§ Sir R. Jenkins
rose to call the attention of the House to the petition of the East India Company, presented on the 11th inst., praying for further alteration of the duties on articles of East India produce; and to propose a series of resolutions, of which he had given notice. The territories which had been committed to the government of the petitioners by an act of the British Legislature, formed a very large and important portion of the British empire. The expense of carrying on the government of those possessions in India was defrayed by the petitioners themselves, and not only did they support their own military forces, and the establishments necessary for the preservation of order, but they contributed to the maintenance of the troops which were sent out by the Government at home. Our East India possessions were entitled, he submitted, to the fair and equitable consideration of the Legislature. It was the duty of the British Parliament to pro- 581 mote their interests in trade and commerce. If those dominions were dependent on this country for maintenance, the interests of the mother country might very properly be preferred to theirs; but they were a source of great wealth and power, and he would add, of glory too, to this country. Annually remittances were made to England, amounting to upwards of 3,000,000l. sterling, for which no return was made, and therefore it might be considered as tribute; not to mention the large fortunes which individuals were constantly acquiring there, and returning to their native land to spend. The House, then, would surely agree with him, that in return for all these benefits, arising from our connexion with India, the trade and commerce of those living under our authority there ought to be encouraged by every means consistent with justice, and a due regard to the interests of the mother country. Surely the products of British India ought to be admitted into the ports of Great Britain on the same terms of advantage as were granted to our other dependencies. The first article to which the petition of the East India Company alluded was sugar. By the 6th and 7th of William 4. cap. 26, the duties on East and West India sugar were equalized, but the conditions which were appended to that law confined its operation to Bengal. By the 1st and 2d of Victoria, cap. 33, means were prescribed for extending to other parts of the British territories in India the same advantages which were conceded to Bengal; but those means were found to be unsatisfactory and inefficient, and calculated rather to interrupt than to promote trade. The importation of sugar grown in the British possessions in India at a low duty was to be permitted, but at the same time the importation of foreign sugar into the East Indies was prohibited, and the provision was imposed that her Majesty in council should be satisfied that the importation of foreign sugar was prohibited duty in the presidencies. Now, it was of the necessity for that reference to the council that the company complained. They saw not the need, and they felt the hardship of interposing such delay in their trade. In order to encourage the people of India to embark their capital in commerce, it was necessary to hold out to their expectations something like a certainty of success. It was difficult to deal with conflicting interests at all times and 582 under all circumstances, but this was more acutely felt with regard to India, she not being able to contend with conflicting interests, which were more powerfully advocated at home. The Company wished to have the provisions of the 6th and 7th William 4th, giving certain exemptions from this troublesome proceeding to the Presidency of Bengal, extended to the whole of India. All that the petitioners desired was, that that confidence which had been placed in some of the dependencies of British India should be made general. Two of the subjects to which the petition alluded were tobacco and spirits. The tobacco which came from America to this country only paid a duty of 1s. 6d. per pound, while that which was imported from British India paid 3s. The petitioners therefore prayed that tobacco coming from India might be placed on the same fooling as that which came from America. Then with respect to spirits—he alluded principally to rum—whilst the imports from the West India colonies paid 9s. a gallon, those from India paid 15s. a gallon. Now, he did not see why rum should not be admitted from India on the same terms as it was from the West India colonies. The petition also stated, that whilst the cotton goods of this country were exported to India at from 3½ to 7 per cent., as they might happen to be imported in English or foreign bottoms, similar goods manufactured in India were only admitted to this country on the payment of a duty of from 10 to 20 per cent. The effect of these arrangements was, that a great decrease had taken place in the importation of Indian goods into England. In 1813 and 1814 the importations of white calico, muslin, &c, amounted to nearly 1,000,000l. sterling in value each year. In 1833 and 1834 that amount had sunk to 50,000l. and 75,000l. But the importation of British goods into India had increased. In 1814 it amounted in value to 109,487l. In 1837 it had increased to 2,160,936l., and in 1838 to 2,445,000l. The silk goods of Great Britain paid in India the same duty as cotton goods—viz. from 3½ to 7 per cent.; whereas silk goods from India paid 20 per cent, in this country. This was unjust towards India, and he was quite satisfied that this injury might be done away with, without prejudice to either the manufacturers or the revenue of England. There was another article alluded to in the peti- 583 tion, which at the present moment was a subject of peculiar interest in this country—he meant the lately established culture of tea in Assam. He thought that it would be good policy, and most advantageous to this country, if protection and encouragement were given to that produce. In time, no doubt, the tea grown in Assam would be as good as that imported from China, and he trusted yet to see that a very considerable proportion of the tea consumed in this country would be the growth of India. There was another point, also, of very great interest. A difficulty arose two or three years ago respecting the importation of coffee from the territory of Mysore. The petition prayed for an equalization of the duties on coffee, upon the same principle as upon the article of sugar. At the time he alluded to, the question was, whether Mysore was a British possession? An inquiry having been made, it was ascertained, that Mysore was nominally the dominion of an Indian prince, and the coffee from that district was only admitted as foreign coffee. But Mysore was under British authority; its revenues and territories were under British control, and as much British influence was exercised there as in Bengal. The principle for which he was contending, however, had been recognized to the fullest extent in a case which came under the notice of the Government during the last Session. A question having arisen as to whether coffee imported from a country contiguous to the British settlement at Sierra Leone was admissible at a low rate, the Lords of the Treasury and the Board of Trade called upon the importers to establish their claim by proving that the coffee was grown in the neighbourhood of a dependency of Sierra Leone, and that the people were in habitual and friendly communication with the British residents of that settlement. That was the condition upon which it was proposed to give the advantage to those people which the petitioner now asked for the people of India, who were not merely friendly to the British residents, but were under the same Government with them, and formed part and parcel of the British empire. He did not then feel himself called upon to pronounce any opinion on the policy of that portion of our navigation laws, which went to exclude certain of those who were not natives of Great Britain from employment in the naval service of this country; but he might be 584 permitted to observe that the Navigation Act, which excluded the natives of India, admitted to the rank of British seamen negroes belonging to British possessions Surely the natives of India ought to enjoy advantages shared by parties standing in no nearer relation to this country than did the negroes of the West Indies. In India we possessed an empire which had proved to us of unparalleled value. The inhabitants of that empire looked up to England for assistance, and support, and protection, and when the House reflected upon the vast benefits which India conferred on this country, hon. Members must feel, that we were bound to give free scope to the commerce and the industry of a land to which we owed so much. In reference to India, we were the holders of a great and important trust, and he must say, that that trust would never be fully or satisfactorily discharged otherwise than by doing justice to the commerce of India. Our duties towards that part of our possessions would never be fulfilled until every Act of Parliament which pressed unfairly upon the struggling industry of India was obliterated from the statute-book. