HC Deb 25 June 1821 vol 5 cc1311-3

The House went into a committee on this bill. On its being resumed,

Mr. Bright

asked, whether the additional duty of 5s. which in the bill was to attach to clayed sugars from the East Indies, would attach to the sugars now imported from that quarter?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that in the opinion of the law officers, the sugars now imported from the East Indies were not clayed sugars. The duty was imposed as a protecting duty, in case clayed sugars should be imported from the East Indies.

Mr. Bright

said, that the sugars which were brought from the East Indies were to a certain degree refined; but there could be no process for refining sugars adopted in the West Indies, which did not subject them to an additional duty of 5s. per cwt. The measure by which the East India sugars were not charged with a proportional duty, was a measure of injustice to the old West India colonies in favour of the East Indies.

Mr. Hume

said, at present the East India sugars were charged with a duty of 10s. per cwt. to which the sugars of the West India colonies were not subjected. The people of England, who were thus compelled to buy their sugar at the worst market, had cause to be discontented rather than the West India planters.

Mr. W. Smith

asked, whether the additional sugar duties in the bill were continued for one year only?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said they were.

Mr. W. Smith

said it was not worth while now, when so little time remained for discussion, to oppose the continuance of the duties, but he hoped the subject would be taken into consideration at an earlier period of the next session.

Mr. Barham

said, that this country was bound to the West India colonies by good faith as well as policy. The West India colonies had the exclusive possession of the British market as matter of right, by a contract of deeds, as Mr. Fox observed in 1782, when the first attack was made upon the colonies, which was better than any contract of words. The colonies had given a valuable consideration for that possession, and they enjoyed it by virtue of acts of parliament, which was all that could be said even of the public creditor, to talk of touching whom was thought so dishonourable. The first attack made on the right of the colonies was in 1782, when lord Beauchamp proposed to allow the prize sugar to be introduced into the British market. That proposition, though it came strongly recommended by peculiar circumstances, was rejected. In 1792, an attack was again made, and now the East Indians, allied to a set of gentlemen whom he did not mean to treat with disrespect, but who were known by the name of "Saints," had renewed the attack upon their joint accounts. The assailants of the colonies talked of free trade, as if, in this country, every thing was not loaded with restrictions. The West Indian colonist was obliged, to sail in British ships, and to buy his lumber at a disadvantageous market; yet a complaint was made because he sought to have the exclusive possession of the British sugar market. But the colonists Were considered to labour under such imputations that they could not defend themselves. These imputations must be confined to the slave-trade, and the existence of slavery. As to the slave trade, it did not originate with the colonies; it was carried on before the colonies were formed. It was begun by queen Elizabeth, who carried it on on her own account, and in all subsequent reigns statutes were passed of the strongest encouragement to this traffic, till it rose to its height in 1730, when this country conquered and triumphed in the glorious Assiento Contract, by which we had the privilege of supplying 144,000 of the natives of Africa yearly, to the Spanish colonies. In 1765 the first effort was made to check the slave-trade; doubtless it would be supposed by some partisan of liberty in this country, or by some pious bishop. No! it was by the assembly of the Island of Jamaica. They passed an act greatly to limit the slave-trade; it was sent home for approval and rejected. In 1774, the assembly again passed the act, and sent home a deputation to argue the matter before the privy council; who, after hearing the argument, declared that they could not consent "to limit in any degree a traffic so beneficial to the nation." Yet a very few years after this, the nation had the duplicity to charge the colonies with the whole guilt of this traffic! As to slavery, its character was vanishing in the West Indies; and a change in the condition of the slaves was going on as rapidly as was consistent with their interests. The humanity of the gentlemen who made their attacks was local. In the West Indies they could not bear the sight of a whip, though it was never applied but to punish crimes; but in the East Indies they could bear the sight of hundreds of women roasting by a slow fire, and cried, "Do not let us say a word, for fear of the Brahmins."

Mr. J. Smith

contended against the proposition, that the West-India islands possessed a right to the exclusive monopoly of the English market.

Mr. Bernal

said, the question should be viewed as a whole. If the duties were proposed to be taken off the East India sugars, he should move to repeal all the restrictions on the trade of the West Indies.

The committee was ordered to sit again to-morrow.