HC Deb 02 July 1832 vol 13 cc1242-7

Lord Althorp moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.

Mr. Keith Douglas

rose to move for certain returns, the object of which would be, to show how dependent the maintenance of the manufactures and commerce of this country was upon the supply of tropical productions, raised by compulsory labour. In considering the question, it was one thing to say they should have no compulsory labour, and another thing to say they should have it under proper restrictions and regulations. He thought that, before the people of this country were called upon to decide upon this important question, they ought to know to what an extent it would affect their own manufactures and commerce, and consequently, their most important interests. It appeared by the return No. 367, of 9th April, 1832, that the quantity of cotton wool imported in the year ending 5th January, 1831, was:—from the United States of America, 210,885,358 lbs.; Brazil, 33,092,072 lbs.; British West Indies,;3,429,247 lbs.; other slave countries, 11,630 lbs.; re-imported from Guernsey, the Netherlands, Portugal, &c., 190,275 lbs.; Philippine Islands, 29, 672 lbs., altogether, 247,638,254 lbs. From the East India Company's territories, 12,481,761 lbs.; Egypt, 3,248,633 lbs.; Turkey and continental Greece, 353,077 lbs.; Colombia, 221,381 lbs.; Hayti, 166,266 lbs.; Peru and other places, 52,080 lbs.—altogether, 16,323,198 lbs. Thus it appeared, that the quantity of raw cotton wool imported from countries employing compulsory labour was, 247,638,254 lbs., while the cotton imported from countries with a mitigated state of labour, such as the East Indies, Egypt, and other places was only 16,333,198 lbs. Therefore, of the whole cotton imported into this country, being 263,961,452 lbs., only 16,333,198 lbs. were produced under a mitigated state of compulsory labour. It appeared further, that the quantity of raw cotton wool exported in the same year was 8,534,976 lbs.; and in the year ending 5th January, 1832, 22,308,555 lbs. Therefore, on an average of two years, the quantity exported appeared to be about equal to the quantity produced by free labour. By another Return it appeared that the cotton wool imported in the year ending 5th of January, 1832,