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the following resolutions:—1. That, with a view to carry out the intention of the Legislature, that sugar from the East Indian possessions should be admitted on equal terms with sugar from other settlements, it is the opinion of this House, that, on the prohibition of the importation of sugar into ports in India by the local Government, the importation of sugar into this country from the ports of India, at an equal rate of duty, ought to be permitted.2. That spirits being the produce of British possessions, are in no case, except that of India, subject to a higher rate of duty than 9s. per gallon, the duty on spirits from India being 15s. per gallon. That it is the opinion of this House that the duties on spirits from all British possessions should be equalized.3. That tobacco, the produce of British possessions in America, being subjected to a duty of only 2s. 9d. per pound, while that of India pays 3s., it is the opinion of this House that the duty should be equalized.4. That while cotton and silk piece goods from the United Kingdom are admitted at the principal ports of India at an ad valorem duty of 3½ to 7 per cent., similar goods from India are subjected to duties at 10 and 20 per cent. It is therefore the opinion of this House, that the duties on cotton and silk goods imported from India, should be subject only to such duties as are payable on the same description of goods shipped from this country to India.5. That, with a view to the encouragement 585 of the cultivation of the tea plant in British India, it is the opinion of this House, that the duty levied on tea, the produce of British India, should be lower than that on tea imported from China.6. That it is the opinion of this House, that all inequalities existing in any of the colonial possessions of her Majesty in the amount of duty levied on goods, the produce of the United Kingdom, and those the produce of India, ought to be removed.7. That, under the construction of the term 'British possessions,' the produce of many parts of India subject to the authority of the British Government, is charged with rates of duties applicable to the produce of foreign countries. That it is the opinion of this House, that the whole of the territories of British India should receive the benefit of the term for commercial purposes.8. That those provisions of the existing laws of England which exclude seamen, natives of the territories of India, subject to the British Government, from the privilege of being considered British seamen, while that privilege is extended to natives of other British possessions, operate prejudicially to a class of persons entitled to the protection of Parliament; and that it is the opinion of this House, that the law, in this respect, ought to be amended.He should further move, that this House will, on Wednesday, the 4th of March, resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the duties payable on articles, the produce of British India, imported into the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Hogg
seconded the motion. He felt a deep consciousness of the importance of the present question, and he also felt prompted to discharge his duty by his strong feelings of gratitude and attachment towards that country, where he had passed the best days of his life. He knew well how little disposed hon. Members were to submit to the infliction of an Indian debate. There was none of that party feeling involved in it, which commanded the attention of the House, or afforded an expectation that the great leaders would take any share in the discussion—there were no watchful constituents to note those who were absent, or canvass the votes of those who were present. It was a mere detail of grievances long existing and patiently endured, urged perhaps by the feeblest portion of the House, on behalf of millions who exercised no influence in their councils. The day had passed by when India might be regarded as wholly separate and distinct 586 in its political and commercial relations from the rest of the empire. No man seeking to take a part in public life, could now look upon India as a country fitted only for the sphere of civil and military operations, and unworthy of the attention of the British Legislature. The countries which intervened between the North-west frontier of India and the European States were no longer unknown. His hon. Friend, in selecting the present time for the discussion, had chosen that which was most opportune and most fitting. They could not have forgotten that many days had not elapsed since they voted the thanks of that House to the Indian army for its achievements in the West of India. It was unnecessary for him to remind the House of the unparalleled length of their march—the difficulties of the country they had travelled when they saw the natives of India vying with the British troops in their endurance of toil, their bravery in the breach, and their moderation in victory. Whence came the resources necessary for that stupendous campaign? They came from those on whose behalf he now solicited justice at their hands. He prayed them not to confine themselves to barren votes of thanks, let them do substantial justice to the countless inhabitants of that mighty empire, which had furnished them the means of overcoming those difficulties. Let them not refuse to India, the use of the power which Providence had afforded her of recruiting her strength. He hoped the House would express an opinion upon this subject, that would be strong enough to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if wavering, and to coerce him, if reluctant. He believed that every one admitted the injustice and impolicy of discriminating duties with reference to different parts of the same empire, but, with respect to India, the impolicy was peculiarly striking. Look at the relative situation of India and England. It so happened that each could supply what the other required, and he could see no limit to the extent to which they might mutually benefit each other without collision and interference. He believed, that if there was a desire to legislate selfishly and solely with reference to the advantage of England, that object could not be accomplished otherwise than by doing full, entire, and ample justice to India. England required an outlet for her manufac- 587 tures; India offered a market almost without limit, with reference to the extent of her territory and the extent of her population. The natives of India were not indisposed to buy our manufactures, but they wanted the means, not the will. If the condition of the natives of India were improved by the encouragement of their commerce and agriculture, British capital would be induced to find its way into the interior, and they would enhance thereby the interests of England, and perform a sacred duty to India. There had not been that rush of capital towards India, which had been predicted in the discussions upon the Charter. It was as well perhaps, that there had not been an improvident rush of speculation and capital towards India, because, instead of benefitting that country, it might have been attended with utter ruin to the individuals, as was strongly the case in South America; but he believed that British capital would speedily be forthcoming in the interior of India, if that House manifested a wish to encourage by every means in their power, and he hoped that would be the result of this night's debate. If they looked to the general trade of India, and compared recent years with years long antecedent to the Charter, it would be found that the result was melancholy, because there bad been an absolute deficiency. In 1836, the amount of trade in Opium and Indigo, from Calcutta, was 32,900,000 rupees; in 1806, 11,940,000 rupees; but looking to the general trade, putting these articles apart, in 1836, the raw products amounted to 18,000,000 rupees; the manufactures to 4,000,000 rupees; the sundries to 1,000,000 (and odd) rupees; aggregate 24,000,000 rupees. In 1806, the raw products were to the amount of 15,400,000 rupees; the manufactures to 13,800,000; the sundries to 1,000,000 rupees; aggregate 29,000,000 rupees. The result was, that the House would see (taking the general trade, excluding Opium and Indigo) in 1806, the trade amounted to more than in 1836. This was a melancholy fact, and enough to justify any Member in calling the attention of the House to it. Let not the petition then be met by the statement, that though in special articles the petitioners might be right, the result of the general trade was against them. The first article in the petition was sugar. Now, let the House recollect that they 588 did not ask a new contract. They only wished the House to supply the means for carrying into effect regulations admitted to be just and equitable. The Government bad a right to require that before the importation of sugar was allowed from the East Indies at West India duty, it should be proved that there had been no foreign sugar imported, so as to create an artificial surplus. What the petitioners asked was, that whenever the Governor of any Presidency found a surplus production of sugar, he might prohibit the importation of foreign sugar, and, at the same time, allow the exportation of the sugar from that Presidency on the equalized duties. He asked for the introduction of no new principle; all he wished for was, that the old one should be brought into action, and he would leave it to the hon. Gentleman opposite to adopt the course which he