§ Lord John Russell
having moved the Order of the Day for the House resolving itself into a Committee on the Colonial Passengers' Bill,
Sir E. Wilmot
said, that this bill did not appear in itself open to objection; but if it took off the restrictions which had been laid on the importation of the Hill Coolies into the Mauritius or elsewhere, it would be viewed with great suspicion and doubt. He wished to know from the noble Lord whether this bill was intended as a preliminary to taking off the restrictions which had been imposed last year. He hoped, however, that the noble Lord would consent to postpone this bill until a future opportunity, or until next year. For his own part, he did not object to the importation of Coolies into the Mauritius, if certain restrictions and provisions could be devised to ensure their good treatment, and their safe return to their native country when they should desire it. He believed, that if these very necessary precautions were not taken, the importation of the Hill Coolies to the West Indies and elsewhere, accompanied with all its past horrors, would again take place.
§ Lord J. Russell
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated very clearly the view which he took of this case. The clauses which he proposed to insert in the bill did not in themselves contain the plan for the admission of Hill Coolies into the Mauritius. In answer to the question which had been put to him by the hon. Baronet, he begged to state that those clauses were intended to bring before the House the general question as to whether, under any restrictions which might be devised, the prohibition now existing might be removed, in reference to the exportation or removal of Hill Coolies from India to Mauritius. He thought, that that prohibition which had been imposed last year (looking to all the horrors which had accompanied the importation of Coolies) was the best measure which could have been resorted to, to remove the evil until further legislation should take place. But some time had now elapsed, and the question had caused much discussion, and he thought that the House would now be enabled to frame sufficiently stringent restrictions to prevent those gross abuses, which had formerly 931 been found to prevail. The papers which had been laid on the Table on Monday last formed a supplement to other papers on the subject, which had been very highly coloured by many parties, and many facts connected with this question had been much distorted by various publications in the country. He proposed, if the clauses which he meant to suggest should be approved of by the country, that the House should consider the best plan (looking to the leading principles of those resolutions) to authorise the importation of Coolies from India. In so doing, he thought, that in the first place, it would be necessary to take care that the agents to be appointed in India should be so appointed by the Governor-general of India, or by some other person holding superior authority in India, who (from their position) would not allow any of those abuses which had been complained of to take place again. In the next place, he held it to be absolutely necessary to maintain the principle of the order in council with respect to the colonies— namely, that when those persons arrived in the Mauritius, they should be free to make such contracts as they should think fit for their own benefit, for periods of one year, and no longer. He thought, that there should be certain provisions made for the introduction of females as well as for the men, with a view to prevent the recurrrence of those frightful scenes which had occurred, but which he hoped would not again take place in any future emigration. With restrictions of this kind backed, as they would be by orders in council, by instructions to the Governor of the Mauritius, by instructions from the Board of Control, and to the Governor-general of India, he thought this emigration might be allowed, and that instead of its inflicting manifold miseries upon the Coolies, it might be made to confer a great benefit to those persons who sought a remunerating price for their services; because the whole question must be allowed to be one which was in favour of freedom of labour. It would be hard to say to any man, you cannot obtain sufficient wages in your native land to obtain a subsistence; and yet, at the same time, to say, that he should not go to another country where he might earn his subsistence, and be enabled, perhaps, at some future day, to go back to his native country. To obviate this latter 932 difficulty was the object of the clauses which he intended to introduce. The causes were very general, but he thought that the papers which were on the Table were sufficient to show, that when these restrictions were placed in the hands of those who would be appointed by the English authorities, they would be duly carried into effect. He thought, they might safely rely upon the conduct of those persons in whom it was intended to place the power of appointment. He thought, that there was a great difference between allowing Hindoos from India to emigrate to the Mauritius, and allowing them to migrate to the West Indies, because there would always be a strong objection to introducing into the West Indies a new race, a third race of men, amongst the natives of the soil, men of totally distinct habits. But then, again, they were to consider the comparative distance of India from the West Indies as compared to the Mauritius, and the difficulty, in the former case, of the Coolies being returned to their own country. He thought, that these were sufficiently strong reasons for the prohibition of the importation of Coolies into our West Indian possessions. He must add that the papers which had last been presented to the House were sent home by the Governor of the Mauritius, with this strong recommendation, that a committee of gentlemen, proprietors of estates in the Mauritius, who entertained the wish to use free labourers well, and to locate them comfortably, and to pay them good wages, had chosen Mr. Anderson, a gentleman who was well known, to make their case known to the Government. He had seen this Gentleman since his return to this country, and nothing could be stronger than the opinion which he expressed, that very great mis-chief must ensue to all property in the Mauritius if this importation of labourers did not take place. It was not, however, on this ground alone, that he (Lord John Russell) brought this matter forward but on the efficiency of the restrictions which would be suggested to prevent abuse.
