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BOARD OF TRADE—History and Constitution.—By the Harbour Transfer Act, 1862, it is enacted for the purposes of that Act that " the term Board of Trade' shall be taken to mean the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for the time being appointed for the consideration of matters relating to trade and foreign plantations." The reader will probably at first sight conclude that this interpretation of the term is a special one, and is in no way indicative of the Board of Wrade as it exists and is known But though the interpretation is mainly for the purposes of the Act, it is interesting and instructive as being probably the first statutory or legislative recognition of a body bearing that name ; and what is perhaps more important, being a very succinct and correct definition. The Board of Trade exists in the eye of the public as a great and important Government department presided over by a president, and as such coming under Govern ment control. It is, however, in the eye of the law a committee, now more or less hypothetical, of the Privy Council, appointed to consider all matters relating to trade and foreign plantations—the latter term representing what are now known as the colonies—and is a continuation and development of the older Committee of Council for Trade. Being thus a committee of the Council, its president has no more exclusive authority than any other member of the committee, which includes to this day, amongst others, as members specially appointed to advise on matters of trade, the Archbishop of Canter bury, the Bishop of London, and the first Lord of the Admiralty. The constitution of the Board of Trade is peculiarly illustrative of the character istic constitution of our country. The above-mentioned three magnates, with a number of others, such as the Speaker of the House of Commons, are constitutionally equally entitled with the president to do the work done by the Board of Trade—but as a matter of fact they never interfere ; although, there being no quorum required, any one of them might do the work, and attempt to usurp the position of the president, which he himself has been able to maintain only through that same absence of quorum. But throughout the whole of our constitution these theoretical rights would avail their assertor very little, in view of the statutory and customary checks that have front time to time sprung into existence, many of which are unknown or forgotten. The president is a Cabinet M;nister, and is sworn into the Privy Council as President of the Committee of Council for Trade. The committee was founded in 1782, and was itself the successor of the older Commissioners of Trade and Plantations.

In 1832 was established the Statistical department ; in 1850 that for Railways ; in 1850 the Marine, which in 1866 was divided into Marine, Financial, and Harbour ; in 1883 the Bankruptcy ; and in 1886 the Fisheries. During this development of the functions of the Board of Trade there has been a corresponding change in the nature of its operations. As we have already seen, the Board originated as a merely consultative and advisory committee of the Privy Council, and so it continued until 1840.

In that year, coincident with the introduction of the railway system, was granted to the Board of Trade its power to settle and approve bye-laws, and to administer certain branches of the laws relating to trade and commercial enterprise ; thereupon, as these powers increased, its consultative and advisory function gradually decreased until, when its last client, the Foreign Office, established for itself a consulting department, it altogether ceased in 1872. From that date it has centred its efforts in the administration of the law and of trade regulations, and has merged its consultative and advisory functions into its own statistical and commercial department, for its own use.

Its Labour, and depart ment prepares, amongst other things, statistics, accounts, returns and abstracts of shipping, labour, railways, emigrations, tariffs, wages, the condition of labour, trades-uniens, and strikes. It also edits the Board of Trade Journal and Labour Gazette, wherein appears certain of the information acquired by the department, as well as trade notices of public importance, such as tariffs, and post-office and quarantine notices. The Railway department has very extensive duties. It overlooks and approves all the Ns orks of railways before they are opened to the public, holds inquiries into the causes of accidents, approves bye-laws, and grants certain certificates under private Railway Acts. Canals, steam tram ways, electric lighting, the patent office, and registration of joint-stock companies are also within this department. So also is the regulation of the rates and traffic of railways and canals. The Marine department enrols apprentices, engages and discharges seamen, examines offices of the mercantile marine, and grants certificates. It supervises the accommodation of seamen, their food, health, and discipline. It surveys and gives or refuses certificates as to the tonnage and construction of ships, cables, and anchors; regulates lights, signals, and codes; supervises all life-saving associations and apparatus, investigates wrecks, and inquires into charges of misconduct against officers; and generally advises and instructs in all marine matters the consuls, colonial officers, as well as, if necessary, the government offices. The Harbour depart ment watches the foreshores belonging to the Crown, and navigable harbours and channels ; enforces the Pilotage Acts, regulates the shipment of ex plosives, and settles bye-laws ; controls the lighthouse funds ; registers ships ; and examines and reports upon private bills as to their effect on naviga tion. The Finance department has charge of the funds and accounts of the Board of Trade and of certain other offices ; and the Fisheries department deals with matters relating to inland and sea fisheries, protects and preserves them, and has a care that foreign treaties @are carried out. The Bankruptcy department retains the staff of official receivers, and superintends them and their work. This department has also control over liquidators of insolvent companies, and trustees in bankruptcy and under private deeds of arrange ment.

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