it occasioned in a single morning, within his own knowledge, an export from this port of six thousand barrels of flour to supply the Portuguese market. Our operations in Spain and Portugal then depend upon the intercourse with America, and yet we madly persist in cutting that intercourse off! And is it indeed come to this? Are we never to lose sight of the Spanish war, except when America is concerned? To that contest what sacrifices have we not cheerfully made? To its paramount importance what perpetual tribute have we not been paying? Has it not for years been. the grand object of our hopes as of our efforts; the centre upon which all our politics, external and domestic, have hinged; the point which regulated everything, from the negotiation of a public treaty to the arrangement of a Cabinet? Upon this contest what millions of money, what profusion of British blood have we not lavished, without ever stopping to count the cost, so self-evident have we ever deemed its advantages or rather its necessity to be? Yet now are we prepared to abandon it—to sacrifice all our hopes of its future profit — to throw away every advance that we have already made upon it, because it can no longer be prosecuted without involving us in the costs and dangers of—a reconciliation with America! For this war, for this same bootless war, we hesitate not to neglect every interest, every domestic tie—to cripple, oppress, starve, and grind down our own people; but all attention to it, all thought of it, suddenly leaves us the moment we ascertain that, in order to carry it on, we must abandon an unjust and ruinous quarrel with our kinsmen in America, and speedily relieve the unparalleled distresses of our own countrymen! Now, and now only, and for this reason and none other, we must give up for ever the cherished object of all our hopes, and no longer even dream of opposing any resistance to France upon the continent of Europe—because by continuing to do so we should effectually defeat her machinations in America!
I have now, Sir, slightly and generally touched upon the heads of that case of deep distress which the evidence presents to our view; and I here stop to demand by what proofs this evidence has been met on the other side of the House? Not a question did the honourable gentlemen, who defend the system, venture to.put by way of shaking the testimony, the clear and united testimony to which I have been alluding; not a witness did they call on their part with the view of rebutting it, save only one, and to this one person's evidence it is necessary that I should call your attention, because from a particular circumstance it does so happen that it will not be found upon the minutes, and can therefore only be known to those who heard it, by whom, I well know, it never can be forgotten. This man, whom I will not name, having denied that any great distress prevailed among the lower orders in the manufacturing districts, it was fit that I should examine him a little more closely, seeing that he took upon himself to contradict the statement unanimously given by the most respectable merchants and manufacturers in the country but a few days before. I therefore asked whether he meant to say, that the artizans had the same wages as usual—And then was disclosed a scene the most revolting, the most disgusting, that it is possible to conceive, insomuch, indeed, that I was, immediately afterwards, implored by the gentlemen opposite to allow the evidence to be expunged, that it might not remain on our Journals to defile them. This man in substance told us, that the people had enough of wages—that they had no right to more—that when their wages were at the former rate they had three times as much as they ought to have!—What? Did he really dare to say that the food which we had heard with sorrow described by the Lancashire witnesses was enough for the support of Englishmen, or that this miserable fare was all that . the lower people of this country have a right to—the lower people to whom we all owe our national greatness? Did he venture to tell the representatives of that people—us who are sent here by them—who meet here only to consult for their interests—who only exist by and for them—that a short allowance of oatmeal and water (for such is the, fact) was the fit fare for them?* Sir, this man sprung, I make no doubt, himself from the same class of the community, and at any rate now became by their labour, I am ashamed to say, one of the most affluent merchants in the city of London—this loyal man, for he began his evidence with an attack upon Jacobinism, and imputed the present distresses to the seditious machinations of partymen in this town, I rather think he meant to insinuate in this House — an attack which ,was also ordered to be expunged from the minutes—this very person standing in this Commons House of Parliament, was shameless enough to insinuate that Englishmen must be fed low to keep them quiet; for he distinctly stated, that if you gave them more, you pampered them, or as he termed it, accustomed them to "luxuries irrelevant to . their condition," and unhinged (as he phrased it in the jargon of his loyalty) "unhinged the frame of society." Sir, I yielded to the united entreaties of the gentlemen opposite, and for the sake of peace and the credit of our records, I consented to this disgraceful evidence being expunged. I now repent me of what I did; for I ought rather to have suffered the contamination to remain that it might record by what sort of witnesses this system is upheld, and according to what standard of popular rights and national happiness the defence of the system is framed. So much, however for the first and last attempt which was made to impeach the facts brought forward by our witnesses.
