§ On the question that the Speaker leave the Chair for the House to go into Committee on this Bill.
§ Mr. Keith Douglas rose to bring forward 1318 the Motion of which he had given notice, He regretted that the noble Lord who had been so long the representative of Government in that House, had avoided every opportunity of making a general statement of the views of Government towards the West-India colonies, which were at present in a most depressed state; and he thought that the present proposition of the Government would only tend to increase their embarrassments. It was now for a long series of years that the colonies had had to contend against the greatest difficulties: and he thought, that unless the Government of this country was prepared to alleviate those difficulties, it should be prepared to absolve the colonies from their allegiance to this country, so as to allow them to place themselves, if they liked, in connexion with the United States; and, indeed, in his opinion, everything that had been lately taking place in the West-Indies appeared to be tending that way. What hopes could the West-India Colonies entertain from this country? The Government, which should at least have put prominently forward at the commencement of the present session of Parliament its intentions with respect to the West-India interests had contented itself with this measure, and seemed to forget the large claims which the colonies had on this country in consideration of the abolition of the slave-trade. While foreign colonies had the advantage of a continual series of fresh slaves imported into their markets, ours were obliged to get through the work with those who remained of former importations, so that the price of slaves was considerably higher, and the price of produce less than formerly. In 1814 sugar was 3l. per cwt.; in 1826 it fell to 32s., and at present the price was about 22s. per cwt. If the cost of importation, which was about 8s. 6d. per cwt., were deducted, it would be seen that the sum received by the planter was about 13s. 6d., or rather less than 1½d. per 1b., yet out of that, he was compelled to maintain the cultivation of his estate, to clothe and support the negroes employed on it, and to keep the machinery in repair. It required, however, more than this amount for mere necessaries, without making any allowance for the capital invested, and for the lands, stock, and buildings. This had been fully proved in a statement which had met the approbation of the Board of Trade, by which it appeared, 15s. 10d., as the expense of every 1319 cwt. of sugar produced, must be laid out to keep the estate in due and proper cultivation. This convincing statement however, had been taken no notice of by his Majesty's Government, further than to admit its correctness; but it gave no relief. In allowing the West-India colonies to sink into ruin, the Government was not only injuring those interests, but also inflicting considerable mischief on the manufactures of this country, which, for so long a time had found a market there; and yet, with all these considerations loudly demanding that our colonies should be; supported, nothing of late years had been done towards the amelioration of their condition, with the exception of a small remission of the duties on sugar. It was true, that when Lord Goderich was Chancellor of the Exchequer there was a show of doing something; but after all, that was only a statement of an act of intention, and nothing had in reality been accomplished. And, indeed, at the present time, the colonies were even worse off than formerly, for up to the year 1828, the colonist had received a drawback of 3s. per cwt., which had enabled him better to enter into competition with the foreign planter; since that period however, even that had been altered; and now the affairs of the colonies had arrived at so desperate a condition, that he did not hesitate to say, that one of the most imperative duties which were devolved on the present Government, was, to inquire how support might be afforded in that quarter, before it indeed became too late to do anything. But if the colonists were thus depressed in their sugar trade, neither were their interests better cared for in the rum trade, which, by the superior advantages allowed to Scotch and Irish whiskey, was unable to compete in the British market against those spirituous liquors. These, then, were some of the important grievances of which the colonies had to complain; and yet he found, that the only measure which the noble Lord had to propose this Session, which had reference to the West Indies, was this Sugar Refining Act. To such an Act he should at any time have objected, as being diametrically opposed to the West-India interests; but at the present time, more than any other, there were peculiar objections to it. Ever since the French Revolution of July, 1830, trade on the Continent had been in a very depressed condition, and England, 1320 among other countries, had felt that depression; the consequence was, that the manufactures of this country were lying on hand, and that the colonial articles of our produce were in the same state. If, then, we allowed foreign sugar to be brought here, and refined, and then sent back, the result would be (there being an overstock of the article on the Continent), that our colonists would be forced to reduce their price as low as the continental prices, to be able to compete with the supply from that quarter. Such a circumstance would confirm the ruin of the West-India Colonies; and he should therefore move, as an Amendment, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the statements, calculations, and explanations submitted to the Board of Trade, relating to the commercial, financial, and political state of the British West-India Colonies, and printed by the House of Commons on the 7th of February, 1831. And in the event of that Amendment being agreed to, he should take an opportunity in the Committee of bringing forward a set of Resolutions on the subject. It would be better for the Government to take an open course, and come to some settled determination as to the colonies; it would be better for the Government to say at once, we will provide for your interests, or at once to absolve the colonies from their allegiance, and allow them to seek protection from some other country. To that, he was afraid, it would come; and if the Government did not afford the colonies protection, they might be expected to throw off their allegiance. The hon. Member concluded by moving his proposed Amendment.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
hoped that the House would allow the Bill to go into a Committee, when he should be prepared to make a statement of what were the intentions of the Government, which could be conveniently made in the Committee, and for not making which the hon. Member seemed inclined to reproach his Majesty's Government. He was sorry the hon. Member had not chosen a better opportunity to make his statement; and that it was not a favourable one, the thin appearance of the House should have satisfied the hon. Member. 1321 He should have other opportunities of answering the hon. Gentleman, and should, therefore, decline following his statements. The hon. Member had, however, brought a charge against his Majesty's Government, as to the course it had pursued, and to that charge he would reply. The hon. Member complained that the Government had not taken those papers into consideration which the West-India interest had submitted to it; but the hon. Member forgot, that after those papers had been submitted to the Board of Trade by the West-Indians, there was a debate on the subject in that House. His noble friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) then offered to refer the whole matter to a Committee, but both the noble Lord, the member for Buckinghamshire, and the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, advised the West-Indians not to accept the offer, and declared that it was a matter which the Government ought to take up, and carry forward on its own responsibility. The Government had been pressed to afford relief, and it had done what it could; but it could not, by adopting the suggestions of the West-Indians, disregard all other interests. The Government had taken the subject into its consideration, and such relief as it could give, it had given, and further measures were still in contemplation. The charge was, that the Government had not attended to the suggestions of the West-Indians. The first of these was, that the duty on sugar should be reduced; but his noble friend had at once stated, that he could not concede to that proposition, on account of the state of the revenue. The next point was, to give them relief by enabling them to procure supplies at a cheaper rate. This had been done. The Intercourse Act had been passed, and relief had been afforded [no, no]. At least Government had done something to afford relief. The third suggestion was, to give a bounty on the exportation of refined sugar. He did not deny, that such a measure would give relief to the West-Indians, but it would injure the revenue, and increase the price to the consumer; and it was one which, he was sure, looking to the present state of public feeling, the Government could not successfully propose, nor the House receive with patience. It would not at present be borne that a tax should be levied on the people to pass directly into the pockets of the West-Indians, 1322 The hon. Gentleman said "No, no." How, then, would it operate? Would it not increase the price to the consumer, and would not the whole sum gained by the West-Indians come out of the pockets of the people? The Government was doing what it could to introduce molasses into the breweries, which was a means of giving relief. The whole charge against the Government fell to the ground. Why did the West-Indians not have the subject referred to a Committee above-stairs when it was offered? and why did they ask for a Committee of the whole House to examine a subject that required the closest and most minute investigation? It was impossible for a Committee of the whole House to examine documents, and have evidence before it to substantiate them; and quite impossible, therefore, that the Committee should be granted to the motion of the hon. Gentleman. The charge of the Government not sympathising with the West-Indians was not borne out by the facts. The Government had spared no labour to collect information, or to understand the subject, and it had spared no labour to ascertain what was the best course to adopt. That it had not succeeded to the hon. Gentleman's wishes was not surprising, for the West-Indians did not agree among themselves as to what they wished. The hon. Member opposed the Foreign Sugar Refining Bill, but he could bring several West-Indians, well acquainted with all the bearings of the question, who approved of it as a benefit to the colonies. Some Gentlemen thought the reduction of duty would be a great benefit, but he could find West-Indian planters who maintained that it would be no benefit at all. The whole subject of the colonies, particularly as they were referred to by the hon. Gentleman at the close of his speech, was so mixed up with very important political considerations, which it did not fall within his province to discuss, that he should think himself blameable if he entered further into the subject on such an important occasion, and in such a House. He admitted the great importance of the subject, but that was, in his opinion, a sufficient reason to regret that it had been discussed incidentally, when so few Members were present.