§ Sir Eardley Wilmot
wished to know whether he understood the noble Lord rightly in supposing that every care would be taken to protect the Coolies from the horrors to which they had been before exposed.
§ Lord J. Russell
said, that that certainly 933 was his intention; but he wished the hon. Baronet to understand, that he did not propose to do this by another bill.
§ Mr. Bernal
was sorry to hear what had fallen from his noble Friend on the subject of the difficulty of importing the Hill Coolies into the West India islands. The noble Lord, however, had let fall something which militated against the emigration of any set of men to the West Indies. He regretted his, because those who were suffering under the infliction of a tropical sun, and under the evil of a dearth of labour, would feel that the principle of emigration was intended to apply only to the Isle of France, and not to the West Indies. But suppose the noble Lord's argument to be just in one point of view, there was no reason why he should set his face against the importation of labouring men into Jamaica. He (Mr. Bernal) knew some estates in that island which must actually be thrown out of cultivation for the want of labourers to work them, if immigration or the importation of labourers from other places were prohibited. He did not see why the owners and cultivators of the land in Jamaica who wished to locate men from other parts should not have the power to encourage their importation, and to pay them good wages. The noble Lord had spoken with a feeling of great dread of the mixing of the different races in the West Indies; but might he not with equal propriety dread the same consequences from the same cause in the Mauritius? He must say, that it was a matter of great consequence to the cultivators of the soil in Jamaica—it was, moreover, a matter of equal importance to this country that emigration to the West Indies should be allowed. The prices of labour there were now so high, that they could not much longer be borne. Some estates he knew were being carried on at a positive loss. Every letter he received from the West Indies teemed with the burden of the same song—" We have no labour"—"We are in want of labourers"—"Send us labourers." He presumed his noble Friend had not duly considered this subject.
§ Lord J. Russell
said, his hon. Friend was quite mistaken in thinking that he (Lord J. Russell) had not considered this subject. Last week some of the most considerable Jamaica proprietors had waited on him to state their wish that emigration should be promoted to the West 934 Indies; but they, at the same time stated to him much more strongly than he had stated to the House, their objection to the introduction of Coolies. It might, indeed have caused a feeling of jealousy if he had said that the Hill Coolies would be worse treated in Jamaica than elsewhere; but it was no disparagement to allude to the vast distance between India and the West Indies.
said, he was an advocate for this experiment being made upon a small scale, before they attempted it on a larger scale. He must say, however, that if the power of the Imperial Parliament could not reach so far as the West Indies, as to allow us to import labourers into the West Indies without abuse, we had better give them up. As to the mixture of races to which the noble Lord had adverted, he did not know where there could be found men of more mixed races than hon. Gentlemen around him. Why, there was the mixture of Norman, Danish, Saxon, and Flemish blood. He believed, that a true-born Englishman was of a more mixed race than any man in the world.
§ Mr. Ewart
contended that as far as the comparative distances of the Mauritius and the West Indies from India went, it fell to the ground; because the great objection which had been made, and which, was always contended for, was, that those people, the Hill Coolies, were ignorant of the Mauritius; they were ignorant of the very position of the place to which they were exported. He apprehended that any regulations contained in this bill, therefore, might be made to apply equally as well to Jamaica as to the Mauritius; and he could not clearly see how the Coolies were to be subsequently protected in either case. He did not object to emigration to Australia or the West Indies, but he objected to the sort of emigration proposed, of persons utterly ignorant of the place to which they were to be conveyed, or of the dangers to which they were exposed.