Driven from this ground, then, the right honourable gentleman retreats to his well known hold, and takes refuge in the Custom-house books—in the accounts of the Inspector-General. I could have wished that he had brought that worthy and respectable officer himself to the bar, because then we might have learned more accurately how those returns are made up; at present we have only a meagre note of a few lines describing the errors of this proceeding. But, with respect to these returns, I must, in the first place, observe, that we cannot, in this stage of the inquiry, rely on such evidence; the period is gone by when they might have been admissible. I shall explain myself in a moment upon this point. Accounts of exports and imports are resorted to, and most properly, in order to estimate the trade of the country when we have no better data; because those accounts give something like an approximation or rough guess at the state of the trade, and are in ordinary cases the only means we have of getting at a knowledge of the state of the country in point of commercial prosperity. But when we know from other sources of the most unquestioned authority everything relating to this very point. —when we have by actual inquiry learned in what state the commerce of the country is—when we have gone to the fountain head and seen the situation of things with our own eyes—it is idle and preposterous to run after lists of exports and imports, which are only the less perfect evidence—the indirect sign or symptom,—and utterly out of time after we have examined the thing itself. We have seen that the people are starving all over the manufacturing districts, and the master manufacturers ruined; after this to produce an array of Custom-house figures, for the purpose of showing whether manufactures are flourishing or not, is stark nonsense—Such an array is superfluous, if it coincides with the better proofs; if it contradicts them, what man alive will listen to it for one moment?
But I confess, Sir, that with me, at any stage of the inquiry, the credit of those Custom-house tables would be small, after the account of them which appears in evidence. The Inspector himself has stated in his Memorandum, that the method of making up the account of exports cannot be safely relied upon, in those instances where no payment is made; and by one of the returns it appears, that of twenty-seven millions, the average yearly value of exports, only ten millions are subject to duty on exportation, and that above eight millions neither pay duty, nor receive bounty or drawback; upon this sum at least, then, all the inaccuracy admitted in his minute must attach. But the evidence sufficiently explains on which side of the scale the error is likely to lie: There is, it would seem, a fellow-feeling between the gentlemen at the Custom-house, and their honoured masters at the Board of Trade.; so that when the latter wish to make blazing statements of national prosperity, the former are ready to find the fuel. The managing clerk of one of the greatest mercantile houses in the city, tells you that he has known packages entered at £5,000 which were not worth £50; that those sums are entered at random, and cannot be at all relied upon. Other witnesses, particularly from Liverpool, confirm the same fact; and I know, as does my right honourable friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was present, that the head of the same respectable house, a few days ago mentioned at an official conference with him, an instance of his own clerks being desired at the Custom-house to make a double entry of an article for export. After such facts as these, I say it is in vain to talk of Custom-house returns, even if they were contradicted in no respect by other evidence. After showing one such flaw in them, I am absolved from all further trouble. I am not bound to follow their details and prove them false step by step. I have shown enough to destroy their credit as documents, and with this irreparable damage on their face, I might here leave them. But strange to tell, after all the boasting of the gentlemen opposite—in spite of every contrivance to conceal the real fact—and notwithstanding the essentially vicious