thought would have that effect. It would be satisfactory to the House to be informed of the benefits which had taken place from the equalization of the duties on sugar. In 1835, the last year before the equalization, there was imported into this country 98,722 hogsheads while, in 1838, two years after the equalization, there were imported 418,727 hogsheads. Then, with respect to coffee, the produce of the British possessions in India; in 1834, the year before the equalization took place, there were imported 1,558,604lbs., while in 1838 10,285,347lbs. were imported. The House would therefore see the enormous increase that had taken place in four years in the importation of coffee alone. Indigo had also been imported at a low rate of duty, and a similar result had taken place. Sugar had been imported from the East Indies, at the low rate of duty. Pepper was also imported in the same way. Coffee, however from the Mysore could not be admitted into a British Possession without a duty. Mysore was, in fact, treated as a foreign country, while its internal administration was placed under a British Commissioner. The entire administration of that country was now left to that Commissioner—the Rajah merely received from him a tribute; and yet coffee could not be imported from British Possessions into that country but by being made subject to a duty. He had also to complain that the duty on West India rum was now but 9s., while the duty on East India rum was 15s. 589 The duties, however, on both should be equalized; and it would otherwise be useless to equalize the duties on sugar. With all these disadvantages, however, the production of rum in the East Indies had doubled every year. The next article was tobacco—of which article upwards of fifty millions of pounds were imported into Great Britain, and of that quantity India afforded little more than 40,000lbs., with a country and climate peculiarly fitted for the cultivation of tobacco. The reason was, that tobacco imported from India paid a duty of 3s. per lb., while it could be imported from the British settlements in America for 2s. 9d. In point of fact the existing usage was, to admit the produce of their own Colonies at a lower rate than that brought from foreign countries. If that were so, why not admit the produce of India at a lower rate than that of America? The fact was, that tobacco could be imported from Canada at 2s. 9d. per lb., while the duty on Indian tobacco was 3s. The next article was cotton, and to cotton he would beg the particular attention of the House, because its importance was the greatest, and the hardship to India in connection with it was the greatest. For centuries cotton had formed the great staple of India, and he believed that her fertile plains could furnish, almost without limit, that raw material so eminently required for the manufacturing industry of England. Cotton produced in India could be imported into England, and through the wondrous agency of steam could be manufactured into cloth, returned to India and there sold cheaper than the cloth made in India. The inevitable consequence was, that the manufacturers there had been utterly ruined, and whole districts thrown out of employ. In Dacca, where those curious and beautiful fabrics, the Dacca muslins, were made, a great number of persons had been thrown out of employ, and the misery and suffering of the wretched inhabitants exceeded anything that could be imagined. With these calamitous circumstances pressing upon India cotton piece goods introduced into this country were subjected to an ad valorem duty of ten per cent., while English cotton piece goods could be introduced into Calcutta at a duty of three and a-half per cent. Such a proceeding was a gross injustice. To estimate the full extent of the suffering inflicted on Indian manu- 590 factures, owing to the competition of English manufactured goods, it should be borne in mind that cotton was the staple article of consumption in India. From the nature of the climate every inhabitant was clothed in it, and what increased the hardship was, that the inhabitants of that country had not the same facilities for turning their attention to other occupations as in England. Particular trades in India were so mixed up with the peculiarities of caste, that when a man gave up the trade followed by his forefathers, his helplessness and destitution were complete. He would, by a very brief statement of some of the particular articles in detail, prove not the decrease, but the total extinction of the cotton export trade of India. In 1814, the exports from England to India amounted to the sum of 1,874,694l. only; and, in 1836, to 4,285,829l. These were the general exports. He would now beg attention to the particular articles. The exports of cotton from England to India, amounted in 1814, to 109,407l., and in 1838, to within a few pounds of 2,500,000l. sterling. The cotton trade of India was thus completely destroyed. In 1806, the exports of cotton from India to Great Britain, amounted to 1,460,000l., and in 1838, to only 108,000l. While England thus inundated India with her cottons, she deprived her of the means of employing her population to any advantage. He would cite one more instance of the rapid progress of this inundation. In 1814, England exported only 8lbs of cloth yarn; in 1815 she exported none; and in 1838, 10,710,136lbs. Calamitous as these circumstances were, and deeply as he regretted them, he did not ask the House to protect the cotton manufactures of India, by the imposition of prohibitory duties on India cotton manufactures. He asked for no artificial protection for India; all he asked for was equal duties, fair competition, and fair play. He believed that if the House were to equalize the duties to-morrow, India, with respect to the minor articles, could not compete with England; indeed as England was, by machinery, almost unlimited in its powers of production. India could not compete with England; and, in the language of the petition, he would not urge as a grievance, anything that might be considered as the natural consequence of the ordinary course of trade, and not as the consequence of unequal duties. Then 591 as to silks; silk piece goods imported from India into British ports, were subject to an ad valorem duty of 20 per cent., but silk piece goods imported from England into India, were subject to an ad valorem duty of 2½ per cent. He would not dwell on the great importance of encouraging by every means the culture of tea in India; it was at present in its infancy; he would not say anything about a protecting duty, but he thought, considering the uncertain condition of the relations between this country and China, some protection should be given to its culture. He had a long list of articles, the produce of the East Indies, which were subject to a duty of from 15 to 200 per cent., but he would not encumber the discussion at the present moment with it. He would, however, mention one other circumstance which was a cause of considerable vexation and expense. The shipowners of Bombay complained, that Lascar seamen did not come under the navigation laws, the consequence of which was, that after having navigated ships home, they could not be employed as seamen to navigate them back, and must be sent home as passengers. He was happy his Friend had not moved for a Select Committee, as that would have had the effect of producing delay, but added to that there was nothing to inquire about, and no necessity for a committee of inquiry? All admitted the inequality of the duty. The petitioners came to that House for the redress to which they were entitled, and he maintained that the present time was the fitting one for affording that redress. He trusted, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon every one of the resolutions which had been read by his Friend, would give a clear and explicit explanation to the House. He knew not what course the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade might think it expedient to pursue on the present occasion. He believed, however, that the right hon. Gentleman was resolved on doing ample justice to India. But he must, in concert with others, attend to divers suggestions from the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were other parties, too, and contending interests, which, if they could not influence, would at least embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. Though his Parliamentary experience was not great, he knew that when a Minister was 592 thus circumstanced—when he could not summon resolution enough to accede to the motion, and when he did not wish to defeat it, he generally sought for refuge in a Committee of Inquiry. He hoped, however, that his hon. Friend would not accede to any proposal for a Select Committee, and that he would, if necessary, call for a division on the subject. He would rely with entire confidence on the justice of that House, and that confidence was increased when he made his appeal, not on behalf of any party, or of any particular interest, but on behalf of the in habitants of a mighty empire, whose destinies had been committed to their care. He believed that the House of Commons would show itself regardless of distance, or climate, or colour, and would ever be ready to uphold the just claims of all the subjects of the Crown, no matter whether in the West or in the East.