was 288,708,453 lbs.
Of which was exported again in a raw state 22,308,555
Leaving the balance for the home consumption at 266,399,898
Thus the material for the whole cotton manufacture of this country, of Manchester and Glasgow, as well as of every little village, was supplied by compulsory slave labour. It would thus be seen what an immense interest the nation must take, in not rushing to a change of that state of things, upon which depended the immediate supply of the raw material for the whole cotton manufacture of this country. The importance of this would be further illustrated by a reference to the value of the articles exported, and of which the raw material produced by compulsory labour formed the basis. It appeared by the Return No. 349, ordered on April 2nd, 1832, that in the year ending 5th of January, 1832, the quantity of cotton manufactured goods exported was as follows; viz.—in declared value, 15,294,923l.; twist and yarns, 3,975,019l.; making together 19,269,942l. These sums were independent of cotton manufactures exported under the head of apparel, slops, and haberdashery, which in 1830, amounted to 772,834l. In the year ending 5th of January, 1832, the declared value of the quantity of manufactured cotton exported was 13,284,036l.; cotton twist and yarns, 3,975,019l.; making together 17,259,055l.; so that the general export of the manufacture of cotton, all derived from slave labour, was little short of 20,000,000l. annually. The total declared value of British and Irish produce and manufactures exported in the year ending January, 1831, was 38,271,597l., and the declared value of cotton and cotton goods alone, being, in the same year, about 20,000,000l. sterling, was considerably more than the half of the whole. He mentioned this to show the magnitude of the interests concerned, and to prevail on the House, if he could, not to interfere hastily in this subject; and if, by any interference, they should diminish the supply of this raw material, they might depend upon it the most injurious and ruinous consequences would follow, upon the heads of all the numerous classes employed in all the vast variety of trades connected with the cotton manufacture. It was the opinion of the most experienced persons, that nothing but compulsory labour could supply either this or other tropical articles, in sufficient quantities to meet the demand for them in Great Britain. If that were not the case, and that free labour could supply the articles in abundance, then there would be no difficulty in getting them from the East Indies, and other such places. But how stood the fact? A slight perusal of authentic returns would prove, that in no one instance had colonies or settlements, availing themselves of free labour, been found to compete with compulsory labour. The article of cotton, to which he had referred, the proportion produced by slave labour to that produced by labour somewhat free, being as 247 to 16, or the latter being less than one-fifteenth of the former—showed how small a portion of British commerce depended on the produce of mitigated labour. He would state some other facts, illustrative of the same principle, and hon. Gentlemen would, he hoped, be made sensible of the prodigious risk they ran by proposing at once to put an end to compulsory labour. By the Return No. 457, of the 18th May, 1832, it appeared, that the quantity of sugar imported into Great Britain and Ireland, in the year ending 5th January, 1832, was 5,366,263 cwt.; of which there was from countries availing themselves of slave labour, viz. from British colonies and plantations, including Mauritius, 4,621,299 cwt.; from the foreign West Indies, viz. Cuba, Porto Rico, and St. Thomas's, 127,750 cwt.; Brazil, 362,621 cwt.; re-imported from various quarters, 17,176 cwt.; making together, 5,128,846 cwt. And from the East India Company's territories, exclusive of Singapore, 161,779 cwt; Singapore, 23,794 cwt.; Siam and Java, 9,450 cwt; Philippine Islands, 39,349 cwt.; Cape of Good Hope (supposed the produce of some of these countries), 3,045 cwt.; altogether, 237,417 cwt.—making a total of 5,366,262 cwt. Total export in the same year, stated as raw sugar, 1,409,841 cwt.; nett produce of duty received, after making every deduction, 4,650,589l. Thus it appeared the quantity of sugar imported, the result of free labour, was scarcely one twenty-fifth part of the whole, and that commodity, besides giving employment and wealth to a great number of individuals, yielded nearly 5,000,000l. to the State. The importation of coffee also illustrated this principle. By Return No. 458, of the 18th of May, 1832, it appeared that the quantity of coffee imported into Great Britain, in the year ending 5th of January, 1832, was 43,007,828 lbs.; of which there was from countries availing themselves of slave labour, viz. British West Indies, including re-importations from Europe, 416,254 lbs.; Mauritius, 185,796 lbs.; Cuba, 1,591,747 lbs.; Brazil, 9,151,771 lbs.; United States of America, 385,739 lbs.; West coast of Africa and Cape of Good Hope, exclusive of Sierra Leone, 16,122 lbs.; Bahamas, imported there, and re-exported, 13,179 lbs.; re-importations from continental Europe, say 7,000 lbs.—total from slave labour, 31,467,608 lbs. From all other countries, in many of which it was difficult to distinguish whether coffee was the produce of slave or free labour—Sierra Leone, 127 lbs.; East India Company's territories, 2,895,052 lbs.; Singapore, Ceylon, &c., 4,599,827 lbs.; Hayti, 4,018,795 lbs; Mexico and Guatemala, 26,417 lbs.; together, 11,540,220 lbs.—making a total of 43,007,828 lbs.; of which, 22,485,474 lbs. were exported. Thus it appeared, that not above one-third at most of the coffee used in this country, or made an article of traffic, was the produce of free labour. The only other article he would refer to was tobacco, and it appeared by the Return No. 367, ordered on the 9th April, 1832, that the quantity of tobacco imported into Great Britain and Ireland, in the year ending on the 5th January, 1832, was, unmanufactured 24,489,753 lbs.; manufactured, and snuff, 254,055lbs.—together, 24,743,808 lbs.; of which there was, from countries availing themselves of slave labour, viz.—United States of America, 23,752,413 lbs.; and others, 101,440 lbs.—together, 23,856,853 lbs.; Cuba, and foreign West Indies supplied 70,243 lbs; and other places, 114,352 lbs.,—together, 184,595 lbs.; British West Indies, 1,583 lbs.—being a total from slave countries of 24,043,031 lbs. From other countries, in many of which it was difficult to distinguish whether slave labour had or had not been employed, the importations were, from Germany and the Netherlands, 101,213 lbs.; East India Company's territories and Ceylon, 24,223 lbs.; Turkey and continental Greece, 5,392 lbs.; British northern colonies 23,855 lbs.; Hayti, 19,029 lbs.; Colombia, 515,014 lbs.; all other countries, 12,051 lbs.—making together, 700,777 lbs.; and giving a total, as before stated, of 21,743,808 lbs. The tobacco exported amounted to 9,916,792 lbs.; and the nett duty collected amounted to, during the year ending the 5th of January, 1830, on this article of slave labour, 2,858,794l. He implored the House to consider and weigh these statements; but, above all he implored them to consider the depths and magnitude of the interests at stake. Let them consider to what an extent capital and industry were embarked in all these branches of trade. Let them also consider the state of the public revenue to which this production so largely contributed. The raw material supplied by slave labour produced a deal more than half the manufactured exports of the whole country. If, then, the Government or the House should deal rashly with such mighty interests, they might, it was true, induce or force the colonists to give up slave labour; but the immediate consequence would be, that the growth of all the articles which he had mentioned would be transferred to the United States, and to other countries. It was no answer to him to say, that the raw material could be got at a somewhat higher price in the East Indies. The very fact of raising the price of the raw article would be the destruction of manufactures, the great inducement, to which was cheapness. Before sitting down, he would shortly advert to a Report made by Mr. Mackenzie, the Consul general, sent out to Hayti by the Foreign Office, for the purpose of gathering information concerning the state of that colony, and the extent to which free labour had been pushed. That Gentleman in the execution of his duty, in his Report drew a comparison between the exports of that island in 1789, when slave labour was employed, and the exports of the year 1826, when they were all free, and his account was as follows—
1789 93,573,300lbs.
1826 32,864lbs.
1789 47,516,531lbs.
1826 Nil.
1789 76,835,219lbs.
1826 31,181,784lbs.
1789 7,004,274lbs.
1826 620,972lbs.
1789 Nill.
1826 457,592lbs.
1789 758,628lbs.
1826 Nil
1789 25,749lbs.
1826 Nil.
He contended, from these statements, and from the opinions of the most experienced practical men, that any interference with compulsory labour in our colonies would not only annihilate our colonies, but also our domestic manufactures. The hon. Member concluded by moving "For various Returns, showing how dependent the maintenance of the manufactures and commerce of this country are on the supply of tropical productions raised by compulsory labour."

Lord Althorp

said, that he should not oppose the Motion, but he candidly confessed he could not see the object of it, unless the hon. Member meant, by following up his argument, to prevent the abolition of slave labour.

Mr. Keith Douglas

said, the object of his Motion and of his observations was, to show the danger of deranging by interference such mighty interests as those involved in the colonial question.

Motion agreed to.