mode of preparing those documents, it does so happen, that the falling off in our trade is too great even for the machinery of the Customhouse to sustain, or cover it over; and with every effort to prevent its appearance, here it breaks out upon the face of the Custom-house papers themselves! At first, the methods I have spoken of were, no doubt, successful. When the defalcation was confined within certain limits, those methods might conceal it, and enable the ministers to delude this House and the country, with details of our flourishing commerce. But that point has been passed, and no resources of official skill can any more suppress the melancholy truth, that the trade of the country has gone to decay. I hold in my hand the latest of these annual returns; and by its details we find that, comparing the whole amount of trade, both exports and imports (which is the only fair way of reckoning), in 1809, with its amount in 1811, there is a falling off in the latter year to the amount of no less than thirty-six millions—compared with 1810, the falling off is thirty-eight millions. If we confine our view only to the export of British manufactures, we find, that the falling off in 1811, as compared with either of the former years (for they are nearly equal), amounts to sixteen millions. And if we take in the export of foreign and colonial produce also, the falling off in 1811, compared with 1809, is twenty-four, and compared with 1810, no less than twenty-seven millions! Then, Sir, we need not object to the evidence afforded by those papers—they make most strongly in favour of our argument—they are evidence for us, if any evidence from such a quarter were wanted—and, whatever credit you may give to the testimony by which I have been impeaching their authenticity—how little soever you may be inclined to agree with me in doubting their accuracy, and in imputing exaggeration to them—I care not even if you should wholly deny that any such flaws are to be found in their construction, and that any such abatement as I have described is to be made from their total results; I say, corrected or uncorrected, they prove my case—and I now rely on them, and hold them up in refutation of the Board of Trade, because they distinctly demonstrate an immense, an unparalleled, diminution in our commerce, during the last eighteen months, and wholly coincide with both our evidence and our argument.
Of the positions advanced by the defenders of this system, one of the most noted is, that what we may have lost by its operation in one quarter, we have gained elsewhere—and that if the United States are no longer open to us, we have extended our trade in the other parts of America, and in some new European channels. To this argument, however, the returns which I have just been dwelling upon furnish a most triumphant, if it were not rather a melancholy, answer. For you will observe, Sir, that the mighty falling off, which those accounts exhibit, is upon the whole trade of the country—that it includes South America, Heligoland, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean, as well as the United States, and the dominions of France. If, therefore, upon the whole trade there has been this great defalcation, it is idle to talk of compensation and substitutes. The balance is struck—the deficiency is proved, after all the substitutes have been taken into the account, and credit has been given for them all. Every such allowance being fully made, there i3 still a total loss of trade in one year to the enormous amount of eight and thirty millions sterling. In like manner do these returns dispose of another famous argument— that the deficit of last year is only apparent; that it arises from making a comparison with 1810, the greatest year ever known: but that, compared with former years, there was no falling off at all. What now becomes of this assertion? The falling off in the last year, as compared with 1810, being thirty-seven millions; it is thirty-five, as compared with 1809; and the deficit of exports of British manufactures is very nearly the same in both those comparisons. So much for the assertions of honourable gentlemen, and the real results of the Custom-house documents.