§ Mr. Labouchere
did not rise to express any difference of opinion from the hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject, either as to its importance, or the weight which it derived from the character of the Gentlemen who had signed the petition—the representatives of that great company which had so long managed our vast East Indian empire, and he might add, that the subject came further recommended by the circumstance of its being brought forward by a Gentleman who united in himself so many claims to attention as the hon. Baronet. He could assure the hon. Baronet and the House, that he approached the subject in anything but a hostile spirit. He might be permitted to say, that the hon. Baronet had no reason to apprehend that the question would be considered by Government with any desire to come to an unfavourable conclusion, when it was remembered that it was the good fortune of that Government, only a few years ago, in 1836, to carry the first great step towards placing the interests of our East Indian fellow subjects on the same footing as those of their fellow colonists in other parts of the world; that it was the present Government which in 1836 placed those two staple articles of East Indian produce, coffee and sugar, on the same footing with the same articles grown in the West Indies. He trusted, therefore, that if he felt it his duty on the present occasion to urge on the House the strong objections which he felt to its pledging itself to the 593 resolutions now proposed, it would not be imputed to him that he was actuated by any hostile or unfavourable spirit toward the interests of our East Indian fellow subjects. He could not look at the many all-important questions involved in these resolutions, having reference as they had to important interests in commerce, finance, and manufactures, without feeling that the House would not be acting with the deliberation it ought to exercise on such a subject, that it would not be acting with the care and caution which the importance of the case demanded, if they were now to affirm the principles embodied in the hon. Baronet's resolutions. With respect to these resolutions in themselves, he might in the outset observe, that many of the points advanced in them seemed, at first sight, to exhibit a comparison of unfair treatment, as between our East Indian possessions and the other portions of our colonial empire. Yet when they looked more closely into the matter, it would appear that the difference did not in many cases exist at all, and was in many other cases more theoretical than practical. He was very glad to find that the hon. Gentleman opposite was satisfied with the measure of 1836. That measure had been most beneficial in its effects, both as regarded sugar, and as regarded coffee. The following was a statement of the quantities of raw sugar, the produce of the British West India colonies, and of the British possessions in India, imported and entered for consumption in the United Kingdom in each year, from 1832 to 1839:—
He was happy to say, that the House, in passing these measures, had not been disappointed. They had effected increased production in India, and furnished an increased supply at home. He would also add—although he could not, perhaps, very regularly allude to it—that the Government, in acceding to a motion in another place for a select committee to 594 inquire into the subject of the resolutions, had at least evinced a disposition to allow the whole question to be thoroughly investigated. Notwithstanding that, the hon. Gentleman who seconded the motion, seemed to think, that they ought at once to jump to his conclusions, as self-evident and plain. The question was one which required the most grave and serious inquiry, but whenever it could be shown, that with security to the revenue, and with justice to other interests, any further progress could be made in removing the anomalies that might exist between the trade and commerce of our East Indian possessions, and those of the other parts of our colonial empire, then there would be no indisposition on the part of the Government to follow up the principles which had guided them in the reductions already made in the duties on coffee and sugar. He now came to the statement made in connexion with the first resolution, that although nominally they had admitted sugar from India on the same terms as from the West Indies, yet they had not, in fact, done so; that sugar from India still laboured under a practical disadvantage. The House must consider in questions of this kind, that when they were desirous to deal out equal justice to two parties, if the circumstances of the parties were different, they must employ different means of attaining the object. What was the case with regard to our West Indian possessions? By an act of the Imperial Legislature, our West Indian possessions were absolutely prohibited from importing a single pound of foreign sugar. There were many parts of India to which that law could not be applied, because they depended on foreign countries for their own supply of sugar. It would not be a boon, but an injury, to extend to all parts of the continent of India permission to export sugar, accompanied with a prohibition to import any for their own consumption. The Government took another course. They allowed any district of India that chose to renounce the privilege of importing sugar., A prohibition might then be issued, of the importation of foreign sugar to that particular part of India, and then the district would have the privilege of exporting sugar to this country. It was true, that they did reserve to the Queen in council the right of judging whether the proofs laid before them of the non-importation 595 were satisfactory. They did not allow the local government of India to be judge in that matter, which appeared to him to be a proper subject for Imperial Legislation, and not fit to be determined by any power, however respectable, in any other part of the world. They should be departing from the principles of the connexion between colony and mother country by allowing so important a question to be decided in any other way. Nor was the present arrangement of any practical inconvenience to India, because it could only cause a delay of a few months. And let him observe, that as the importation of any commodity from India to this country concerned the officers of the revenue, and the executive department, it would be hardly right that they should receive their instructions with regard to an alteration in the duties on any commodity from India, instead of from the Government at home. With regard to the question of coffee, the hon. Gentleman had allowed, that the importation of coffee from India was working well, but he complained, that they did admit coffee grown in tributary and allied states on the same low duty as from the British possessions. That was a very important and not a very easy question, and he would entreat the House not to commit themselves rashly by any expression of opinion upon it at present. In the first place, the West India colonies, which were truly British, had a right to expect, that care should be taken, when admitting the produce of any other country on an equal footing with theirs, that that country should be completely and bona fide British. In the next place, he exceedingly doubted whether, if they were to admit the produce of countries not Strictly speaking British possessions at a low rate of duty, they would not lay themselves open to claims on the part of other powers with whom reciprocity treaties existed, binding them to admit their productions on the most favourable terms which were afforded to any foreign nations. It must be obvious, therefore, that this question required the greatest consideration before any decision could be come to upon it. The hon. Gentleman complained, that with regard to tobacco, the trade of the East and West Indies was not on the same footing. It was undoubtedly true, that the duty on tobacco from India was three shillings, and from the West Indies and the British posses- 596 sions in North America two shillings and ninepence. Some years ago the reduction had been made in favour of the latter countries, but it had remained a dead letter. The whole amount imported from these countries was so inconsiderable, that the law which made the reduction might be considered inoperative. He would read to the House the amount of the manufactured tobacco from the British plantions in America within the last few years:—
