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ment is resisted, occurs in the treatment recently experienced by M. Pouillé, an enterprising French manufacturer, who has attempted to introduce a more perfect system into this country. The British manufacturers, instead of improving by his example, fired with jealousy at his success, raised an accusation against him of carrying on the trade here merely as a cloak for smuggling; and when unable to prove the charge, they absurdly accused the British Government itself of conniving at the fraud.
To these bad effects of the prohibition of foreign silk goods, must be added, that under such a system smuggling was unbounded, by which the revenue was cheated, the fair trader injured, the public morals corrupted, and the public money, to an enormous amount, paid for contraband French silks, to a much greater extent, perhaps, than will now be paid on the lawful commodity. To do away with these mischiefs, in 1824, Mr. Huskisson had an Act passed to admit foreign silks after the 5th of July next, on paying an ad valorem duty of thirty per cent., which is considered a sufficient protection to the home-manufacturer.
It is objected, however, that, admitting he possesses, or may acquire, equal skill with the foreigner, he cannot compete successfully with him while he labours under the following serious disadvantages: First, the French only pay a duty of 9d. per pound on Italian organzine, while it is still loaded in this country with a duty of nearly seven times the amount (5s.). Unfortunately this obstacle cannot be entirely removed, at least suddenly, without ruining the great body of silk-throwsters. Secondly, the high duties paid on dye-stuffs, ashes, soap, &c., fall heavily on the manufacture in this country. Something, however, has already been done; and we were happy to hear it stated in the House of Commons by Mr. C. Grant, that it is the intention of Ministers to do still more to remedy this evil. The duty on madder has already been reduced from 12s. per cwt. to 6s.; that on cochineal, from 2s. 6d. per pound, in some cases to ls., and in others to 4d. "The same observation," he said, " applied to all dye-drugs, which he believed were higher in France than here; and he had authority to state, that it was the intention of Government to look into these articles, with a view of making further reductions. The duty on soap was severe: he was authorized to say, that this article was also intended to be looked into, in order to meet that difficulty."
But the greatest difficulty of all, and one which Ministers will not easily get over, is the high price of provisions in this country, produced by the corn-monopoly. This is the radical evil which poisons the very root of our commercial prosperity. As the price of labour depends upon the price of bread, while the corn-laws continue, and the necessaries of life are two or three times dearer in England than in other countries, how can the British workman compete with the foreigner? The following remarks made by Mr. Baring in the
5 Edinburgh Review.
House of Commons, on the 24th of February last, ought to have sounded a knell to the consciences of that honourable assembly:
It was known that the seat of manufactures had several times been changed. It had gone from the Mediterranean to Holland; and after having been there for a long time established, the manufacturers were driven out of Holland by the tar upon bread. They had thence formed a station in England; and sure, if the same causes were allowed to prevail, the same results must ensue, and they must go to America, or some other country, where they could be carried on with comfort and prosperity. We were losing a little every now and then; and if the progress of our loss was not quickly and satisfactorily arrested, we should be left in the most miserable of all conditions,-that of a nation from which the wealth it once possessed had departed.
The reproach of leading us towards this lamentable result does not fall on Ministers, who are far superior in principles and integrity to the aristocratical assemblies of grain-monopolists by whom this country is ruled and brought to the brink of ruin. Though the Ministers had pledged themselves in this year to revise the corn-laws, yet knowing the corrupt influence which sends Members to Parliament, they cannot venture to interfere with this vital interest on the eve of a general election. With any new Parliament, as now chosen, they will most probably fail to effect any adequate amendment, but they have done what was practicable for the silk-manufacturers in giving them a protecting duty of thirty per cent., double the amount considered sufficient by a Committee of the House of Lords. Accordingly, after that Act had been passed, nearly two years ago, the silk-trade went on flourishing and extending with unprecedented rapidity, till within the last few months. The present distress of the silk-trade is therefore not justly attributable to Ministers, or to their recent measures regarding it, but rather to the general circumstances of the country, and the late financial difficulties which have affected it in common with every branch of trade in the kingdom.
How these general causes of national depression arising from the enormous public debt and establishments of this country, are to be removed, is a question of too great magnitude to be entered upon here. But something must be done to enable us to enter into fair competition with other nations, or the ultimate ruin of our commercial greatness is inevitable. For the silk-trade, however, there is one peculiar mode of relief within our reach, which we would particularly press on public attention. It consists in the facility with which we may supply ourselves with raw silk from our Indian possessions at a rate much cheaper than it can be produced in other countries, so as to give us an advantage over France and Italy in the very point where they have so long enjoyed a superiority. We need not be surprised to find that our backwardness in this respect, for so long a period, is owing to the cramping influence of the East India Company's monopoly, by which the inexhaustible resources of the finest countries of Asia have been so long shut up and lost to the world. The competition between the new and old Companies about the beginning of the eighteenth century
gave a great stimulus to the importation of silk; but this salutary impulse to the stream of commerce was speedily lost in the junction soon after formed between these two bodies, which restored the stagnation of monopoly. Seventy-three years after, the importation of raw silk from Bengal was only 145,777 lbs. annually. In the course of the next twenty years it rose gradually to above one million; but on the imposition of the duty of three shillings per lb. in 1787, it fell off again to about 263,000; and from that period to 1811, after great fluctuation, it hardly gained the point where it stood thirty-five years previous; while the importation from China had in the same time decreased more than one half. From 1786, while the importation of Italian and Turkey raw silk more than doubled under heavier duties, that of Bengal only increased about one fourth; that of China was diminished to one-third of its former amount. Since 1810, the opening of the trade to private enterprise having given a fresh stimulus to Eastern commerce, the importation of Benga aw silk rose in a few years to more than double; that of China to three times its former amount.