§ Colonel Torrens
did not conceive, that the bounty on exporting refined sugar was the only means which could be devised to give relief to the West-India 1323 interest. That body had a right, he thought, to complain of the Administration; and not merely of the present Administration, but of former Administrations. It might complain, too, of those who advocated its interest, for they appeared not to understand it. Both the causes of the distress, and the measures that would give relief, were more obvious than people generally supposed. The great cause of the distress was, that our colonies grew more sugar than could be consumed in this country: it was exported to the Continent, and the price at which the export sold, determined the price of all the sugar that was consumed at home. The instant the quantity sent to this country was more than could be consumed, and we were obliged to export it, that instant the price of sugar on the Continent determined the prices in our markets. But the sugar sent to the Continent was raised at a much lower rate than the sugar of our West-Indian colonies; thus the sugar of these colonies, raised at a greater cost, was actually sold for no more than what paid the cost of production of the sugar raised at a much less expense. At present the Legislature compelled the West-Indians to raise their sugar at the increased cost; at least, it augmented the difficulties of raising sugar in our own colonies, and this evil ought to be immediately obviated. If that were done, a considerable relief would be afforded to the West-Indians. The diminution of duty would not afford relief to any extent. If it did not so increase the home consumption as to leave none to export, he doubted whether it would do any good. The cost of raising sugar in the West Indies would be lowered by allowing them to get all their supplies free. The Legislature ought to take off the absurd restrictions on the trade of the colonies, and allow them to buy their timber, their lumber, their food, as cheap as they could. In fact, the West Indies were sacrificed most unjustly to the policy of supporting Canada, and the West Indies were taxed to enrich Canada. There was a system of continual protection; and in order to compensate the West Indies for the taxes levied on it in favouring of Canada, the East Indies were taxed. We had got into a vicious system of protecting all interests, one against another, and the consequence was, the general distress of all. They were all in distress. Why did not the House legislate on sound and simple principles 1324 and avoid those interferences with the great machine that kept up continual friction? After reducing all the duties on their supplies of lumber and food, and after allowing them to import their food from where they pleased, why should they not be permitted to refine the sugar they grow? Formerly several colonies had flourished by that process, and why should the Legislature refuse that benefit to the West-Indians? There was nothing but a miserable system of restrictions and protections, which were only obstructions; and it was time to allow the people to get what they could at the cheapest rate, and not increase distress by laying restrictions on their industry. Another cause of the great cost of the West-Indian sugar was, the putting an end to the importation of slaves into them, while the foreign sugar-growers had a free importation of slaves. The Government ought to use its exertions to put an end to the foreign slave-trade, and that would give relief to our own planters. As to the Bill under consideration, he thought the refining of foreign sugar in this country would do no good. That was the produce of slave labour; and we ought to discourage the consumption of sugar grown by slave-labour. The Government ought to settle a colony at Fernando Po, and make it a large dépôt: and from there we ought to send out agents up all the African rivers, endeavour to introduce commerce into every part of that continent, and convince the native chiefs that it would be for their interest to put an end to the slave-trade. If that were done, a considerable relief would be afforded to the West Indies, while the measure for refining foreign sugar would only have a tendency to encourage the foreign slave-trade. The Government ought to revise the whole West-India system, and legislate for the colonies on sound and simple principles.
§ Mr. George Robinson
thought his hon. friend, the member for Dumfriesshire, was justified in bringing on the discussion then, because no other time could be found for it, and it was difficult even then to attract attention to it. The hon. Member who spoke last, seemed to think it would be very easy to remedy all the evils of the colonies. He recommended the Government to adopt the system of free trade, and throw open our colonies to all the world. Before it did that, he would advise it to consider, as our colonies could be supplied 1325 cheaper from other countries than from our own, that it would transfer the whole commerce of those colonies to foreign countries, and transfer with it all the shipping now employed in the colonial trade. The hon. Member, he believed, was exceedingly mistaken. The measure of free trade had been tried, and had not answered expectations. It had failed to give relief to the West Indies. The markets there had been partially opened, and what was the consequence? Why, from having supplies from two sources, the market was uncertain, worse supplied than before, and prices were higher than before a direct trade was allowed to the United States. The West-Indians were not benefitted by this trade, because the United States would take nothing in return, and would be paid for their cargoes in specie. The hon. Member took, he thought, a superficial view, when he supposed, that by establishing a free trade in one country, he would necessarily produce a free trade in another. It would do no such thing, and his free trade scheme would be attended with none of the expected advantages, unless he could induce other nations to establish reciprocity treaties with us. If we were to equalize the duties in the West Indies on the commodities brought from our North American colonies, and from the United States, the consequence would be, that the whole benefit of the trade would belong to the United States, unless the Government first established a reciprocity treaty. By opening the trade to foreigners, we should only destroy our own colonial trade. He was sure, that the system recommended by the hon. member for Ashburton, would only deprive us of ships, colonies and commerce, or, at least, leave us the barren honour of possessing colonies, and the burthen of providing for their security, but would transfer all the substantial advantages of having colonies to other nations. The reduction of the duty on sugar—and it should be remembered that the present was a war duty, which the people were entitled to have repealed, and the Government was guilty of a breach of faith by not repealing it—the reduction of the duty would, by promoting consumption here, limit the surplus to be sent to the Continent, and raise the price, both there and here, and confer a great benefit on the West-Indians. If the Government withdrew its protection, from the colonies, 1326 it would be better at once to allow them to withdraw their allegiance, and seek protection elsewhere.
had expected to hear, but had not heard, some arguments from the hon. member for Worcester, to refute the statements of the hon. member for Ashburton. The hon. Member had contented himself with repeating his old assertions about the necessity and advantages of reciprocity treaties, and had not shown that the system recommended by the hon. Member opposite (Colonel Torrens) would be disadvantageous. He thought it was the duty of the Government to explain its views; and the hon. Member who spoke first had some reason to find fault with it for not having done so. The right hon. Gentleman had not understood that hon. Member, and the Government owed it to the West-Indians to give a further explanation. The Government ought also to grant a Committee of Inquiry; but the right hon. Gentleman wished to pass his Bill first, and inquire afterwards. There was a difference of opinion concerning the probable effect of this measure, and therefore it ought to be inquired into. He was not one of those, though he was friendly to the abolition of slavery, who was willing to ruin the West-Indians by a sudden emancipation. He wished to do justice, and the Government ought to do justice. The reduction of the duty on sugar was due to all parties; and he believed it would have a most beneficial effect. If the war duty were taken off, the consumption would be much increased, and the West-Indians benefitted as well as the consumers. After that, the Navigation Acts ought to be modified, and the West-Indians allowed to provide themselves with provisions and timber, from what quarters they pleased, and they, of course, would provide for themselves as cheaply as possible. Government ought also to demand the fulfillment of those treaties relative to the abolition of the foreign slave trade we had purchased at a high price. At present the foreigner purchased a slave for 40l. while our planters must pay 80l. In the foreign colonies fifty slaves out of the hundred were workers, while in our colonies there were not above thirty-five out of the hundred. It was impossible that our planters could compete against the foreign planter under such disadvantages. The hon. member for Worcester said, that the Intercourse Act had done no good; but he had received 1327 a letter from Trinidad that day, which gave a different account. The barrel of flour, which had cost twenty dollars, now cost sixteen dollars; and at the same time the barrel of flour bonded at Liverpool, cost only 1l. 17s.; and what prevented that from being sent, for the voyage was only, as it were, a few days, to where it was worth 3l. 4s.? The Government ought to allow a perfectly free importation of food into the colonies, and it ought to put an end to the foreign slave-trade. It ought to send a number of steam-boats off the coast of Africa, and follow the advice which men well acquainted with the matter had given, and which was to be found in papers on the Table. If Africa ever could be civilized, it was by means of commerce. They ought, therefore, to endeavour to extend it by means of the establishments in Fernando Po, and by forming new ones in the Bight of Benin, in which neighbourhood the slave-trade was carried on to the greatest extent. It was clear to demonstration, that, when commercial relations had been established with the chiefs along the coast, and they had become aware, that it was for their interest to provide those commodities which were the produce of their own soils, for trading, they would do so, and give up slave-dealing. He had seen a letter from a merchant settled on that coast, in which he stated the means which he had adopted to induce some of the African chiefs to abandon the slave-trade. He asked one of these men how much he got by the sale of each slave, and he was informed, between three and four dollars. The merchant then proved to the satisfaction of the chief, that he would get much more by employing these slaves to procure palm oil. The result was, that the African abandoned the slave-trade, and carried on a trade in the produce of his country. This plan ought to be generally pursued; for he thought that nothing was more certain than, that commerce had done more to civilize the world than all other means put together. It was very fine to talk of the glory and splendor of military achievements, but they all sunk into insignificance when compared with