Years. West Indies, Exclusive of the Mauritius. India. Imported. Entered for Consumption. Imported Entered for Consumption. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts. 1832 3,773,456 3,824,264 88,238 79,595 1833 3,646,204 3,469,642 120,625 98,282 1834 3,843,976 3,748,934 77,230 121,481 1835 3,524,209 3,774,821 107,100 98,722 1836 3,601,791 3,296,641 155,950 110,257 1837 3,306,408 3,562,778 297,923 270,078 1838 3,520,675 3,369,084 443,353 418,726 1839 2,822,872 2,790,294 460,344 478,010
In 1837 the whole quantity of manufactured tobacco imported was 214lbs., in 1338, 25lbs., and in 1839, not one single pound of tobacco, manufactured or unmanufactured. He mentioned these facts, for the sake of showing, that while there appeared to be favour shown in this matter to other colonies over India, there was practically none. On the other hand, it was the case—and he was glad that it was so—that they were importing a continually increasing quantity of tobacco from India. When he was asked, whether the Government should at once pledge itself to allow all tobacco from the East Indian empire into England at the reduced duty of 2s. 9d., he must beg leave to point out the importance of the financial questions involved in such an arrangement. Tobacco was an article from which we obtained an enormous revenue, in proportion to the prime cost of the article, which was not more than 2d. or 3d. a pound. Upon that they were enabled to levy a duty of 3s. a pound, and to derive an enormous revenue from it. Now, whatever might be said as to the justice of reducing the duty on tobacco from the East Indies, still the House must consider the importance of the financial question upon, which they were called upon to pledge themselves. The next question which the hon. Gentleman brought forward, and on which he addressed the House with great eloquence and effect, was the conduct of this country with regard to the cotton and silk manufactures of India. The hon. Gentleman pointed out the high duty which was laid on these articles when brought from India, and the low duty which 597 was paid on the same articles exported from England. Whether this difference was just or unjust, no Gentleman who had paid attention to the history of the cotton manufacture could think that it had any serious effect in the extinction of the cotton export trade of India, and the substitution of the immense cotton trade of this country. It was owing to machinery, to capital, and to other causes, that the trade of this country had been raised to such a pitch of magnitude and importance, and neither the imposition nor the repeal of the duties in question could materially affect them. In any case, however, he must confess that with regard to these duties, they would be bound to consult the interests of the revenue as well as those of trade. Certainly it would neither be wise nor judicious for the House, without seeing what existing interests were affected by it, and without looking narrowly into the complicated considerations which were involved in the question, to pledge themselves at once to a great and sweeping alteration. It was better to trust in the spirit which actuated the country and the House of Commons, and he might say the Government, for the removal of the anomalies which existed, when, with justice to the finances, to the interests of our colonial empire, and the manufacturing and mercantile classes whom a change would affect, that removal could be accomplished. The question of the admission of rum from India was one which the hon. Gentleman seemed to treat as perfectly simple. To him, however, it appeared to be a very complicated one. If rum could be admitted under regulations which would prevent other spirits coming in along with it, the question might be easily settled. The boon having been granted to India of admitting her sugar on the same terms with West Indian sugar it would follow, as a natural consequence, that rum made from the refuse of sugar should be admitted also. That principle seemed to be fair and just, but he believed that practically it would be found difficult to carry it into effect. There was a very large manufacture of spirit from rice in India, and it would be extremely difficult if the door was opened for the admission of rum, to prevent arrack from getting in also. It would be scarcely possible to preserve the distinction: By a little mixture of molasses with the rice, spirits might be obtained which would 598 easily find admission. Upon this point, also, he wished the House to observe the importance and extent of the question they were called on to decide. He did not mean to say, that the question was not well worth the consideration of the Government; but, assuredly, nothing could be more injudicious than a precipitate pledge upon the subject by the House of Commons. With respect to the question of tea, he believed that the quantity imported from Assam was a mere trifle. Whether they should make a distinction between such tea coming from our own possessions and any other, he was not prepared to offer an opinion. If he had an opinion, which he must confess he had not, he should not think it right to declare it, because it was the duty of a minister not to announce his intentions of altering a duty until he was prepared to bring forward a measure to effect the alteration, and to take the opinion of the House without loss of time. In making such a reduction, it would be necessary to take effectual steps for preventing Chinese tea finding its way into the ports of India, and being imported as coming from Calcutta, or they might find a great deal of Assam tea, which had never grown on British territory. The next resolution, the 6th, proposed, that inequalities of duty in any of the colonies on British and Indian produce should be removed. He thought it it was wrong, by an act of the Imperial Legislature, to create such inequalities, but he believed that the hardships suffered from them by India were not very great. In the British possessions of North America the whole produce of India was admitted duty free. The last resolution complained that the Lascars, or Indian seamen, were not treated on the same footing with what are commonly called British seamen. A ship, manned by Lascars, was not entitled to the privileges of a British vessel. This distinction was an ancient and important part of the naval policy of the country, and it was a principle which, he believed, had been recognized in all the acts of the East India Company. It was not a question of commerce, but one of national defence; and he certainly doubted whether there were any circumstances that could justify them in departing from a principle, the great object of which was to encourage our commerce, as a nursery of British seamen, who might afterwards be em- 599 ployed in the defence of the country in ships of war. He did not know that it was necessary to trouble the House further. He understood that the hon. Gentleman meant to move that the House resolve itself into a committee, to take into consideration the resolutions on Wednesday next. Not being prepared to adopt these resolutions, he felt it his duty to oppose the motion. Many points in the resolutions were deserving the attention of the Government, and the Government would have been bound to consider them, even if the resolutions had not been brought forward; but if the House came to a decision at present, it would be taking a leap in the dark; it was the duty of the Government and the Legislature to take care, in giving effect to any principle, however just and sound, that they did not unduly disturb existing interests, or hazard the revenue of the country; in a word in doing good, to accompany it with as little harm as possible.