But let us attend a little more closely to the muchboasted substitutes for our American trade, which are to be found in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the South, and in our own settlements in the North. Almost all the witnesses who were examined knew something of these branches of commerce; and it was the constant practice on this side of the House to ask them, how far they had found relief from them? We generally began with inquiring, whether they had tried the South American markets? and there was always the same sort of answer: it was in most cases given with an air and manner sufficiently significant, independent of the words; there was generally a something which I should distinguish by a foreign expression, if 1 might be permitted to use it, where we have none at home that will convey the meaning—a sort of naivete— an arch and humorous simplicity, which some now present must recollect. "Try the South American market?—Aye, that we have!" Or, " Know the Brazil trade?—We know it full well!" Some who had not personal experience of it, on being asked, " Whether they knew of any others who had tried the South American trade?" said, "They never wished to know any such people, or to have anything to do with them." Most of them told us, that their disappointments were owing to Sir Home Popham's circular; and when we desired explanation, and demanded what profits they • had turned on those adventures, whether twenty or onlyten per cent.—they said they had always lost fifty or sixty, or more in the hundred, and never sold for prime cost; frequently abandoning the goods to their fate, to save further charges in inquiring after them. Thus much appeared when / examined them; being myself no trader, I could only question them generally and diffidently: accordingly, in my hands, they came off easily and safely enough—not so when the Vice-President of the Board of Trade took up the tale, which he never failed to do as soon as I laid it down. Then was seen all the closeness of a practical scrutineer; he took them to task as a real merchant, dealer and chapman; he spoke to them in their own language, and rated them in a manner so alarming to them—but to my honourable friend * and myself so amusing, that even now it is some merriment to recollect the dialogue :—" What!" he would say, "did you suffer a loss from the great South American market?" "Yes," wa3 the answer, "a loss of fifty or sixty per cent." "Indeed," said the oracle of trade, sharply enough, "why, what sort of cargoes did you send ?"—" Woollens," they would answer, "or flannels, or calicoes," as the case might be:—" Woollens," he would reply, "why, how could you think of such a thing ?—Woollens!—no wonder that you lost."—So that all comes of their bad trading, and not of the bad market.—" While you are left to yourselves," says the right honourable gentleman, "no wonder that you make a losing speculation of it: What can your ordinary traders know of such fine markets as our South Sea bubble?—Come to us— repair to our Board of Trade—let us assort your cargoes—take a hint from my noble colleague in trade f and me, who carry on the commerce of the country— Come to the license shop, and we will teach you the sure way—not perhaps of making a profit, for in these times that is not to be expected—but of reducing your losses, so that you shall only lose thirty or perhaps not more than twenty per cent, on each adventure!'...
....Why, Sir, so happily constituted is the right honourable gentleman'sf understanding, that his very blunders are more precious than the accuracies of other men; and it is no metaphor, but a literal mercantile proposition, to say, that it is better worth our while to err with him than to think rightly with the rest of mankind!—And all this life, and activity, and machinery for what?—To snatch at a miserable export—occasional—fleeting—irregular —ephemeral—very limited in amount — unlikely to recur—uncertain in its return—precarious in its continuance—beneficial to the enemy—exposed to his caprices, and liable by his nod to be swept at once into the fund of his confiscations—enjoyed while he does permit it, by his sufferance for his ends—enriching his subjects—manning his fleets—nursing up for him a navy which it has already taken the utmost efforts of our unconquerable marine to destroy!—Good God! the incurable perverseness of human folly!— always straining after things that are beyond its reach, of doubtful worth and discreditable pursuit, and neglecting objects of immense value, because in addition to their own importance, they have one recommendation which would make viler possessions desirable— that they can be easily obtained, and honestly as well as safely enjoyed! — It is this miserable, shifting, doubtful, hateful traffic that we prefer, to the sure, regular, increasing, honest gains of American commerce; to a trade which is placed beyond the enemy's reach—which besides encircling ourselves in peace and honour, only benefits those who are our natural friends, over whom he has no control, but who if they were ever so hostile to us, could not annoy us—which supports at once all that remains of liberty beyond the seas, and gives life and vigour to its main pillar within the realm, the manufactures and commerce of England!