the blessings which commerce had bestowed upon the world. The means at present adopted to put down the trade were, in his opinion, decidedly inefficient. A few English ships were stationed along the coast, and they were not empowered to seize a ship unless it had slaves on board; but above all, the 1328 system must be defective as long as a premium was given to the British seamen for the slaves captured: as long as this custom continued, it was not to be expected that they would be disposed to employ great zeal in completely destroying the slave-trade. What had been done hitherto to put an end to this disgraceful traffic, had cost this country between 200,000l. and 300,000l. a-year, together with a great waste of life. He would undertake to say, that with half this annual expenditure, if proper steps were taken, the object would be attained. He had reason to believe, that the slave-trade was at this moment carried on to a greater extent than it ever was before. The waste of human life in the foreign slave colonies was almost beyond belief. In the Island of Cuba a slave could be purchased for 10l., and the price for the best negroes never exceeded 40l. The proprietors found it cheaper to overwork their slaves for four or five years, and then leave them to perish—than to take care of those they might have. Thus all the worst practices which ever were carried on in slave colonies, were continued to a greater extent than ever, in the foreign colonies in the West Indies, in addition to the great sacrifice of life that resulted from the manner in which the slaves were necessarily conveyed from the coast of Africa to the places of their destination. In addition to the justice due to our own colonies, every feeling of humanity should prompt us to exert all our energies for the destruction of the slave-trade. He trusted, that this would be done, and that a more enlightened system of commercial policy would be pursued towards our colonies than had hitherto been witnessed. He hoped Government would abandon the absurd course of holding out threats to the colonies, which could be productive of no good, and only served to irritate the minds of the parties interested. With respect to the question of the Sugar Refining Act, he thought an opportunity should be afforded the West-Indian colonists to make out their case as they said they could do; and prove that the foreign sugar which was brought to this country to be refined, found its way into the British market. If nothing else were done, care ought to be taken to insure the exportation of the same quantity of refined sugar as had been imported in a raw state. He had always been the advocate of the 1329 complete removal of all restrictions on our commerce, and contended that a perfect competition should exist; but he could not concur in putting the sugars produced in those countries which at present carried on the slave-trade, on an equality with sugars brought from our own colonies. He did not know whether the documents that the hon. Member proposed to refer to the Committee were fit and proper documents to found an inquiry upon, but he was satisfied, that some investigation should be gone into on the subject. He should, therefore, give his cordial support to the Amendment.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the honourable Member seemed, from the nature of his observations, to have misunderstood the question before the House. That question was merely, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee on the Sugar Refining Act, and on that Motion the hon. member for Dumfries (Mr. Keith Douglas) had moved, as an Amendment, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the satements, calculations, and explanations, submitted to the Board of Trade, relating to the commercial, financial, and political state of the British West-India colonies. That Motion, if carried, would not, however, it should be recollected, effect the object the hon. member for Dumfries had in view, because it could not give any of that relief which the West-India interest demanded. He had himself proposed to the Gentlemen connected with the West Indies, to grant an inquiry; but the answer then was, that they could not accept it, because it would merely create delay. All was known, they said, that it was necessary to know. The distress was plainly overwhelming, and required prompt and immediate relief. The question had since been thoroughly investigated before the Board of Trade, and he was of opinion, from all he had heard, that the only substantial relief the West-Indians could look forward to, without a material injury to the interests of the mother country, would be found in a bounty on the exportation of sugar, and in the effectual putting down of the foreign Slave-trade. As long as the supply of sugar continued more than equal to the demand of this country, it was obvious that the price could not be affected by any thing but the increase of the quantity sent to the foreign market, and to 1330 that the West-Indians must look for relief. He was quite ready to admit, that the British West-Indies were entitled to the entire and complete monopoly of the home market, and the effect of the measure now before the House would be, he believed, to make that monopoly more secure; any plan for the admission of foreign sugar, although refined, should not leave that object unsecured. He must candidly admit, however, with respect to the facts brought forward on the subject, that they did not leave the question wholly without doubt. The Government was not altogether satisfied, and it was for that reason he proposed that the Act should be in force but one year, in order that they might be able to acquire further knowledge by the experiment. It was, in his opinion, quite clear that the West-Indians could not hope for relief from anything but a reduction of the quantity of sugar brought to market; and he did not think that the reduction of the duty would produce any material effect in that way, while it must be accompanied by a material diminution of revenue. With respect to the refining of sugar by the West-Indians themselves, he had no objection; but when an offer of that kind was made to them, they replied, the construction of machinery for that purpose, after so long a prohibition, would be so expensive, that they could not hope to receive any relief from a permission to refine. The noble Lord concluded by observing, that he agreed with the hon. member for Middlesex, in his expressions of abhorrence of the continuance of the Slave-trade by foreign Powers; but, he trusted, that the negotiations which were now going on would terminate in the entire destruction of a traffic so disgraceful to humanity.
§ Mr. Burge
contended, that the measure now proposed would be a boon to the foreign Slave-trader, and that Government were guilty of the gross inconsistency of professing to desire the termination of Slavery, and yet at the same time encouraging, by every means in their power, the productions of those colonies where the Slave-trade was carried on to the manifest injury of our own colonies, where it was wholly prohibited. He challenged the Government, or any Member of that House, to point out a single instance of the violation of the orders of the Legislature by the West-Indians since the passing of the Act 1331 which prohibited the continuance of the Slave-trade; and yet, at the present moment, and for many years past, the Slave-trade had been carried on to an extent greater than ever by France and all the countries which professed to have abandoned it. By them it was carried on in a more revolting manner than ever. England's endeavouring to suppress it had been answered by strong declarations indeed, but not by any efficacious acts. Some of the foreign Powers said, they would concur in putting an end to a scourge which had so long desolated Africa, degraded Europe, and afflicted humanity. The three great colonial Powers in Europe—France, Spain, and Portugal, whose concurrence was the most essential—withheld it. But the House should be aware of the means by which Great Britain proposed to the other powers of Europe—and in which they joined—to coerce France, Spain, and Portugal, into the abolition of the Slave-trade. The late Lord Londonderry, in a despatch to the Duke of Wellington, then at Paris, urged a declaration on the part of all those powers, concurring in the abolition of the Slave-trade, that they would prohibit the consumption, in their territories, of the colonial produce of such of the Powers who still continued to carryon the trade. The expediency of enforcing such a prohibition was again urged by Mr. Canning, and formed the subject of a renewed declaration at the Congress of Verona, on the part of Austria, Russia, and Prussia. This country had hitherto, except in passing the Sugar Refining Act in 1828, with perfect sincerity and fidelity, acted on the principles she professed. Her colonists had most religiously observed the enactments of her Statutes for the abolition of the trade. Not an instance had occurred on their part of a violation of them. A case occurred in Jamaica, strongly illustrative of the truth of his assertion. It was the only case that ever occurred in that island of an attempt to import slaves after the passing of the Abolition Acts. In 1817 a person who was proved, on his trial, to be an entire stranger to the island, with no acquaintance or connexion in it, arrived at a remote part of the coast, in a vessel with some Africans on board. He went ashore and the very first person to whom he offered these Africans for sale immediately proceeded to a Magistrate, and lodged an information against the Captain, which was 1332 immediately transmitted to him (Mr. Burge) as Attorney General. In three weeks this slave-dealer was prosecuted, brought to trial, convicted, and on his way to the place to which he had been transported, the utmost term of years which the Statute authorized. The mate and others of the crew who were amenable to the law, were brought to trial and sentenced to such punishments as the Statute authorized, and the vessel and Africans were condemned to the Crown. Far different had been the conduct of the other Powers of Europe. Notwithstanding the professions and public declarations of Russia, the principle of her tariff went to encourage the importation into her dominions of sugar the growth of slave-trading colonies, and to exclude that of Britsh colonies. A similar complaint might be made against Austria and Prussia. Although, after long and repeated negotiations, France, Spain, and Portugal, as well as the government of Brazils, adopted measures for abolishing this trade; yet, in direct opposition to those measures, they still continued to carry it on to an extent, and under circumstances, the narration of which, in this age, one could scarcely credit, if papers on the Table of that House did not afford the most abundant proof of it. First, with respect to France. Between the 23rd of August, 1826, and the following 23rd of November, no less than eleven French vessels were fallen in with, having on board 2,577 slaves. Commodore Bullen, in his despatch of the 26th of that month, said, that three-fourths of the Slave-trade were carried on under the flag of France. In the private correspondence of the French merchants, dated in 1826, found on board the slave-trading vessels, proofs would be found of the security with which this trade might be carried on. These unhappy persons were, in the slang language adopted for the purpose of concealing the traffic called 'logs of ebony.' It further appeared, from the papers before the House, that from the 1st of June, 1827, to the 4th of December of that year, twelve slave-ships, and from the 1st of