Imatges de pÓgina

the houfe do on that day feven night refolve itself into a committee, to confider of fo much of the fpeech from the throne, as related to the treaty of navigation and commerce, concluded with the most Christian king. To this motion an amendment was propofed by lord George Cavendish, uncle to the duke of Devonshire, to defer the confideration till that day fortnight, in order to give time for a call of the house. Mr. Fox fupported the amendment, and remarked, that, in confequence of the numerous opportunities he had had to obferve upon the exceffive warmth and precipitance of the difpofition of the minider, he felt a flighter degree of attonishment at difcovering the violence, with which he now urged the house to the confideration of a most important measure. The measure in contemplation was a fyftem, in which not only the eita blished doctrines of our ancestors were foregone, but the great and effential principles of our conmerce, principles, which, whether wife or erroneous, had made us opulent, were completely changed. On the fubject of the Irifh propofitions Mr. Pitt had deprecated delay. He had defired then as now, to hurry on parliament without confideration, without time for enquiring and collecting the opinion of thofe, who were most competent to judge of the expediency of the meafure. Fortunate for the country had been the wife caution of the houfe in that inftance; fortunate for the minifter, who had been refcued by the wifdom of parliament from the dangers of his own rafhnefs. He had also brought in a plan for a commercial treaty with America, and that would admit of no poffible delay. The houfe how ever had taught him the rafhnefs

of the proceeding, and the bill had never fince been heard of. On that fubje&t he had been made completely to change his mind, in confequence of the lights which he received by prudent delay. Mr. Fox added, that a convention had been exchanged, and at length ratified, which was in fome refpects as totally diffimilar from the treaty, as the twenty Irish propofitions had been from the original eleven, and the copies of this convention had only been distributed that very day. He could affign no reafon for the extreme urgency of the minifter, unless he fufpected that the people were loud in their praise, more from the novelty of the object, than from a conviction of its merits, and unless he intended to fnatch at the feasonable moment of tranfitory delufion. Mr. Pitt replied to the arguments of Mr. Fox. He maintained, that the charge of precipitation was abfurd, fince the treaty had already been concluded more than four months, and that the propofed call of the house was unneceffary, as the attendance was at prefent very full, and as it was not likely that a call would be at all calculated to increase it. He retorted upon Mr. Fox the charge of precipitation in the cafe of his Eaft India-bill; a measure, which from its novelty filled every thinking mind with terror and alarm; a measure, which, as if conscious of its own malignity, had crept under darkness, and fhrunk even from a whifper, till the moment of its public difclofure; a measure, which had ftigmatized its abettors with univerial odium, and would hand them down to pofterity as objects of everlasting reproach. At that time Mr. Fox had refufed that delay, which was ufual on the most trivial and ordinary occations; and Mr.

Mr. Pitt had endeavoured by argument, by intreaty, and by deprecation, to reftrain his rafhinefs, but without effect.

and much more beyond his wishes.
When he met with a man, whofe
conduct had produced an unfortu-
nate change in his character, and
whofe ill temper and fpleen were
proportioned to the difappointments
he experienced, and the odium
which furrounded him, however
fuch a man might be inclined, by
abufe and malevolence to reduce
other characters to a level with the
wretchednefs of his own, though
his fituation might have a clam
upon his compation, that fenti-
ment must naturally be blended
with a portion of difguft. Mr.
Burke replied, that the contempt,
of which Mr. Pitt had made him a
prefent, was not entitled to much
of his gratitude, as it was an arti-
cle in which he fo copioutly abound-
ed. But, as the lock of his com-
paffion was undoubtedly fmall, any
donation from a fund fo trifling,
and of which there was fo little to
fpare, as it had the greater merit,
would be the more thankfully re-
'ceived. The houfe divided upon
the motion of Mr. Pitt, ayes 213,
noes 89.


Mr. Burke expreffed himself with fome farcafm refpecting the views of the minister in the prefent meafure. The treaty was not to be regarded fimply as a commercial treaty. In that view perhaps his opinion did not greatly differ from that of the manufacturers as to its unmediate operation. But the treaty was clofely connected with the p litical interefts of the country, and must deeply affect them. Mr. Pitt, with that narrownes, which led men of limited minds to look at great objects in a confined point of view, talked of the tranfaétion, as if it were the affair of two little counting-houses, and not of two great countries. He feemed to confider it as a contention between the fign of the Fleur-de-lis, and the fign of the Red-lion, which houfe fhould obtain the best custom. Such men, when in power, converted large cities into fmall villages, while thofe of a more noble and liberal way of thinking acted on a better fcale, and changed fmall villages into great cities. Mr. Wilberforce lamented over the fpeech of Mr. Burke. He had heard him in his better days. His eloquence had then arrested his attention, and his powers of imagination had eharmed him. But he was now forry to find his faculties fo far diverted from the prosecution of those great objects, which they were naturally formed to embrace. Mr. Pitt expoftulated with the laft fpeaker on the unneceffary pains he had taken, to obviate the mode of animadverfion, chofen by Mr. Burke. In abuse and perfonality to contend with fuch an opponent, was very far beyond his powers,