lbs. manufactured. Unmanufactured. In 1832 15 25,156 1833 41 11,001 1834 47 7,926 1835 1,523 8,928 1836 1,316 13,866
§ Mr. Hume
was much pleased that a question so important, not only to India, but also to this country, had at length been brought under the consideration of the House, He agreed with every one of the resolutions except that which referred to the establishment of a differential duty on tea. He thought that by establishing such a duty they would be encouraging the investment of capital in a branch of commerce which they would eventually be obliged to check. With the resolution respecting East India spirits, he perfectly concurred; but he did not understand or approve of the distinction made by the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade between spirits distilled from sugar and that made from rice. By excluding the latter we should be putting a check on the productions of the great island of Ceylon, in which arrack was made in large quantities. Why should they not develope the resources of that great island? With respect to tobacco, he thought that the produce of India could be admitted to this country with great benefit both to the colony and the mother country. Any person acquainted with India knew that tobacco was sold in the bazaars of that country at a penny a pound; and if a duty of 1s. 6d. a pound only, was levied, it would be imported in great quantities into this country, to the great advantage of the revenue. The same argument ap- 600 plied to sugar and coffee. For these reasons he should support the resolutions, and he trusted that, even if the right hon. Gentleman below him thought fit to oppose them on the present occasion, he would take the subject into his early and serious consideration.
§ Mr. A. Chapman
hoped that the question would receive the serious consideration of the House. They should recollect that ever since the passing of the West India Emancipation Act, there had been a gradual decrease in West India produce, and a consequently increasing necessity for the encouragement of the cultivation of similar articles in India. The resolutions now before the House, formed, in fact, a commercial bill of rights, and, as such, he trusted, would receive the most serious attention of the House.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that the question before the House resolved itself into two points—justice and self-interest. Justice towards India, and self-interest as regarded this country. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade did not seem rightly to understand the resolutions proposed by the chairman of the India Company. The motion of that hon. Member did not seek to pledge the House to the whole of those resolutions, but merely to inquiry, and that, too at no fixed or early date. He did not think that the arguments by which his right hon. Friend justified his opposition to those resolutions were at all tenable. For instance, he did not see what distinction could be made between our territory in India, and the countries which formed our dependencies. He thought that Mysore was as much entitled to encouragement in commercial matters as Bengal, with which it was connected. The President of the Board of Trade had attempted to justify the course pursued with respect to coffee. He could not agree with him in that, for he could not see why the same rule should not be applied with respect to India as to African coffee and then more might be imported from India and less from the Brazils. Tobacco was now imported even at the high duty; a fortiori, more would be imported if the duty were lowered, and low duties were good because they prevented the demoralizing effects of smuggling. It would be useless for them to equalize the duties upon sugar without, at the same time, equalizing those upon rum. With respect to the question of the tea 601 duties, he would be most sorry to see any difference made even in favour of our Indian possessions: it would be giving her a false protection, which would rapidly desert her, and he must oppose it, as it would be retrograding from the pure principles of free trade. He rejoiced to see the increasing importation of cotton from India. The cotton of India also, only required fair play to enable it completely to supply the manufacturers of this country. India was capable of producing every variety of cotten known. It produced in abundance the Sea Island, the Georgian, the New Orleans, and the Egyptian, as well as the indigenous cotton plant, in great quantities, and if permanency were given to the possessions of the Ryots, as in the case of the indigo planters, that country would be enabled to supply the increasing demand of this country. In considering that question, it was most important also to consider the question of transit. He understood that landing duties were still exacted at Madras. It would be almost useless to lower the duties unless they facilitated at the same time the transit of goods, by removing all landing duties, and greatly improving the roads in India. He also thought that a revision of the laws was necessary so as to establish the rights of the people on a plain and firm basis. Care ought also to be taken for the permanent settlement of British subjects in India, so that British skill and enterprise might assist and regulate the natural productions of the country. They would also have a rising English population ready at any time to check aggression, come from what quarter it might. In Van Diemen's Land we supplied the inhabitants to the amount of 20l. each per annum. In Sydney they took of our manufactures to the amount of 12l. each. None of our colonies took less than to the amount of 1l. 10s. per head. But our supplies to India did not average 1d. per head. Let them develope the resources of India, and she would make a large outlet for our manufactures. He could not withhold his consent to the House going into Committee, not pledged to the resolutions of the hon. Gentleman, but with the intention of examining and passing those that were approved of.
§ Sir J. Hobhouse
said, his hon. Friend, the chairman of the Court of Directors, and the hon. Gentleman who followed him, did him no more than justice in at- 602 tributing to him since his connection with the Government of India, the utmost desire, to the best of his abilities, to promote the interests of the inhabitants of India. With reference to the present subject, the Court of Directors had done him the honour to request him to support the petition that had been presented, and to give his best services to carry the prayer of the petition into effect. He thought he should best fulfil his intentions—not pledge, for he had made none—when he gave his answer to that application by asking an hon. Friend opposite and the House to adopt the course which he should propose to them. It was very true, as the hon. seconder of the motion had said, that he felt himself in the situation in which almost every President of the Board of Control must necessarily be placed, willing and anxious on the one hand to do all that could tend to the advantage of India, but on the other hand, from his position and connection with the general Government, obliged also to pay due attention to all interests contradictory or even in collision with the interests of that empire. Still, notwithstanding the difficulty of such a position, he was happy to say that her Majesty's Government, without sacrificing any general interest, were prepared to do that which would be an essential, an unmixed good to India, and which he hoped his hon. Friends opposite would agree with him to be the best and safest course that could be adopted. He need scarcely say how anxious the Government was to do every thing it properly could to promote the object of the petition, in proof of which he might refer to the fact that the petition in the other House was presented by a nobleman holding a high situation in her Majesty's Government—his noble Friend the President of the Council. It was evident, therefore, that Government had no intention to discourage this petition, or to put on one side the great and just claims of the subjects of our Indian empire. He must say, he thought the arrangements before alluded to for a committee of the other House of Parliament had been much undervalued by hon. Gentlemen who had spoken to-night, more especially when it was remembered that this committee was to be presided over by the noble Lord whom he had immediately succeeded, and whose interest and acquaintance with the affairs of India were familiar to all. With 603 respect to the proposal made by his hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, that the House of Commons would be called, on Wednesday next, to affirm or deny in Committee of the whole House, all the important resolutions which he had submitted—resolutions altering the duty on so many articles, and actually changing the whole fiscal system of the country—it would be to call upon a Committee of the whole House to do that which had never before been done. No such Committee was ever called upon to give at once a decided opinion on such great and extensive changes upon a series of resolutions. He trusted his hon. Friends would see that such an attempt would be futile, and that they would not be enabled by such a mode to arrive at a wise and deliberate decision such as the great and important points in question demanded, and that a decision so made, so far from being satisfactory to the country, would appear like taking a leap in the dark, the consequences of which, in the case of failure, would never be retrieved. Nay, he thought his hon. Friend would frustrate his own views, for he would find many hon. Gentlemen friendly to his general object, who would be by no means at once prepared to affirm these various resolutions. For himself, with the exception of that on tea, he should not like to give any one of them at present a decided negative, but, he was sure, if they were submitted to a Committee of the whole