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to the Law of Shipping and Navigation.
Introduction liberty of the intercourse of nations throughout the world. Without our navy, would our West India Islands supply the colonial consumption of America, as British colonies, or as American appendages? Without our commerce, could we have supported such a contest, as that but recently determined, for the common liberty of the continent and ourselves?
Division of our
But, in the following Treatise on the Laws of Shipping and Navigation, it has occasionally become part of our duty to consider these questions as they arise; and, therefore, we shall here pass onwards to the more immediate subject matter of the present observations.
The object of our Navigation System is to promote the increase of British shipping, by securing the demand and employment of it.-Its means, to this end, may be distributed under the respective heads;-the Colonial Trade; the trade beyond Europe not being colonial; the European Trade; the Coasting Trade; the Fisheries; and the Regulations for ascertaining the ownership and built of English ships, or, in other words, the Registry Acts.
So long as the interests of our Naval strength required a rigid adherence to this system, and so long as our commerce, from its actual character, did not suffer a greater loss from these regulations, than the enforcement of them imparted good to our navy, our Navigation System was inflexibly maintained; and the objections of our merchants were answered with the just observation, that as our agriculture itself paid to our revenue, so our commerce and manufactures must contribute to our national defence; and that it was better to possess a less extensive commerce, and a perfect national defence, than a greater trade, and a less effective navy. But when the gradual consequences of this restrictive system had raised our navy to a degree of strength adequate to our relation with other nations, and the Navigation Laws had thus in a great degree accomplished their object, the government and legislature then availed themselves of the opportunity of making some concessions in favour of commerce. It is under this
to the Law of
change of circumstances, that our Navigation System has Introduction been from time to time relaxed and opened in favour of Shipping and Navigation. general trade. In the first Chapter of the following Treatise, in which the Navigation Laws are stated and discussed, we have pointed out the several changes and modifications which the system has recently undergone in all its branches. But, as the character of the body of our Work is too strictly legal to admit of any enlarged discussion of the political principles of the modifications of the Navigation System, our present purpose is to take a review of these gradual changes, and of that state of commercial and political relations under which they have originated.—In executing this inquiry, it will be necessary to take a view of our Navigation System as a whole, since the reason of the exceptions cannot be adequately understood without a deliberate attention to the nature and effects of the rule.
The first branch of our Navigation System respects Colonial trade. the colonial trade; and this trade was anciently regulated by three rules, the effect of which was to confine this trade to British ships and mariners, and to give us a monopoly, both as to receiving the produce of the colonists, and as to transmitting their supplies. By the first of these rules (a), no goods could be imported into, or exported from, any colony in Asia, Africa, or America, but in British built ships, owned by British subjects, and navigated by a master, and three-fourths at least of the mariners, British subjects. By the second rule, no sugar, tobacco, or other enumerated goods, of the growth or production of any British colony, in Asia, Africa, or America, could be exported to any place whatsoever, but to Great Britain or Ireland. And as the first rule required all the trade to be in British ships, and the second rule secured to us the monopoly of coloninl produce; so the third rule required that all the wants of the colonists should be supplied from Great Britain or Ireland only; this rule being in substance, that no European goods whatsoever
(e) 7 & 8 of W. 3. c. 22. and 12 Car. 2. c. 18.
Colonial trade. should be imported into the colonies, but direct from England or Ireland, and in British ships.
In the early state of our colonies, the monopoly of the mother country was very little felt. The demand of the home market was infinitely greater than the imperfect cultivation of the infant colonies could supply. Hence colonial produce procured as high a price as the colonists could desire. A larger market was not required for their exports. As little was it necessary to supply the limited wants of the new colonies. Under these circumstances, the double monopoly of the mother country, that of exports and imports, was in fact of little consequence to the colonies themselves. As far as respected every colonial interest, the effect of the colonial part of the Navigation System was almost a matter of indifference, whilst the monopoly in a great degree advanced and maintained the great public concern of our naval strength. Under this state of things, the government and legislature wisely adhered to a system, which contributed to the growth of our marine, whilst it impaired no visible good of our colonies.