January to the 14th of May, 1828, eight slave-ships had been spoken with. Between the 4th of November, 1828, and the 5th of January, 1829, no fewer than 1,721 slaves were publicly landed in Guadaloupe. In 1828, 5,000 slaves were imported into Martinique. In 1829, the Neirsée or Estafette, a French 1333 ship with 289 slaves on board, was captured by his Majesty's ship Eden. The crew rose on the prize-master, and forcibly took possession, and carried her with the slaves into Guadaloupe. It was not until after strong remonstrances on the part of the governor of Dominica and Admiral Fleming to the governor of Guadaloupe, that they were given up. The Admiral, in his despatches, expressed a decided opinion that this trade was carried on with the perfect concurrence of the governments of those places. Thus, then, France, notwithstanding her municipal regulations, which, if they were honestly enforced, would put down this trade, had carried it on to an enormous extent. The consequence of this great increase of slave labour had been an immense increase in the quantity of her colonial produce. That country, too, took care of her colonists, and secured to colonial produce full protection; she did not allow the produce of other colonies to come in competition with that of her own colonies. She not only, by high duties prohibited the importation of the sugar of British colonies, but allowed a protecting duty to the export of the sugars of her refineries; whilst our policy, with a chivalrous generosity which excited the ridicule and contempt of every foreign State, tended to sacrifice our own interests to those of foreigners. France had the wisdom and the justice to make her own interests and that of her colonists the first and exclusive object of her care. He wished England would follow her example, instead of gratuitously giving to other nations those advantages which ought to be reserved for ourselves. With respect to Spain, the papers on the Table exhibited a still more appalling picture of guilt on the part of her subjects, and of perfidy or indifference on the part of her government. Between the years 1811 and 1820, there were imported and sold at the Custom-house of Havannah, 116,000 slaves. In the subsequent five years, after the trade had been declared illegal by Spain, there were 69,000 slaves imported there. Thus it would be seen that the average importation, whilst the trade was legal, was 11,000 in each year; and during the five years when the importation was illegal, the average annual importation was 13,000. In the Brazils, a corresponding increase in the importation of slaves would be found. There were imported into Rio Janeiro, between the 1334 1st of July and the 31st of December, 1827, 15,481 slaves; from the 1st of January to the 31st of March, 1828, 15,483. Into Maranham, for the year ending the 31st of December, 1827, there were imported 1,917. Into Rio Janeiro, in 1828, between the 1st of July and the 1st of September, 7,582; and between the 1st of October and the 31st of December, 16,906. From the 1st of January to the 30th of June, 1829, there were imported into Rio Janeiro, 25,179, of whom 2,236 died, so that there had been in nine months imported into Rio Janeiro 30,964, not including those imported into the ports of Bahia and Maranham. Since 1815 there had been an average annual importation of 30,000 slaves into Brazil, which had actually imported no less than 390,000 Africans; and the total number imported into the colonies of France, Spain, and Portugal, was 680,000. The House would be mistaken if it supposed that even this frightful number of 680,000, imported into the Havannah and Brazils between 1815 and 1829, constituted the total number of unhappy beings torn from their family and country. What would the House think when they learned that, in addition to this number, there were, between 1824 and 1827, 10,814 slaves captured by British cruisers, and afterwards restored to freedom? During their voyage, the most dreadful mortality prevailed, induced entirely by the confined and narrow space allotted to these unhappy beings on shipboard, and by the other means resorted to for carrying on this trade with the least possible risk of capture. Without giving in detail, as he might do, the numbers dying during the voyage, he would state one fact which was alleged in a petition presented to the Chamber of Deputies in France—that captains of slave-ships annually threw overboard 3,000 negroes, more than one half of whom were sacrificed alive. The Brazilian and Cuban, as well as the French colonists, had thus been enabled to increase the cultivation and manufacture of sugar, to an extent which had necessarily added to the distress of the British colonist, by the increased quantity of produce he had to encounter in the foreign market. But this was only a part of the evil which was inflicted on our own colonists. The Brazilian and Cuban colonist could purchase, by means of this abominable traffic, a slave at 40l.; whilst 1335 the British colonist could not rear his slave from infancy to manhood at a less price than 85l. In the British colonies, the number of slaves, whose labour was made available in the great gang, was from 34 to 35 in 100—while in Cuba they were from 50 to 55 in 100; of those generally considered working people, but not in the great gang, or in respect of whom the returns of labour exceeded the cost of maintenance, the proportion in the British colonies might be taken at 45 in 100. In Cuba the number was 65 in 100. If to this were added the increased expense to the British planter occasioned by his humane treatment of his slaves—by the laws of amelioration which were in force; the expenses of medical attendance, of clothing, and allowances of moral and religious instruction—of registration, as well as various other charges, and of the higher salaries paid to white men—it would be found, that the foreign colonist could raise his produce at less than half what it cost the British colonist to bring his produce to market. In addition to this, it had been truly stated, that the foreign slave-trading colonist found a double advantage in meeting the competition of the British colonial surplus in this country rather than in the continental markets, because, besides the advantages already stated, he also obtained the benefit, be it more or less, of the British drawback, which was allowed for the express purpose of enabling the British colonist to meet his competitor in the foreign market upon fair terms. One or other of these two results must follow—that the foreigner thus obtained a large share of the drawback intended for the British colonist, for whose protection and encouragement it could alone Justifiably be given; or else that the British Exchequer must lose that amount of drawback to the extent of the foreign produce introduced. But they had been told, that the British West India colonies had lately gained a very considerable advantage by the relaxation of the restrictions upon their intercourse with the United States. Unfortunately, however, the great impolicy of those restrictions was continued too long to allow the West-India interests to reap that advantage from the removal of them which they might have expected, had it taken place sooner. He did not say this with a view of casting any blame upon his Majesty's present Ministers, for it was to be attributed 1336 to those who preceded them. This mistaken policy had been too long continued. The trade had passed away into other channels, and could now never be regained. The United States, excluded by our prohibitory system from our colonies, had begun to look within themselves for those productions which they had before received from us. They encouraged the cultivation of sugar and rum in the State of Louisiana, and had now the means of procuring both those articles in such quantities as to become almost altogether independent of us. The quantity which they did require they took from Cuba. Formerly North America had taken our rum and sugar—in exchange for which she had given us slaves and lumber; she now sold us the same articles, but, not wanting our produce in return, she demanded hard dollars. Many other instances of the same sort might be quoted where the injurious system had been discontinued too late to remedy the evil. So in Jamaica, the cultivation of cotton and indigo was done away with in consequence of the high duties. The great misfortune of the West-India colonies had been this;—that no change in the British policy had been made until circumstances had occurred, in which that change could be of no benefit. Of late years, our West-India colonies seemed to have been regarded only as they could be made to contribute to the coffers of the Exchequer, and to know and feel their relation to the parent State only in the burthens to which it subjected them, and the dangers to which it exposed their property, in consequence of the sanction which was given to plans, and schemes, and principles invading the very title under which that property was held. They had not the same consideration bestowed on them as any other branch of agriculture or commerce. They were the only class of his Majesty's subjects to whom peace had not brought any alleviation of the burthens imposed on them for the purposes of war, and which they had been assured should end with the termination of war; and yet, amidst all this protracted and accumulated distress, they had remained distinguished for their loyal and devoted attachment to this country. He could assure the House that he would not address to it the language of menace, but he could not disguise from himself, that the policy adopted towards our colonists would compel them to ask, that if they were 1337 no longer valued—if, in the folly and madness of modern political economy, they were considered as a burthen, in God's name let that connexion be dissolved. If it was not to be the means of their protection, let it not be rendered the means of their destruction; let them protect themselves, or obtain protection from those who know their value. This was not the first time he had addressed such language to his Majesty's Ministers. How different an estimate did the statesmen of other days form of these colonial possessions? They seemed to have been desirous of recording their sense of the importance which Great Britain ought to attach to her colonies; for there was scarcely a Statute, commencing with the act of trade, in which a preamble, eloquently and warmly boasting of the advantages of her connexion with them, would not be found. But if, wiser than our ancestors, we would renounce these advantages, or did no longer estimate them, or, if we were disposed to give to foreigners the benefits to which our colonists alone were entitled—if we no longer thought them of sufficient importance to receive exclusive protection at our hands, then common justice and common fairness required us to say to them—"Seek from some other Power that protection which it is no longer our interest or our inclination to afford you." His complaint was not against the present Ministers alone, but he complained of the whole policy, which, for years past, had been pursued towards our colonies. Let not the present Ministers persevere in it by the adoption of the proposed measure. It had been said in the course of this discussion, that the relief to the colonists to which they ought to confine themselves was that of a reduction of the high duties on sugar. They had urged their claim to it in vain, and yet it could not be denied that such a reduction, whilst it would have saved them from their deplorable condition, would not have caused such a diminution of revenue as could justify the Government in refusing it. The effect of