House there was a great chance that many of them would meet with a negative which they might not deserve. He, therefore, thought the appointment of a select committee by far the best mode of dealing with the subject. Some observations had been made with reference to Mysore, and it was true that we had civil and military possession of that country, and that the Rajah at present was but a pensioner. But still he was compelled to come to the decision he did, and he took good care to have the best legal opinions in consequence of a fact which was not very generally known, and which hon. Gentlemen opposite, had not taken into their consideration and which compelled him to decide against the claim, viz., that we held the territory of Mysore, only in trust for the Rajah—administered it for him—that books were regularly kept, and balance sheets regularly made; and whenever the 604 time should arrive for relinquishing that trust into the hands of the Rajah, every shilling of the revenue received by us, would be accounted for to him. His hon. Friend said, that time would never come. That he could not say. For the existing state of things, he was not responsible; and he simply mentioned the fact as it stood, and on which he was compelled to decide that Mysore was not a British possession. He did not, therefore, mean to say, that a Committee of the House of Commons, or of the House of Lords, would be prepared to say that the produce of Mysore should not be treated as coming from a British possession; but he did say it ought to be decided by reference to the state of the territory of Mysore, its juxtaposition, its resources, and many other circumstances which could not be taken into deliberate consideration in a Committee of the whole House. There were many other questions, such as taxation, &c, which could not be considered in Committee of the whole House. The course which he was prepared to propose, would, he hoped, be satisfactory to his hon. Friends, and would be considered by them as a redemption of his promise by showing that the Government were as clearly alive as themselves to the great interests at stake. He was willing that the same course of proceeding should be adopted in this as in the other House, that a select committee should be appointed to proceed pari passu, with the select committee appointed elsewhere, and he was willing to leave the selection of that Committee to his hon. Friend, the Chairman of the East India Board—that Committee to inquire into all the allegations contained in the petition, and all the propositions involved in the resolutions. He thought this was but just, and that it ought to meet all the reasonable wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course, the inquiries of this committee would be confined to the petition and resolutions, and would not embrace many of those extraneous subjects which had been alluded to by his hon. Friends behind him, such, for instance, as domestic slavery in India. Still, on behalf of the Government of India, he must say, that it had not neglected those matters which had been thus alluded to. In the Bengal Government, the transit duties had been altogether abolished. In the Bombay Government, they had been entirely abolished, and with the 605 most beneficial results; and in the Madras Government they had been partially abolished, and the Government was preparing to abolish them altogether. With regard to the cultivation of cotton in India, Lord Auckland had paid the utmost attention to this important subject, and in consequence of the information received from several deputations, and in coincidence with the enlightened views of the Court of Directors, Government had at this moment, not in operation, but in preparation, an experiment which would be of the utmost value to the cultivation of cotton there. Every information had been obtained from America. A most admirable minute had been drawn up by the Governor-general of India, which had already been in partial circulation, having been sent to several chambers of commerce in this country, and which he felt to be so important that he should shortly lay it on the table of the House. The question of a permanent land settlement had been alluded to, and this would not be embraced in the proposed inquiry; but he took the opportunity of stating that the Governor-general had not neglected his duty in that respect. In the north-western provinces a very important, and, considering the trying circumstances of the dearth of 1837, a very successful experiment had been made—the land assessment had been moderated, and the experiment bade fair to produce the best fruits. A great improvement had also been made in the collection and amount of the salt revenue. He might also enlarge on the hopes and expectations formed from the cultivation of the tea plant; and he should also at some future day take the opportunity of observing what bad been done by the Government and the Court of Directors in the improvement of steam navigation in India, a subject to which Lord Auckland had devoted the most scrupulous attention, and which opened to the view of India a future of prosperity equal to the anticipations of the most ardent imagination. He mentioned these circumstances to show that the government of India had not been neglectful of the important duties imposed upon it. As he hoped his hon. Friend opposite would accept the fair proposition he had made, he did not think it necessary to enter into any debateable subject. Indeed, between his hon. Friends of the Board of Directors and himself, there 606 were very few debateable topics, and he saw very many propositions in that paper, the truth of which he desired to see established by Parliament in the most forcible manner. With these views, he asked his hon. Friends to consent to his proposition, as he felt assured by so doing they would best discharge their duty, not only to those whom they immediately represented, but to that far more numerous body, the one hundred millions of India whose interests were practically intrusted to their care.
§ Mr. C. Buller
was anxious to follow the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control, for a few moments, to impress upon those Gentlemen who represented the Court of Directors, the propriety of following the course he proposed. He had witnessed nothing in the House more pleasing than the Court of Directors coming forward in that House with an application for a full and free trade for those they were called to rule over, but he must confess he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the form in which the Court of Directors proposed it, was one imposing on the House too precipitate a discussion on a subject of such importance, for till this petition was presented to the House, neither the House nor the country had any notice of the course the Court of Directors were prepared to take; they were prepared to expect from them what could be expected from an enlarged policy, but not for the particular step adopted. What they called for was a Committee of the whole House to inquire into what was rightly denominated an entire change in the fiscal system of the country. He should have great difficulty in bringing himself to vote either way on the proposal before the House. He concurred, as he had before said, in the principal of free trade, and that they should not distinguish between East and West Indian produce. But he had heard no argument against the principal of the great demand made by his hon. Friend on his side of the House—nothing against the equalization of the duties on sugar and cotton. He must advert to the argument of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and begged the House to recollect the important consideration he had mentioned, that they were applying the principal of free trade to India, and had brought capital and English manufactures, into the market, 607 and had driven the native out of it, and bad imported manufactured calicoes into India, and refused to apply the principle of free trade to goods imported from India. This was a monstrous injustice, and when he thought of the hardships which every measure of free trade must have inflicted upon those whom it deprived of bread by the competition with British artists, he thought we should give the natives all the protection free trade would confer. Then he had heard no valid objection to an equalization of the duty on goods imported from British India, but all these were matters of detail, and they did not object to the principle of admitting rum from India on the same principle as from the West Indies, but urged that they should admit other spirits, which would have an important effect on the distillers of the country. Now he thought the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet was the right one, to appoint a committee to inquire into the circumstances of the case. Then take the resolution respecting tobacco, the taxation on tobacco was not protection or restriction, but one for the sake of revenue. He understood that tobacco from the West Indies, being little in quantity, we had been able to allow a smaller duty on that than on foreign tobacco. Now the Board of Directors required not that the duty should be equalised on all tobacco, but on that of the East and West Indies—the effect of which would be, that East India tobacco would displace Virginian. This was not a mere question of finance, and he could not consent to give up a twelfth of the duty. He thought the subject of the Lascars navigating British vessels should be referred to the committee; and then as to the British possessions—how could we say in the fiscal system they were British possessions, and in diplomacy that they were not? All these were difficult matters of detail, and if called upon to vote for such propositions as these, he must vote against them; but if the motion were to go into a committee, he should certainly vote for it, in the hope of carrying into effect the laudable object of the Court of Directors.