And now, Sir, look to the other side of this picture. —See to what sources of supply you are driving the Americans, when you refuse them your own markets. —Why, you are forcing them to be wholly dependent on themselves! The eighteenth century closed with a course of violence and folly, which in spite of every natural tie, dissolved their political connexion with the crown; and, as if the cup of our infatuation was not full, we must begin the nineteenth with the phrenzy of severing them from all connexion, and making them, contrary to the course of nature itself, independent of our manufacturers and merchants! I will not go through the evidence upon this important branch of the case, for I feel myself already too much exhausted to attempt it; but whoever reads it will find it uniformly in every page showing the effects of onr system, in forcing manufactures all over America to rival our own. There is not one branch of the many in which we used quietly, and without the least fear of competition, to supply them, that is not now to a certain degree cultivated by themselves; many have wholly taken rise since 1807—all have rapidly sprung up to a formidable maturity. To give but a few examples. In New York there are now forty thousand looms going—glass is made in a way that we ourselves witnessed, for we saw the specimen produced—wool cards are now made there which used regularly to be imported from hence — and there is a considerable exportation of cotton twist to the South of Europe, from the country which possesses the most abundantly the raw material. I say nothing of their wool, and the excellent Merino breed they have obtained from Spain. Look only to one striking fact—Pittsburgh is a town remotely situated in the most western part of the Union. Eighteen years ago it was a hamlet, so feeble and insecure that the inhabitants could scarcely defend themselves from their Indian neighbours, and durst hardly quit the place for fear of being scalped. Now there are steam engines and a large glass work in the same town, and you saw the product of its furnaces. It stands on a stratum of coal fifteen feet thick, and within a few inches of the surface, which extends over all the country west of the Alleghany chain. Coal there sells for six shillings the chaldron, and the same precious mineral is to be found in the Atlantic States, at Richmond, and elsewhere, accessible by sea. It is usual to see men on 'Change in the large towns with twenty, thirty, and fifty thousand pounds in trade—Companies are established for manufactures, insurance, and other mercantile speculations, with large capitals, one as high as £120,000 sterling. —The rate of interest is six per cent., and the price of land in some places as high as in England. I do not enumerate these things to prove that America can already supply herself,—God forbid !—If she could, the whole mischief would be done, and we conld not now avert the blow; but though too much has indeed been effected by our impolicy, a breathing time yet is left, and we ought at least to take advantage of it, and regain what has been thrown away—in four or five years' time it will be gone for ever.
But I shall here be told, as I often have been, that these counsels spring from fear, and that I am endeavouring to instil a dread of American manufactures, as the ground of our measures. Not so, Sir,—I am inculcating another fear—the wholesome fear of utter impolicy mixed with injustice—of acting unfairly to others for the purpose of ruining yourselves. And after all, from what quarter does this taunt proceed? Who are they by whom I am upbraided for preaching up a dread of rival American manufactures ?—The very men whose whole defence of the system is founded upon a fear of competition from European manufactures —who refuse to abandon the blockade of France, from an apprehension (most ridiculous as the evidence shows) of European manufactures rivalling us through American commerce — who blockade the continent from a dread that the manufactures of France, by means of the shipping of America, will undersell our own—the men whose whole principle is a fear of the capital, industry, and skili of England being outdone by the trumpery wares of France, as soon as her market is equally open to both countries!—Sir, little as I may think such alarms worthy of an Englishman, there is a kind of fear which I would fain urge—a fear too of France; but it is of her arms and not of her arts. We have in that quarter some ground for apprehension, and. I would have pur policy directed solely with a view to removing it. Look only at the Spanish war in its relation to the American trade. In that cause we have deeply embarked—we have gone on for years, pouring into it our treasures and our troops, almost without limit, and all the profit is yet to come. We have still to gain tbe object of so many sacrifices, and to* do something which may show they have not been made in vain. Some great efifort it seems resolved to make, and though of its results others are far more sanguine than I am able to feel, I can have little hesitation in thinking, that we had better risk some such attempt once for all, and either gain the end in view, or, convinced that it is unattainable, retire from the contest. If then this is our policy, for God's sake let the grand effort be made, single and undivided—undistracted by a new quarrel, foreign to the purpose, and fatally interfering with its fulfilment.—Let us not for the hundredth time commit the ancient error which has so often betrayed us, of frittering down our strength — of scattering our forces in numerous and unavailing plans.—We have no longer the same excuse for this tolly which we once had to urge. All the colonies in the world are our own—sugar Islands and spice Islands there are none from Martinico to Java, to conquer—we have every species of unsaleable produce m the gross, and all noxious climates without stint. Then let us not add a new leaf to the worst chapter of our book, and make for ourselves new occasions, when we can find none, for persisting in the most childish of all systems. While engaged heartily on our front in opposing France, and trying the last chance of saving Europe, let us not secure to ourselves a new enemy, America, on our flank. Surely, language wants a name for the folly which would, at a moment like the present, on the eve of this grand and decisive and last battle, reduce us to the necessity of feeding Canada with troops from Portugal—and Portugal with bread from England.