a reduction of the duty on coffee had been seen. In 1807, when the duty on that article was 2s. 2d. per lb., the consumption was 1,064,000 lbs., and the amount received by the Exchequer was 119,500l.; in 1808, when the duty was reduced to 7d., the consumption was 9,000,000 lbs., and the revenue obtained 270,796l.; in 1830 the consumption was nearly 1338 22,000,000 lbs. weight, and the revenue received 579,363l. 10s. 7d. A similar increase in the consumption of sugar would take place if there were a similar reduction of the duty on that article. When the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed, in the late Parliament, that such of the colonies as would adopt certain speculative schemes, in relation to the slave-population, should obtain a reduction of duty which should be withheld from such of the colonies as did not adopt those plans, he admitted the extent of the relief which a reduction would afford, and that such a reduction could also be granted consistently with a regard to the other interests of the empire. But his Majesty's Government ought not to annex a condition to the concession of that to which the colonists were absolutely entitled, and still less, a condition which would not merely render the concession itself perfectly fruitless, but invade the very title on which colonial property was held. It was pretended, that the importation of Brazilian and Cuban sugar, for the purpose of refining only, and to be again exported, did not encourage the foreign slave-trade. He answered this by asking this plain question, whether the Brazilian or Cuban would send his sugar to this country if it were not for his advantage? He found that advantage in British capital and British credit. The advantage thus afforded him, encouraged him to extend his cultivation by those means which would afford him the greatest profit, and subject him to the least expense, and those means were derived to him by the importation of Africans—by the continuance of the infamous slave traffic. He could not understand how such a measure as the present could be passed, without doing that which the Abolition Laws had directly prohibited. By those laws, British subjects were prohibited, under the heaviest penalties, from advancing their money to assist in the prosecution of the slave-trade. No British subject should do that which might encourage its continuance. By the Sugar Refining Act, the Legislature itself would afford that encouragement. In fact, since its first enactment in 1828, the importation of Brazilian and Cuban sugar into this country had much augmented. The Act, therefore, encouraged the slave-grown sugar, and encouraged the foreign slave-trade, and he trusted that the West-Indians 1339 would, on this ground, be supported by all those who were averse from slavery. His object was, to have the subject of this Act alone referred to a Select Committee, and he, therefore, would recommend his hon. friend to withdraw his amendment, for the purpose of substituting one which he (Mr. Burge) would, in that case, move, namely, that the Foreign Sugar Refining Act be referred to the consideration of a Select Committee, for the purpose of inquiring how far it could be renewed with a due regard to the interests of our West-India colonies.
Mr. Keith Douglas
said, he would adopt the suggestion of his hon. and learned friend. His only object in submitting the Amendment was, to bring the matter fully under consideration; if that object could be better attained, and he was ready to admit it might be, by the Amendment proposed by his hon. and learned friend, he was perfectly ready to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Mr. Burge moved, as an Amendment on the original motion, "that a Select Committee be appointed to examine and report how far the Foreign Sugar Refining Act may be carried into effect, with a due regard to the interests of the West-India Colonies."
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, as the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had, by moving another Amendment, brought the subject of the Sugar Refining Bill fairly under the consideration of the House, he should avail himself of the optunity to explain the nature of the measure, which, out of deference to the House, he had declined doing in the early part of the evening, whilst the much wider and more general subject—the whole question of the commercial condition of the West Indies—had been involved in the Amendment first moved by the hon. member for Dumfries. He thought, indeed, that he had fully explained, that he had purposely declined entering into this particular measure when first he addressed the House, and therefore he had good right to complain of the extraordinary speech of the hon. member for Middlesex, who charged him with calling upon the House to consent to a plan which he was pleased to say would inflict serious injury on the West Indies, without having assigned any grounds for giving the sanction. That hon. Gentleman was, indeed, 1340 singularly infelicitous in his observations; for not only had he shewn that he knew nothing of the nature of the subject under discussion—not only had he chosen to pass censure on a measure of which he could know nothing until it was explained—but he had been actually ignorant of what the motion was before the House, and upon which the hon. Gentleman was prepared, as he said, to vote; for the hon. Gentleman said, that he wished for a Committee to examine the details of this intricate subject—to sift the bearings, and to examine the facts; an examination, proper or improper, which could only be conducted in a Committee up-stairs, such as had been called for by the hon. member for Eye (Mr. Burge); and yet he supported the motion of the hon. member for Dumfries, for a Committee of the whole House, which he ought to know would entirely put an end to any such inquiry. But he left it to the hon. member for Middlesex and his new friends to reconcile all these inconsistencies, and he should pass at once to the subject which was now really before the House. In the first place, he should wish, however, to explain the cause of the delay which had taken place in the introduction of this measure, because an argument had been founded upon it, which was most unjust to the parties interested; for it had been said, that, however this Act, for the renewal of which he should move, had been suffered to expire, the subject should be treated as a new one. He particularly addressed himself to the hon. member for Eye. He said, that no claim could be set up on the part of the refiners—that they had entered into engagements on the understanding that the Act would be renewed, because it was suffered to lapse. He would tell the House—for the hon. Member himself must know it, from the communications he had had with him—what was the case. The subject was fully considered very early in the year. What had been advanced by the West-Indian interest against the renewal of the Act, received equal consideration with the arguments which were advanced by the refiners; and the result of the whole was, that early in the year, before the end of the last Parliament, his Majesty's Government was prepared to introduce an Act for the renewal of this measure, and the parties interested were informed that such was its intention. The dissolution of Parliament, of course, 1341 prevented the introduction of that measure, but at the opening of this Parliament, the Bill was again prepared, and was ready to be introduced. It would have been introduced in the latter end of June, the Act expiring on the 5th of July; but on the 1st or 2nd of July, three or four days before the Act actually expired, representations were made by different gentlemen connected with the West-Indian interests, both in London and Liverpool—not again controverting the principle of the measure, not again bringing up the old arguments against the principle of the Act—but stating, that in the full practical operation of the law, there existed great frauds, and that not only the West-Indian interests, but those of the revenue, were seriously injured by the system. Under these circumstances, of course, it became the duty of his Majesty's Government, seriously to inquire into the existence of these alleged frauds, and in consequence, an active inquiry was immediately set on foot, both at Liverpool and the Custom-house in London. The West-Indians were again heard on several occasions. The statements of the West-India merchants, both in London and Liverpool, were fully examined: and the facts they brought forward were inquired into. The allegations of fraud in the Custom-house were minutely examined and reported on; and the result was, that Government still adhered to the measure which they proposed to introduce, finding that those assertions, as far as they could examine them, were not based in fact—he meant the assertions of fraud; and, of course, the present measure was the same as that originally introduced. This, then, was the cause of the delay which had taken place; and would it not be very hard now if, because the Government were induced to pause, in order to institute this inquiry, they who were inclined to oppose this Bill were to turn round and say, "the Act is very different to what it originally was—it is an entirely new measure—and one which you have no right to call upon the House to pass as a renewal of the former Act?" So much for the delay! He would then address himself very shortly to the nature of the proposal itself. He was compelled to own, that when he heard of the extraordinary ferment which this measure was said to have caused among the West-Indian interests—when he heard the various statements which had been set afloat 1342 —when he saw statements bandied about of a most extraordinary description (one of which was put into his hands just before he came there that night), in which they were told that this measure was to be the utter destruction of the colonies—and when Gentlemen were requested to come down that evening in order to prevent the utter ruin—(for that was the expression) of the West-Indian interests, he felt surprised, knowing as he did that this measure had been introduced successively, year after year, with so little remark—with so little observation—that in those records which remained of what passed in that House, he could not find, that more than a single, if, indeed, one single—observation, had been made upon the subject at any time. When he found, therefore, that this measure had been year after year introduced and passed, almost sub silentio—when he found that this had been done, not by one Government only, but by three successive Governments—he must own he was a little astonished at the sudden outcry which was now raised against this enactment. He lamented that so much exaggeration had gone abroad, because he was satisfied that exaggeration never could advance or assist any cause whatever. The history of the measure was shortly this: for many years there had been a complaint on the part of the refiners—of London especially—that at certain periods of the year their works were stopped, because there was a very inadequate supply of West-India sugar before the arrival of the Spring vessels in February and March. Before the West-India vessels came in, so small was the quantity of West-India sugar imported, that they, the refiners, were obliged to stop their works for a time, which naturally put them to great inconvenience and expense, because the price of sugar for a moment rose, and the quality became of a kind which did not suit them. This circumstance attracted the attention of Mr. Huskisson, as it had that of former Governments; and in 1827, he passed an Order of Council by which he admitted, for a certain