2 JULY 1831, Page 15


THE resuscitation of the Budget, which is at hand, reminds us of one of the most unpopular of the taxes which it proposed to impose —we mean the tax on steam-vessels; and the contemplation of steam-vessels leads us to ponder on results, hitherto very imper- fectly developed, which an injudicious tax may delay. We are often dinned with the distresses of the Shipping interests. We are so, partly because the distress is real, but more because the com- plainers are numerous, combined, powerful; and their exaggerated statements and extravagant demands are pressed on the public with the effect that iteration seldom fails to produce. The cures which the advocates of the Shipping interests propose for the evils under which they are described as labouring, are of a very simple kind ; the prejudices to which they appeal are very deeply rooted. The last great stand which they made, our readers need not be reminded, was on the question of the equalization of the Timber- duties. The argument for the importation of bad Canadian tim- ber, in preference to good Baltic timber, is one which the Shipping interest has often urged—the voyage to Canada is five times as long as to the Baltic. If an advocate for long stages were to insist, that the only proper way to Greenwich was over Battersea Bridge, he would be laughed at by his own cad ; but when an Alderman shakes his head and tells the House of Commons that a voyage of Eve thousand miles is more advantageous than one of a thousand, instead of laughing, every member shakes a head in response, and looks as wise as if he were an Alderman also. How is it that men of common sense allow themselves to be bamboozled with so plain a question ? Nothing simpler. Shorten voyages, you diminish ships—diminish slips, you diminish sailors—and what then be- comes of the wooden walls of Old England ? Is any expense to be mentioned in the same day with the hazard of such a catastrophe as the downfal of the British Navy P—Nzisost!—Dukcarr HOWE I Throw millions into the sea—spend all you are worth, and mortgage the labour Of unborn generations, rather than put . your Hama superiority; in jeopardy. This appeal, we repiat,is:', never-failing ; but, though the appeal fails not, the Shipping in- terests do ; and all the clamour that they make can keep off for but a few years their inevitable destiny. The naval service, com- mercial and military, is in a transitive state. Steam is proceeding to drive out sails, as certainly, though, perhaps, not so com- pletely, as the jenny did the spinning-wheel. Vulcan is subverting the sovereignty of Eolus. Already, instead of the wet ship-boy on the high and giddy mast, we have the sweating stoker in the broiling hold; the engineer supplants the timoneer ; and cranks and pistons and paddles take the place of haulyards and braces and bowlines. The Shipping interests must be content to partake of the revolution which attends all mortal inventions. It is, even now, evident to all men, that how long or how obstinately soever the shipowners may cling to the old machinery, our naval marine,. in the event of a war, must be entirely remodelled. What would the San Josef have been worth against a steam-frigate,. or even a steam-sloop? And what prevents the building of steam-frigates, or of steam seventy-fours, but the maritime peace that everywhere prevails ? And if, in the event of another war, we must perforce have recourse to steam-ships, what is the value of the grand argument for forcing a generation of seamen by any expedient however clumsy or extravagant ? What comes of the appeal to the wooden walls ? Ministers may, doubtless, repress steam-vessels ; merchants may burden the community in order to maintain sailing-vessels. So might Ministers have re- pressed the beautiful but infinitely inferior inventions of ARK- WRIGHT ; and so might they have taxed the people of England for the benefit of distaffs; but the tide of improvement will not halt in the one case, any more than it would have halted in the other.