The Lords' report states, that the preparation of silk in Bengal was, for a long period, of the rudest kind, applicable here only to the inferior purposes, and in price bearing a proportion to that of Italian silk of about one-third to one half. Towards the year 1770, the Italian mode was introduced in Bengal, but the improvement was not for many years considerable, nor were the importations much or at least regularly increased till 1812. They have since not only been doubled, but with a corresponding improvement in the quality, some of which has been found fully equal to that produced in Italy; and the average difference of value between silks of comparative quality is stated to be not more than from five to ten per cent. The price of Italian silk is from thirteen shillings to twenty-six shillings per pound, exclusively of duty; that of Bengal, from twelve shillings to twenty-five shillings. But as only one crop of silk is obtained in Italy in the year, and two or three are produced in India, it is expected, "when the supply shall be better regulated, the Indian silk of equal quality will bear a still lower price than it now does, compared with the Italian." This improvement can only be expected from the effect of rivalry and competition; but, unfortunately, such salutary competition is precluded by the present system of governing India by a commercial monopoly. The Company's mode of conducting the trade with its commercial residents, armed with official authority and the weight of the public treasury, drives all private competition out of the field; since the private trader cannot contend successfully against agents of the Government, nor afford to make such large advances to the ryots, or Native husbandmen, employed to procure the raw material. But it is evident that if, with the Company's wasteful mode of conducting the trade, it can be carried on with advantage, the superior industry and economy of private enterprise would soon raise the manufacture to far greater perfection, and bring the silk into the British market on more moderate terms. Ministers, therefore, instead of merely requesting the Company, as they state having done to little purpose,
to extend its trade, should apply to them the only effectual stimulus— that of rivalry. To render this effectual, first, some district of Bengal, suitable to the cultivation of silk, should be permitted to the private adventurers, free from the competition of the Government agents in the same manufacture. Secondly, if it were found (as we have no doubt it would be) that the private trader could supply the British manufacturer at a rate considerably cheaper than the Company, its monopoly ought not to be allowed to stand any longer in the way of this great branch of national commerce, which affords bread to nearly half a million of British subjects. It is also the duty of the Board of Commissioners for the affairs of India to ascertain how far (from the mischievous union between trade and government) the silk manufacture of the Company is injurious to its territorial revenue, and to the improvement of its subjects. But whatever may be the effect of it in India, the ruinous consequences of such a monopoly on the trade of this country are very manifest. We here subjoin an abstract from M. Moreau's work, (which every British merchant and statesman ought to possess,) exhibiting the progress of trade in Bengal and China silks from 1786 to 1823; and the average increase or decrease of the amount imported and re-exported in successive periods of five years each :
From this it appears that the imports from Bengal and China, taken together, had little more than doubled since 1790; whereas, in the same period, the importation from Italy and Turkey rose from 875,418 lbs. to 3,841,579 lbs., or to nearly five-fold the former amount. Moreover, it appears that our exports of Bengal raw silk have fallen off more than one half; of China, more than ninety per cent.; a most conclusive proof that the Company, with its monopoly, and the aid of three crops in the year for one, with a boundless territory, of which it draws the rents as proprietor, and a population living at the rate of a penny or twopence a day, is totally unable to compete even with the Turks and Italians! If this system were done away, and the application of British skill and capital freely admitted to our Indian possessions, there is every reason to believe that silk might soon be poured into this country in such abundance, and on terms so moderate, as would enable us both to supply the rest of Europe with the raw material, and raise our silk manufacture to an eminence as unrivalled as any other branch of British trade has ever been. The natives of
India, who have been particularly distinguished in all ages for their superior success in the arts of spinning and weaving, might easily be taught to excel in a manufacture for which their soil and climate, and, according to some writers, the very texture of their minds as well as bodies, seem peculiarly to fit them. It would be making them some degree of just compensation for the loss of other branches of manufacture which have been ruined by the competition of British machinery; and it would afford some relief to the country, from which England extracts annually millions of tribute, to teach its naked and half-starved inhabitants how to produce commodities by which this perpetual drain on their wealth may be supplied.