time, foreign sugar. On a further consideration of the subject—not with a view generally to the advantage of particular individuals, but with a view of benefitting the refining trade—an Act was introduced, founded on the principles of the Order in Council of 1827. That Act, which was nearly the same as that he now proposed to introduce, 1343 was brought forward by Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, who was then President of the Board of Trade. In 1829 it was again introduced, and passed without observation. In 1830 the Act was again introduced, and again a little altered, with the view, which had always been entertained, of increasing, rather than diminishing, the facilities of refining. It was then, also, carried after very little observation. He confessed he should have thought that an Act so introduced, by three different individuals under two different Governments, might have been again carried into effect—perhaps with opposition—perhaps with some discussion—but certainly without exciting all the attention or animadversion which it now appeared to have done. What was the principle of this Act? The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had assumed that it was even deeply injurious to the West-Indians; he had, indeed, only followed the hon. member for Middlesex, who had gone much beyond him; for, knowing nothing of the proposal of his Majesty's Government—unacquainted entirely with any of the details of the measure—he had not only asserted that it would be injurious to the West-India interests—but he had actually stated by how many shillings a cwt. this measure, of which he was utterly ignorant, would injure the trade. The hon. Gentleman had also stated—he did not allude to the hon. member for Middlesex, but to the hon. Gentleman who spoke last—that this measure would tend materially to assist the foreign slave-trade. The principle of the measure was directly the reverse; the principle was simply this—to give to the British refiner the power of refining sugar of foreign production in this country, with a view to export; and he believed the hon. Gentleman himself admitted, that if all foreign sugar were exported and went abroad, it could not affect the price of, or come into competition with, the sugar of this country. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman admitted that our principle must depend upon details; with that opinion he entirely agreed. Upon the principle, therefore, it appeared to him that it would be useless to say one word. It was a principle upon which they always had acted, and upon which they always must act, beneficially to this country—the principle of making this country the workshop of the world, by receiving the produce of foreign countries, and then 1344 employing our greater skill, our greater industry, our greater capital, our greater ingenuity, in working up that raw material, and again selling it to different parts of the world. On that principle, then, he should have thought there could be no doubt, but least of all should he have expected to hear a doubt expressed on the subject—though certainly one should not be surprised at anything now—by his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex; but, as he had said before, the question depended on whether the details of the measure were such as effectually to prevent the price of West-India sugar in this country from being lowered by the circumstance of foreign sugar, when refined, being consumed; or, in other words, of the whole of that produce, or an equivalent to it, being exported: because it was clear, that if foreign sugars, refined under this Act, were to come in here for consumption, they would have the effect to a certain extent, and to a certain extent only, of affecting the price of our West-India sugar. This was a point to which he must beg to draw the attention of the House; the subject was an intricate one, but he trusted the House would allow him to state to it the conclusions on which the opinion of the Cabinet was founded. This subject had engaged Mr. Huskisson's attention for a long time; it had also engaged, for a long time, the attention of all the Governments under whose consideration successively it had come; and there was no doubt that there would be no difficulty whatever in arriving at that point at which they must aim, if it were possible to have sugar refined in a sealed warehouse, and then exported without its ever coming to what might then be called this country; but that plan had been hitherto found to be impossible to be carried into execution, and another plan had, therefore, been resorted to—which was simply this. A certain number of cwts. of foreign sugar had been allowed to come in, paying a duty equal to the duty on West-India sugar, supposing the quality of that sugar equal to the Gazette price of West-India sugar; but, if it exceeded that quality, it had then paid an additional duty, equal, and more than equal, to the produce of refined sugar. He would leave out of this question for the sake of argument, the ascending scale of duty; because it was admitted by every one, that in the ascending scale of duty, when foreign 1345 sugar was of a finer quality, and at a higher price than West-India sugar, the additional duty was so much out of proportion to the additional value of the sugar, that it was not paid; and it was only when it was rather below, the Gazette price that it could find its way to this country. He would state to the House the calculation on which a drawback was granted of British West-India sugar—a drawback was granted equal to the whole duty on the quantity of refined sugar exported, and, in this way, no duty whatever was charged upon the treacle which came from that sugar, and which was consumed in this country; so far, therefore, the importer of British West-India sugar had an advantage in bringing his treacle into the market; if, therefore, the refiner were allowed to bring in his foreign sugar, without any allowance being made for the advantage the West-Indian enjoyed in his treacle, he would be getting an advantage by means of that treacle; because treacle always bearing a higher price in this market than upon the Continent, British sugar bore a price exactly in that proportion higher than foreign sugar. This, therefore, formed one of the conclusions on which foreign sugar was admitted, which were simply these:—For every cwt. of foreign sugar admitted, of a value equal to West-India sugar, the duty on West-India sugar was paid, and the drawback on West-India sugar was allowed; but, as it was calculated, that, as there was an increased value given to West-Indian sugar, by the treacle being admitted duty free, a duty of 2s. per cwt. would be just; and therefore foreign sugar was charged 2s. a cwt. more than West-India sugar of the same quality—or, in other words, the importer of foreign sugar, of a given quality, was enabled to be under-written by the Government at 2s. per cwt. less than the sum at which he valued his commodity, reserving, therefore to the West-India merchant a very fair advantage. In the measure which he proposed to introduce, he did not preserve that proportion in exactly the same state, because, in consequence of the advance in the price of treacle, the West India merchant was entitled to an advantage of nearly 3s. He would, therefore instead, of foreign sugar being under-written at 2s. less than its real value in the market, here propose that it should be under-written at 3s. less;—giving by that means, to the 1346 West-India proprietors, the advantage of an additional shilling per cwt. to which, he believed they were justly entitled. He had stated these details of the plan to the House; and he should proceed to shew, as he had already told the hon. Gentleman opposite, that it was impossible for foreign sugar introduced into this country to enjoy any greater advantage, through the process of refining here, than British sugar possessed, as must be apparent to all who understood the state of the case. The hon. Gentleman opposite, or any one acquainted with the subject, must know, that the price of sugar in this country must always be regulated by the price of sugar abroad—but above all, the price of foreign sugar consumed here, or of West-India refined sugar exported abroad, must be regulated by the price of foreign sugar which was refined abroad. Foreign sugar here and abroad, and West-Indian sugar here, of equal qualities, must always bear the same price; and it was evident that it would not, therefore, answer to refine foreign sugar in this country at a dearer price than that at which foreign sugar could be refined abroad. It followed, then, that if the Refining Act, which was supposed to give that advantage, were not passed, the only effect would be, that foreign sugar going abroad would be refined abroad, and would then come into competition with West-India sugar; and, consequently no advantage whatever would ensue to the West-Indian. Indeed, price was precisely the test to which he would allude. Supposing one cwt. of foreign sugar were worth, in this market, 24s., taking from that 24s. the 3s. advantage which the West-Indians gained in their treacle, the price of that sugar abroad would be 21s. Supposing it were taken abroad, it would yield exactly the same produce there, in refining, as it would here. If it went into the foreign market to be refined, it would then come into competition with the West-India sugar at 24s., which paid the same duty as it was proposed to impose upon this description of sugar. Upon, this principle he was prepared to contend, that under the Act as it was introduced, not the slightest benefit could arise to the foreign grower of sugar, in consequence of its being refined in this country. If they were to shut their gates against it, it would only go to a foreign market to contend there, and come into competition with their own sugar, exactly as it did now; 1347 and no advantage could possibly arise to the West-Indians. But, there was also another circumstance to be considered;—the foreign sugar, when introduced here, not acting in the slightest degree upon our prices, because, as he had shown, there could be no increase of price whatever, in consequence of the operation of this Act, it could not be the case, as the hon. Gentleman opposite had contended, that an additional market would be found for foreign slave-grown sugar. It was clear that the price of sugar must be regulated, like other things, by the cost of production; and, unless the demand in foreign markets could be increased, which this measure would have no tendency to effect, no inducement was held out by it, to grow one single pound more of sugar by means of slaves than at present. There was this circumstance also to be taken into consideration—there was a large capital invested in the sugar refineries of this country, and it was the bounden duty of the House, as it was its interest, to endeavour to assist that industry, where such assistance could be afforded without injury to the rival interests of any other manufacturers, and this was exactly what he would accomplish by this Act, which would not do the slightest injury to the West-Indians. He would not, however, content himself with the mere statements he had made, which he was well aware might be called only theory; but he would proceed to facts and he did so the more readily, in consequence of the most extraordinary statement he ever heard in his life, that was made by the hon. member for Eye, who said that the effect of the Sugar Refining Act, passed in 1828, had been greatly to increase the supply of sugar in all the foreign ports of Europe, and that it was owing to that circumstance principally, that such an increased consumption had