On the Friday following it was moved by Mr. Fox, that there fhould be laid before the house copies or extracts, of the instructions that had been given to his majesty's minifters in Portugal fince the first of May 1782, refpecting the complaints of the British merchants, and of the anfwers of the court of Portugal to the reprefentations which had been made. It was in his opinion neceffary, that we should confider, previouty to our coming to any decifion upon the commercial treaty, whether we had taken care to fecure our connection with an old and valuable customer; or, in cafe we had not, whether the advantage would be equivalent, that we should acquire by putting




ourfelves exclufively into the hands of France, both as a customer, and -not an ally, for that the certainly could not be called,—but as a new political friend. Mr. Fox obferved, that the difficulty, which had been created by the court of Lisbon refpecting Irish woollens, was narrow and impolitic; and that on our part we ought to act with the liberality we demanded, and rather grant to Portugal more than fhe could claim by treaty than lefs. He added, that, if the treaty with France were fanctioned without our first knowing what was to be done with Portugal, we might eventually give France an advantage, for which we had not the profpect of an equivalent. If Portugal, through finitter influence, or her own perverfeness, should refufe to form any treaty with us, in that cafe we certainly fhould not lower the duty on Portugal wines. Thus France would be in the condition of a perfon purchasing an eftate with a mine upon it, without having paid for the mine. Mr. Fox mentioned, as another inconvenience, that the treaty, was calculated to prevent us from lowering the duty upon Spanish wines; but this Mr. Pitt declared not to be the true conftrucof the article. Sir Grey Cooper, who feconded the motion, placed the advantages of the Methuen treaty in the ftrongest light, and obferved that the balance of the Portugal trade was now ftated to be more than 500,000l. per annum in our favour, and that fince the treaty this nation had received between forty and fifty millions on the balance in this branch of our commerce. Mr. Beaufoy afferted, that the first question, that arofe upon the face of the treaty, was not, fhall we establish a new and untried commerce with France ? but, fhall 1787

the commerce, that already exists between the two kingdoms, give employment to the veffels of the finuggler, or to thofe of the fair and refpectable merchant? Shall the trade be carried on inconveni ently and circuitously by the way of Auftrian Flanders and of Dun kirk, or fhall it be carried on with every commercial advantage directly to the ports of France? Shall the manufactures of this country be objects of confifcation or protection to the French laws? Mr. Pitt replied to the arguments of Mr. Fox. He faid, that, in difcuffing the French treaty, we were only to confider the provifions actually contained in it, and the advantages provided by it in favour of each country. Were we to suspend every treaty of commerce, till we fhould be able to ascertain the poffible effect of every future arrangement with other countries, fuch treaties could never be concluded. Befide, it was not to be fuppofed, that we fhould act fo as to throw any confiderable advantage into the fcale of France, without a fresh ftipulation for some adequate equivalent for ourselves. The motion was rejected without a divifion.

On the day appointed for taking the treaty into con eration, a petition was prefented by Mr. alderman Newnham from the chamber of manufactures and commerce of the kingdom of Great Britain, ftating their fenfe of the ferio is and awful importance of the treaty, and that, after the most careful investigation, they had not been able to form any certain judgment upon the fubject. They therefore de precated the houfes, coming to a decifive vote upon that day; and concluded with an allufion to the providential effects, which were univerfally


hiverfally allowed to have refulted from the delay, which had been introduced by the mercantile interelt into the difcuffion of the Irif propofitions. This peti ion not appearing to be of fufficient weight to caufe the difcuffion of the treaty to be deferred, Mr. Pitt explained to the houfe his idea of the benefits that would refult from this tranfaction.