I know I shall be asked whether I would recommend any sacrifice for the mere purpose of conciliating America. I recommend no sacrifice of honour for that or for any purpose; but I will tell you, that I think we can well and safely for our honour afford to conciliate America. Never did we stand so high since we were a nation, in point of military character. We have it in abundance, and even to spare. This unhappy and seemingly interminable war, lavish as it has been in treasure, still more profuse of blood, and barren of real advantage, has at least been equally lavish of glory; its feats have not merely sustained the warlike fame of the nation, which would have been much; "they have done what seemed scarcely possible; they have greatly exalted it; they have covered our arms with immortal renown. Then I say use this glory— use this proud height on which we now stand, for the purpose of peace and conciliation with America. Let this and its incalculable benefits be the advantage which we reap from the war in Europe; for the fame of that war enables us safely to take it;—And who, I demand, give the most disgraceful counsels—they who .tell you we are in military character but of yesterday —we have yet a name to win—we stand on doubtful ground—we dare not do as we list for fear of being thought afraid—we cannot without loss of name stoop to pacify our American kinsmen! Or I, who say we are a great, a proud, a warlike people—we have fought everywhere, and conquered wherever we fought—our character is eternally fixed—it stands too firm to be shaken—and on the faith of it we may do towards America, safely for our honour, that which we know our interests require!—This perpetual jealousy of America! Good Gcd! I cannot with temper ask on what it rests! It drives me to a passion to think of it—,Jealousy of America! I should as soon think of being jealous of the tradesmen whb supply me with necessaries, or the clients who intrust their suits to my patronage. Jealousy of America! whose armies are yet at the plough, or making, since your policy has willed it so, awkward (though improving) attempts at the loom—whose assembled navies could not lay siege to an English harbour:—Jealousy of a power which is necessarily peaceful as well as weak, but which, if it had all the ambition of France and her armies to back it, and all the navy of England to boot, nay, had it the lust of conquest which marks your enemy, and your own armies as well as navy to gratify it—is placed at so vast a distance as to be perfectly harmless! And this is the nation of which for our honour's sake we are desired to cherish a perpetual jealousy, for the ruin of our best interests!
I trust, Sir, that no such phantom of the brain will scare us from the path of our duty. The advice which I tender is not the same which has at all times been offered to this country. There is one memorable era in our history, when other uses were made of our triumphs from those which I recommend. By the treaty of Utrecht, which the reprobation of ages has left inadequately censured, we were content to obtain as the whole price of Ramillies and Blenheim, an additional share of the accursed slave trade. I give you other counsels. I would have you employ the glory which you have won at Talavera and Corunna, in restoring your commerce to its lawful, open, honest course; and rescue it from the mean and hateful channels in which it has lately been confined. And if any thoughtless boaster in America or elsewhere should vaunt that you had yielded through fear, I would not bid him wait until some new achievement of our arms put him to silence, but I would counsel you in silence to disregard him.
Sir, I move you,—" That an humble address be presented to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, representing to his Royal Highness that this House has, for some time past, been engaged in an inquiry into the present depressed state of the manufactures and commerce of the country, and the effects of the Orders in Council issued by his Majesty in the years 1807 and 1809; assuring his Royal Highness, that this House will at all times support his Royal Highness to the utmost of its power, in maintaining those just maritime rights which have essentially contributed to the prosperity and honour of the realm—but beseeching his Royal Highness, that he would be graciously pleased to recall or suspend the said Orders, and to adopt such measures as may tend to conciliate Neutral Powers, without sacrificing the rights and dignity of his Majesty's crown."