taken place there. Great, indeed, must be the effects that spring from very little causes, if such were the case. He would ask the House, could it really believe that such an effect had been produced by the operation of that Act? Thinking, perhaps, some such statement as this might be made, he had furnished himself with an account of what the quantity of foreign sugar, refined in this country since the passing of this Act of 1828, had been; and, with the permission of the House, he would state the result of that account. In 1828, after the passing of that Act, the quantity of 1348 foreign sugar refined in this country amounted to about 4000 cwt. He was aware that he might be told that this was only for half a year. But he came to the year 1829, when the Act was in full operation—when it was even in operation to a greater extent—and he found, that the quantity of foreign sugar entered for refinement, in that year, amounted to 9072 cwt. The total exports of refined sugar in that year from Great Britain amounted to 808,000 cwt.: the total quantity consumed was 4,013,000 cwt., so that the quantity of foreign sugar refined in this country in the year amounted to about one thousandth part of the quantity of British refined sugar exported. In 1830: the total quantity entered for refining amounted to 42,000 cwt.; the consumption of sugar in this country amounted to 4,604,000 cwt., and the sugar refined and exported amounted to 1,032,000 cwt., making the quantity of foreign sugar entered for exportation in this country amount to about four per cent of the sugar exported, and not quite seven-eighths per cent of the sugar imported. Yet this, which in one year amounting to about one thousandth part, and in the other to about seven-eighths per cent, was to be assigned as the cause of the great increased consumption of foreign sugar in all the ports of Europe! But it would be said, perhaps, that it was clearly laid down that the great advantage of not refining foreign sugar here had been discovered; and that, if he took the quantity of foreign sugar entered for refining in this half year, 1831, he would find it was very large. He perfectly agreed that it was much larger than it had been: with the permission of the House he would state what it was in the first part of this year. The quantity of foreign sugar entered for refining in this country amounted to 90,000 cwt. From that amount however a considerable deduction must be made; because the refiners, finding that the Act was not, and could not be passed on the 5th of July, took in as much sugar as they were permitted by law to do, in order that they might work it all up before the Act passed. He had stated to the House, that the advantages enjoyed by the West-Indians upon treacle were very considerable; and this circumstance appeared to him to have been an inducement to bring in foreign sugar for refinement during the last six months. That, however, would be at once corrected by the 1349 Act which he had the honour to introduce to the House. If treacle fell again in price, which was not impossible, as it increased in amount, it would not become the interest of the refiner to use foreign sugar, and he would be subject, probably, as he had been in 1828 and 1829, to the chance of not being enabled to make use of it at all. He might be permitted to say, that this was a consideration worthy of remark. He would beg to ask the House, why this Sugar Refiners' Act of 1828 was passed? Was it passed for the purpose of becoming a dead letter? It was a dead letter in 1828; it was a dead letter in 1829; it became useful in 1830 and 1831; and then of a sudden, all parties turned round and said "Good God! do you not see what a quantity of sugar is coming in, and yet you are actually re-enacting of this measure? Stop it by all means—it never could have been intended to be carried into operation." He must say he did not believe that the Legislature of this country ever passed an Act without intending that it should work, or that it ever intended to pass an Act of this description to be a mere delusion, as it were, to any particular interest, and never intended to become practically useful. He had, in fact, replied to that, in replying to the last argument of the hon. Gentleman opposite, in which he stated that the effect of passing this Act must be to increase the advantages held out to foreign growers; there was however, one part of his argument, or rather a fact which he adduced in support of his argument, which certainly deserved some reply. The hon. Member said, "Why should the foreign grower send his sugar to this country, incurring all the disadvantage of double freight, and all the increased expense, unless you gave him a better price, to counterbalance those inconveniences?" He was aware that the hon. Gentleman had been in the colonies, but he believed his pursuits there had not been commercial; if they had been, he (Mr. Poulett Thomson) certainly should not have been able to account for his adducing an argument which displayed so little knowledge of the trade. When he talked of double freight, he would beg to ask him, did he not know that a large portion of the sugar, cotton, and other commodities which were to be shipped for the Continent, came here in the first instance? Did he not know, that, in consequence 1350 of the great facility for shipping in this country—in consequence of its having become, what we should be most happy that it was—almost the emporium of the world—various commodities came here for the express purpose of being reshipped for the Continent? He (Mr. Poulett Thomson) had some practical experience on this subject, and he would tell the hon. Gentleman what the expense of shipping was. In Saint Katherine's or the London Docks it was about 6d. per cwt.—scarcely one per cent upon the sugar itself—and he believed it could be done by some careful individuals for 3d. or 4d. per cwt; therefore the expense was nothing at all in comparison with the great advantages which were derived from the security of shipping the sugar in this country, and the additional means thereby afforded for its distribution to different parts of Europe. If, therefore, the hon. Gentleman thought that a great boon was necessary in order to induce the merchants or consumers to send their ships here, he really was not acquainted with the expense of which he spoke, for it was absolutely next to nothing. He would not, however, press those points upon the consideration of the House, because, as he stated before, the details of this measure were of such a nature, that it was not possible, taking into account the advantage given for treacle, to adduce any substantial argument which would go to shew that the price of foreign sugar was raised in the slightest degree, or that the least benefit whatever accrued to the foreigner from this proposition. The benefit was all our own, and the only difference was, that the Act benefitted English capital and English labour, instead of foreign labour and foreign capital. Nay, he could go even further in answer to the observations of the hon. Gentleman, and say, that if by the present measure, or any other of this description, it were possible to make this country the emporium of the refiners of sugar, more would be done to injure the employment of slaves in the slave-importing colonies than could be effected in any other way: this would be the course. It could be refined so much cheaper in this country, owing to the greater scale of capital, of quality, and, above all, of consumption, that it would become the interest of these countries to send their sugar here to be clayed, instead of having it clayed, as at present, there. The hon. Gentleman knew, that the expenses 1351 of this operation was so great, that in the British West Indies it was too expensive to be carried on. If by any means foreigners could be induced to send their sugar here to be clayed, that would go further than anything else to destroy the slave-trade in those countries; because the English would, by pursuing that course, perform the duties now imposed upon slaves. He did not, however, anticipate that this could be the case, because he believed, that the measure, even in the state in which it now was, was not very likely to afford any great facility for the introduction of refined sugar. He believed, that the ascending scale of price would effectually prevent any considerable portion from ever coming in, although, on certain occasions, when there was a scarcity of material (he did not believe that such would frequently be the case,) we were bound to extend all indulgence, and to give every facility which it was in our power to afford. At the same time, however, that they were introducing this measure, he was bound to say, that he did not consider it such a case, as regarded the revenue, as it had been described; because he believed that, owing to the improvements in refining, it might very probably happen, that a greater quantity of sugar would be produced from the cwt. than used to be produced when the proportions to which he had referred were calculated; and, in consequence of that, a greater drawback could be received by the refiner. The subject of the drawback was well worthy of attention; but the qualities of the sugar could only be ascertained by a course of experiment, which would be a very long one, and which would occupy three or four months. Considering, therefore, that the interests of the revenue were materially concerned in this respect, they had directed that measures should be taken for instituting an inquiry at once into the comparative merits of both kinds of sugar; and if it were found, as some supposed it would be, that the foreign sugar yielded more than the West-Indian, or that they both yielded more than they used to do, it would then be the duty of his Majesty's Government to submit these facts to the consideration of Parliament, and, if it should appear necessary, to found any measures upon them which it might think expedient; but, pending that inquiry, they had no right whatever to refuse to persevere in this measure, on the ground that 1352 the West-India interests would be affected. He had already proved these interests could not be affected. On the ground of revenue, as this subject had been considered, he contended that they had no right, without trying the experiment fairly, to subject the trade of this country, and the merchants engaged in this business, to such serious inconvenience. To a Committee of Inquiry on this subject, therefore, he most decidedly objected. What, he would ask, was there for them to inquire into—as they had all the facts before them, so far as they could be brought under the consideration of the House? He would tell the hon. member for Middlesex, that they must inquire into facts; and the fact of the produce of the sugar could only be ascertained by experiment; and they could not go into a Committee of Inquiry without delaying this measure, which they were bound to endeavour to pass at present, in justice to all parties concerned. The proportions would be inquired into: and if it should appear that they had altered to such an extent as to render some additional check necessary, either this law would not be renewed next year, or, if it were, he trusted that those parties who had expressed their apprehensions, would perceive that they were totally without foundation. For these reasons he certainly proposed to persevere in the measure, and he trusted that the House would support it.
§ Colonel Torrens
did not think a case had been made out, to prove that this Bill would not do injury to the West-India interests. At the same time, however, he considered that the Bill ought, in fairness to the parties, to pass for another year.