He introduced his remarks with a reference to another tranfaction, which had been mentioned, and coupled with this, he must fay, in a very fingular manner, he meant the Irish propofitions. He felt himself justified in declaring, that the allufion in queftion made wholly in favour of his arguments, and against thofe of his opponents. While the propofitions were in agitation, the manufacturers of the king dom had fhown, that they poffeffed the most unremitting vigilance in watching over their interefts, and at leaft a fufficient degree of firmnels in maintaining their objections. There was not a body that thought itfelf concerned, that did not inftantly take the alarm, and join

in the general remonstrances. Was it not fair then to conclude, that, if any fuch apprehenfions now exifted, instead of fupinenefs and negligence, they would again have applied to parliament with redoubled earnestnefs; and might he not fuppofe, that fo recent a tranfaction must have tended to keep their attention alive, and their jealoufies awake?

With respect to the commercial part of the treaty, which was the only object immediately under confideration, it would be neceffary for the cominittee to have regard to the relative state of the two kingdoms. At first fight it appeared, that France had the advantage in

[ocr errors]

the gifts of foil and climate, and in the amount of her natural produce, while Great Britain was on her part confeffedly fuperior in her manufactures and artificial productions. This was their relative condition, and was the precife ground, on which he imagined that a valuable correfpondence and connection might be established. Having each its own distinct ftaple, having each that which the other wanted, and not clafhing in the great outline of their refpective riches, they were like two great traders in different branches, and might enter into á traffic mutually beneficial. Granting that a large quantity of their natural produce would be brought into this country, would any man fay, that we fhould not fend out more of our cottons by the direct courfe now fettled, than by the circuitous paffages formerly used, and more of our woollens, than while reftrained to particular ports, and burthened with heavy duties ? Would not more of our earthen ware and other articles, which under every difadvantage had been able, from their intrinfic fuperiority, to force their way into France, now be fent thither; and would not the aggregate of our manufactures be evidently benefited in going to this market, burthened only with duties from twelve to ten, and in one instance with only five per cent.? A market of many millions of people, a market fo near and prompt, a market of expeditious and certain return, of neceffary and extenfive confumption, thus added to the manufactures and commerce of Britain, was an object which we ought to confider with eager and fatisfied ambition. To procure it we certainly ought not to hesitate to give liberal conditions. It was an exhilarating fpeculation to the minds

minds of Engliflimen, that, after the empire had been engaged in a competition the most arduous and imminent that ever threatened the nation, after France in particular had exerted every nerve for her depreffion, finding the could not thake her, the now opened her arms, and offered a beneficial connection on eafy, liberal, and advantageous terms,

We had agreed by this treaty to take from France on fmall duties the luxuries of her foil, which how ever the refinements of this country had converted into neceffaries. The wines of France with all their high duties, already found their way to our tables; and was it then a ferious injury to admit them on eafier terms? The admiffion of them would not fupplant the wines of Portugal or of Spain, but only a utclefs and pernicious manufacture in our own country. The import of French wines had lately experienced an enormous increafe, as appeared from the inftances of July and Auguft, the two most unlikely months of the year. The next article was brandy; and it was fufficiently evident that the diminution of duty with refpect to it was an eligible meafure. The reduction would have a material effect on the contraband trade, fince the legal importation of brandy was no more than fix hundred thoufand gallons, and the fmuggled by the most rational estimate amounted to four millions. Seeing then that this article had taken fuch complete poffeffion of the taste of the nation, it might be right to procure from it a greater advantage to the ftate, and to crush the illicit trade by le galizing the market. Similar ob fervations fuggefted themselves refpecting the oil and vinegar of

France, which were comparatively objects of trifling confideration.

The next enquiry fhould be to fee if France had any manufactures, peculiar to herself, or in which the fo greatly excelled us, as to give us alarm upon that account. Cambric, which first fuggefted itself, was an article, in which our competition with France had ceased, and there was no injury in granting an eafy importation to that, which we would have at any rate. In no other article was there any thing very formidable in the rivalry of France. Glafs would not be imported to any amount. In particular kinds of lace indeed they might have the advantage, but none which they would not enjoy independently of the treaty; and the clamours about millinery were vague and unmeaning. When in addition to all thefe benefits, wę confidered the richness of the coun try with which we were to trade, its fuperior population of twenty-four millions to eight, and of course a proportional confumption, together with its vicinity to us, who could hefitate for a moment to applaud the fyftem, and look forward with ardour and impatience to its speedy ratification? The poffeffion of fo fafe and extenfive a market must improve our commerce, while the duties, transferred from the hands of fmugglers to their proper channel, would benefit our revenue, the two fources of British opulence and British power.

Mr. Pitt proceeded to the confideration of the feveral objections which had been urged against the measure. The excellence of our manufactures was unrivalled; but it was faid, that the manufacturers trembled for the continuance of this fuperiority. They were alarmed

« AnteriorContinua »