§ Mr. Warburton
concurred in the advice given by the Board of Directors, but he thought, on the present debate, they were rather discussing principles than matters of detail, and he asked the House whether or not it was not lamentable that 608 they should be discussing questions, whether or not they should carry on the greatest trade possible with our greatest colonies. The question was not whether they should use the tobacco of Virginia or the East Indies, but whether, having made a vast outlay to obtain colonial empire, we should refuse to receive a return for that capital. If we succeeded in establishing a colony—there was a great boasting of the magnitude of this event—of the great armament and the extensive amount of exports necessary for a first settlement—but when we came to the question, whether or not the mother country should receive a return for this great outlay, nothing but discouragements were heard of, and they were advised not to admit the produce of this country, because it might interfere with the produce of some other colony, or that of the mother country. Was it not monstrous that they should be discussing such matters of principle when they had been so long glorifying themselves as being a great commercial country? It was a disgrace to the House of Commons that they should be debating not matters of detail, but of principle, such as, whether Mysore could be considered a British possession or not. His right hon. Friend acknowledged that he had complete civil and military possession of the country, but did not acknowledge that we could promote the growth of coffee there, and treat it as a British possession, because we were only trustees of that country. What, he asked, were the duties of trustees but to put the estate entrusted to their care in the most flourishing state they could? Now, as to matters of interpretation; did they not hold that Madras was situated in the county of Middlesex; and if so, was not Madras a British possession? He remembered reading a conversation between a British officer and Runjeet Sing, in which the officer boasted we had 20,000 men who could march from one end of India to the other. Then were we not bound to give the greatest facility to the produce of that country? What provinces in India were the worst governed? The tributary states; because they were deprived of the power of rising against their Government. Were we not bound, therefore, to relieve them by giving them an opportunity of sending their produce to this country? If, there- 609 fore, we owed a debt to that part of India, which was immediately subject to our rule, were we not bound in a greater debt to those tributary states which had suffered more than other countries in consequence of our interference? With regard to those parts of India which were subject to our rule. A great part of their commerce consisted in the remittances made by officers, residents there, to this country. These remittances were the accumulations of these officers out of the salaries which were paid them by the natives of that country. It was the duty of this country, therefore, to give the inhabitants of India every facility of making these remittances by the means of commerce. With regard to the question of allowing Lascars to be considered as British seamen, he would beg leave to refer his hon. Friend, who seemed inclined to dissent from that proposition, to the late act, by which they had been deprived of the privilege which they before possessed. It was only as lately as July 1825, that the act was passed, by which it was enacted, that natives of places within the limits of the East India Company's Charter, should not be considered as British seamen—therefore by granting the prayer of the petition, they would be only reverting to the former practice: [Sir J. Hobhouse: No, no:] at all events they would be returning to what had been formerly the law on that subject. He was happy to find that his hon. Friend, the Member for Whitby, who was generally in favour of the strictest measures for the protection of British navigation, did not object to that proposal. Such a measure would be for the encouragement of the interests of British navigation. The number of ships trading to India would be increased, and the British ship-owner would receive the benefit of the provision. It might cause some diminution in the wages of the seamen, but the ship-owner would benefit by it, the trading interest would benefit by it, and the whole empire would benefit by it. He agreed with his hon. Friend in objecting to that part of the resolution in which the directors sought for the benefit of a differential duty between tea, the produce of Assam, and tea the produce of China, and between tobacco the produce of India, and that the produce of the United States. He thought the petitioning for such a protection was directly 610 contrary to all the principles by which it was sought to recommend the present case, and he was sorry to see such questionable principles mixed up with principles which were so worthy of support. With regard to the duty on spirits, he thought it would be wise in the Directors to make common cause with the West India interest, and claim a just reduction of those duties as compared with the duties levied on British spirits. This was not the first time that the subject of a free trade with India had been made a subject of debate in that House. Hardly a year had passed, of late, in which many hon. Members had not contended that the time had arrived when these differential duties ought to be abandoned; therefore the right hon. President of the Board of Control ought not to contend that the House had been taken by surprise. [Sir J. C. Hobhouse: Not so.] He had understood the right hon. Gentleman so to say; but if that were not the case, one of his arguments against the Court of Directors had been cut from under his feet. He had understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, that the House was taken by surprise by this proposition of the Court of Directors. The case might be new as to some of the details, but, as far as the principle of the question went, namely, that of putting the commerce with the East Indies on the same footing as the commerce with the West Indies, the matter had been debated again and again in that House, and therefore it could not be said that they had been taken by surprise. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would accede to the proposition of the right hon. President of the Board of Control, that the committee would go into the investigation as speedily as possible, and that they would not be too long in bringing it to a conclusion, but make a report, so that the House might, during the present Session, be made acquainted with the result of their inquiries, so as to lead to the adoption of some practical measure before the close of the Session.
§ Sir R. Jenkins
, after the offer made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, could not refuse to accede to his proposition. He hoped, with the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, that the committee would come to a quick decision, and he would say the only ground why he had proposed to bring this question before a Committee 611 of the whole House was, because he feared, if he had moved for a Select Committee, it would have appeared like a desire for deferring redress.
§ Original motion withdrawn, petition to be referred to a Select Committee, to be nominated on a future day.