§ Mr. Patrick M. Stewart
objected to the measure, upon the ground that it did directly encourage the foreign slave-trade, which was at present carried on to an extent never before known. The planters, he was fully assured, felt, that the present Bill would be most injurious to their interests, while the refiners desired it. The Act had deviated from its original principle. It was expected that the very same sugar entered for refinement and exportation should be really exported, and not retained for home consumption, whilst an inferior quality was sent abroad, which was the case under the Act now proposed to be renewed. If the refiners, therefore, had some reason for claiming its renewal, the West-India planters had a still stronger 1353 right to protest against it. He would contend that the possible injury to the refiners afforded no good reason for continuing the operation of the Bill for another year, when it was evidently injurious to a more important interest than theirs. In the refining establishmzents there was not more than 300,000l. embarked, while in the West-India interests there was question concerning millions of money and millions of men. He thought that inquiry was necessary; and he was resolved to vote for the Amendment, and, though sorry to oppose the present Government, he would resist the Bill in every stage of its progress.
§ Mr. Fowell Buxton
observed, that if it could be shewn to him that the foreign sugar, which, under the operation of this Bill, was introduced into the country, was here consumed, he would vote against the Bill; but he knew that was not the case. It really was not consumed here, but was wholly exported. He had found that it required one-third more labour to refine sugar abroad, and import it into this country in a refined state than in a raw state; therefore, in permitting foreign sugar to be refined in this country, they were substituting, to the amount of this additional one-third, British machinery at home for slave labour abroad; and consequently to this extent diminishing slave labour, and discouraging the slave-trade. Upon this ground he would support the Bill, at least for another year.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
did not think that foreign sugar ought to be refined in this country, because we were thereby giving the slave colonies, who had already the benefit of cheaper labour, the additional advantage of British capital and British ingenuity, and of a market on the Continent generally, in which our sugars could not compete with them. He thought the subject well worthy of inquiry, and should therefore support the Amendment; believing, as he did, that the West-India interest, already so depressed, had suffered additional injury by the operation of the Bill.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
stated, that he would vote for inquiry, and consequently support the Amendment. The continued operation of the Bill would, he contended, encourage slavery, and give foreign sugars a market in which our sugars could not compete with them, as it would not be possible for the British planter, who had 1354 not the advantage of cheap slave labour, to sell at so low a rate as the foreigner.
§ Mr. Sinclair
said, the colonial proprietors were in the last stage of distress, and discontent existed to such a degree, that a very slight shock would be sufficient to cause an explosion. He would not run the risk of causing this, and would therefore support the Amendment.
§ The House divided on the Amendment; Ayes 73; Noes 77, Majority 4.
|List of theAYES.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Lefroy, Dr. T.|
|Arbuthnot, Gen.||Lefroy, A.|
|Ashley, Hon. J.||Lowther, J.|
|Barham, J.||Mackillop, J.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Mahon, Lord|
|Blair, W.||Maitland, Hon. A.|
|Blaney, Hon. Capt. C.||Mangles, J.|
|Brudenell, Lord||Marryat, J.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Burge, W.||Miller, W. H.|
|Cole, Lord||Mount, W.|
|Conolly, Colonel||Murray, Sir G.|
|Davidson, D.||North, J. H.|
|Dick, Q.||O'Connell, D.|
|Dixon, J.||'Connell, M.|
|Douglas, Hon. C.||Paget, T.|
|Fergusson, C.||Pelham, C.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Phipps, General|
|Fitzroy, Hon. H.||Pigott, G. J.|
|Freshfield, J.||Pollington, Lord|
|Gordon, Capt. J.||Praed, W. M.|
|Gordon, R.||Pringle, A.|
|Grimston, Lord||Pusey, P.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Rae, Sir W.|
|Herbert, Hon. E. H.||Rickford, W.|
|Hodgson, J.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Holdsworth, A.||Shaw, F.|
|Holmes, W.||Sinclair, G.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hughes, H.||Stewart, P.|
|Hume, J.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Ingestrie, Lord||Villiers, Lord|
|James, W.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Johnston, A.||Wrangham, D. C.|
|Kearsley, J. H.||Young, J.|
|Kenyon, Hon. L.||TELLERS.|
|Kerrison, Sir E.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Knight, J. L.||Douglas, Hon. W. K.|
§ Mr. George Robinson
put it to the noble Lord whether, after such a division, he should feel himself justified in proceeding without inquiry.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that to submit the measure to inquiry in a Committee above-stairs, at that period of the Session, would be tantamount to abandoning it. He should, therefore, oppose such a proceeding.
§ The House resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson moved a Resolution, to continue the present Act one year longer.
remarked, that in the course of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, he had admitted the subject was one on which much information was necessary, and yet he had given his vote against inquiry. The argument about delay went in his opinion for nothing, because it was the fault of Ministers themselves that inquiry had not been made during the last twelvemonth. He declared that every man who agreed to the Bill agreed to promote the Slave-trade. He had never heard anything which surprised him more than the declaration of the hon. member for Weymouth.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
complained of the expressions used by the hon. member for Middlesex as discourteous, and he must accuse that hon. Member of ignorance, otherwise the hon. Member would have abstained from his remarks. It was impossible to make the inquiry proposed, because it was not until the 1st of July that any fraud had been discovered in the mode of taking foreign sugars out of bond, without which there could be no injury to the West-India interests.
§ Mr. Burge
said, he was astonished to observe the anti-colonial spirit that appeared to pervade that House; and he was sorry to see that Ministers were so deeply infected with it; that although they had but a majority of four, they yet thought proper to refuse all inquiry. There were millions of property embarked in the cultivation of our sugar colonies, and all upon the understanding that full protection should be afforded to the speculators. That understanding, he now saw, was not to be acted on. Ministers were false to the promises they had made. They encouraged the foreigners in preference to our own colonists, and thus gave an advantage to those who procured their sugars through the means of the slave-trade cheaper than our colonists could, and thus they encouraged that slave-trade which, for so many years, it had been the aim of this country to destroy. He did not ask the Ministers to pledge themselves to pursue any particular line of conduct; all he asked was, that they should grant a Committee of Inquiry to ascertain what was the best course before they decidedly 1356 adopted their present plan. French politics were now all the fashion; he wished they would remember what had been the observation of the present Ambassador from the French to the Emperor Napoleon some years back; it was this—that the colonies were the wings of England, by means of which she had been enabled to soar to her present height among the nations of the earth; and that if those wings were clipped, she would lose both her power and splendor, and become inferior to many of the nations around her. Again and again he repeated his call for inquiry.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the division which had just taken place was not in a full House, and the number seventy-three, to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, was certainly not a very large portion of that House. The hon. Member charged the Ministers with making false professions; but how did he make out the charge, when he could not deny, that they stated their belief that the effect of this measure would not be injurious to the West-Indian interest? Indeed, he rather expected that it would be found beneficial. The measure was, in fact only a renewal of the Bill which had been regularly passed since the year 1828. Did hon. Gentlemen who opposed this measure imagine, that if sugars were not brought here to be refined, they would not be carried to the Continent for the same purpose; and if they were carried there, the only difference would be, that this country would lose the benefit of the manufacture. He could not see how this measure could operate as an encouragement to the slave-trade; for, he repeated, the only difference it would make with respect to foreign sugars would be to bring them here to be manufactured, instead of compelling them to be carried elsewhere for that purpose. It was manifest, however, that the refusal of the measure would not only be injurious to some extent to the English sugar-refiners, but to a very high degree to those capitalists who had embarked their property in the speculation of bringing the Brazilian sugars here to be refined, and who had done so on the faith that the measure of preceding years would be renewed in this. There was the less reason to inflict this injury on these persons, as there had been no notice of opposition to the measure till within three or four days before the last 1357 bill was about to expire. A Committee of Inquiry was a captivating mode of putting a question of this sort; but if granted in the present instance, at this late period of the Session, it would amount to a defeat of the measure itself. He should, therefore, oppose it altogether.
§ Mr. George Robinson
said, that though Government might be satisfied on the subject, the House might not, and he had therefore supported the motion for an inquiry.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
hoped that, after the division which had taken place, the Government would consent to grant the Committee of Inquiry.
Mr. Keith Douglas
asserted, that, without inquiry, the House were not in a situation to come to a decision on the subject. As to the injury that might be done to the importers of Brazilian sugars, he did not think that the want of caution in the Board of Trade in allowing these persons to enter into such speculations, was a reason why inquiry ought to be refused.
said, that when he first introduced this Bill, he distinctly stated, that it was only an experimental measure, so that the Government were under no pledge to renew it; nor could any person accuse them of breaking faith if they refused to renew it.
§ Resolution agreed to, and the House resumed.