But when the progress of our own colonies, and still more particularly the growth of all foreign settlements in the same seas, augmented the quantity of colonial produce beyond what was necessary for domestic supply; and when a competition arose between our own islands and those of foreigners, to supply the markets of Europe and the United States, another policy became manifestly necessary. Our colonial planters could not enter into competition on equal grounds with foreigners, so long as their produce was to be sent first to England, and by such means burthened with the double freight of a voyage to Europe, and thence perhaps to the United States. Such a restriction necessarily pressed heavily upon our colonists. The extended cultivation of the islands, and their larger produce in consequence, gave indeed to these planters something of the character and consideration of British agriculturists; and their condition under this increase was, that their produce was greater than they could sell within
the home market. It was therefore necessary for them to Colonial trɛde. have access to a foreign market; and it was equally necessary to satisfy the reasonable claims of friendly States, who remonstrated against a monopoly now no longer justified by the circumstances of the time. In order to afford this relaxation thus required on both sides, the British government first resorted to the intermediate system of free ports, under the effect of which the colonies were in some degree laid open to the American market. This proceeding satisfied all parties during the continuance of the long French war; and paved the way for that entirely new system, which the experience of all parties, and the liberal feelings and knowledge of the present day, induced our government to adopt.
This system was at length established by the 3 Geo. 4. c. 43. 3 Geo. 4. c. 44. and the 3 Geó. 4. c. 45., by which the West Indies are almost thrown open to the commerce of the United States, and are permitted to export their duce direct to foreign Europe; and by which the trade between the Spanish provinces and the British empire is put nearly upon the same ground with the trade between Great Britain and any other foreign independent state.
The colonial law of Great Britain is now comprehended in these acts. Under the construction of these statutes, the colonial commerce is divided into two main parts: the trade between British America and the West Indies, and Foreign America and the Foreign West Indies; and the trade between British America and the West Indies, and all other parts of the world.
The rules of the first branch of our colonial trade may be briefly stated as follows:-1. That certain ports and places, that is to say, the principal port in all our West Indian Islands, and the seats of government in our American states, are to be regarded as open ports for trade and commerce with Foreign America and the West Indies. 2. That certain goods enumerated in a schedule appended to 3 Geo. 4. c. 44. (and which schedule comprehends almost all raw materials) may be imported into
any of the said open ports in British vessels, or in foreign vessels of the place of growth, &c. manned and navigated according to law; and may be so imported from any foreign West India Island, from Spanish Royal America, from Spanish Independent America, or from the United States. 3. That from all the said open ports, and in vessels British or foreign, it is lawful to export all the produce of the islands, or of British America, directly to the United States, or any foreign West Indian Island, or to Spanish America. 4. That all articles legally imported into any British West Indian Island or plantation, or any of the enumerated articles, may be re-exported from one West Indian Island to another, or from one settlement to another, in British vessels, or may be re-exported for any part of the United Kingdom in Europe. 5. Arms and naval stores are excepted, unless upon licence granted.
The rules of the second branch of our colonial trade, that is, of the trade between British America and the West Indies, and other parts of the globe, may be stated, with equal brevity, to be as follow. 1. All the produce of the colonies, and all goods legally imported into them, may be exported direct to any foreign port in Europe or in Africa, in British built vessels, manned and navigated according to law. 2. The same produce, and in the same vessels (namely, British built, &c.) may be imported from the colonies to Gibraltar, Malta, or its dependencies, or to Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, or Sark 3. All the goods and commodities enumerated in a schedule appended to the 3 Geo. 4. c. 45., that is to say, almost all raw and unmanufactured goods, may be imported into the said colonies from any foreign port in Europe or Africa, or from Gibraltar, Malta, Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney or Sark, in any British bullt vessel, manned and navigated according to law.. 4. With respect to the East Indian Trade, it is expressly provided by treaty and Act of Parliament, that the citizens of the United States shall freely carry on a direct trade between America and the East Indies. 5. But that the United States shall not carry on