§ Mr. Warburton
held that whatever means of protection the noble Lord might intend to adopt, yet that the recognition, of the principle of importing Hill Coolies into our colonies could only end in a new slavery. If this were the case of the transport of persons with their families and children, who emigrated from their native country with a view to improve their condition elsewhere, and who went from a state 935 where the population was redundant to a country where they expected to amend their condition, it might be very well; but looking to the manner in which these persons were induced to leave their country, he could entertain no hope whatever of the good practical working of the plan of the noble Lord. If they looked to the mortality of the colony to which these Coolies were to proceed, they would see the fact was, that the proprietors of estates in the Mauritius did not look to the required supply of labour only, but they expected to make good the deficiency of labour by the importation of these persons, as in the West Indies of old. For his own part he should prefer the emigration to the West Indies, because there we had a most extended system of inspection. But what was the Case in the Mauritius? The Mauritius had a charter for breaking any treaty they made. Look at the slave question. Every governor seemed to have been sent there to wink at any infraction of regulations which the mother country might make. Having thus stated his views, he could only say, that he did not know what might be the views of the House. He supposed there was not a sufficient number of persons to resist the rescinding of the prohibition of the importation of Coolies; but if he thought he should have a majority of the House with him, he should divide upon the question before them.
§ Mr. C. Buller
thought that his hon. Friend who had just addressed the House had overlooked the facts of the case; because when he said, if this were the case of men who were leaving a country where the population was redundant— [Mr. Warburton had never said so.] He was then in the same error with the great majority of the House. Now, he believed, that with the exception of China, the labouring people of India were the worst off for the means of subsistence, and for the opportunities which they had of bettering their condition. Again, the statistical accounts from our army proved that the Mauritius was a most healthy colony. He thought that the hon. Gentleman might have spared the allusion to certain persons in the Mauritius; it might be an argument to those who entered into controversies on this subject, who might carry revenge into subjects instead of justice. He was stating what he thought. He 936 thought that they ought not, in discussing a question of this sort, bearing as it did on the future welfare of the country, to settle it with reference to past complaints against persons in authority in the Mauritius. The measure before them was either good or bad. If it were good, it was good for both parties; but do not let them permit the matter to be viewed with feelings of revenge, instead of justice, because they thought persons in a colony had acted ill before. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester, that the demand for labour in the West Indies was a matter of great moment, not only to the proprietors of estates there, but to this country. He was astonished that the advocates against slavery should have taken up this question in the manner they had. The friends of the abolition of slavery ought to exhibit a readiness to supply the colonies with free labour, for the only way to grapple with the slavery question successfully was to bring free labour into competition with slave labour. Improve the condition of the free labourer, and bring him effectually into competition with the slave labourer,—that was his advice. Those who wished to extinguish the system of slavery ought to hail with delight the prospect of bringing the free labourer into the British colonies; and he was further of opinion, that the plan embodied in the resolutions ought to receive the support of Government. There were, it was true, certain difficulties as to the West India colonies which did not exist in respect of the Mauritius. The Mauritius was but a short distance from the Indies, sixteen days, or three weeks voyage only, while the West India colonies were not to be reached in a less period than three or four months. There was much strength in the argument of the noble Lord, that the Hill Coolies in the Mauritius formed the majority of the labouring part of the population, and that in the West Indian colonies, the Hill Coolies had to contend with two other classes, the negro and the white competitor. In the Mauritius the importation of labourers from India was nothing new. The custom had existed from time immemorial, particularly at the time when the French were in possession of the Indian colonies. The Hill Coolies, were, therefore, not for the first time brought into the Mauritius, but there was already a 937 large population of those labourers settled in the colony. It was contended, that this emigration not being of both sexes, was disadvantageous, but this very disadvantage was proposed to be remedied by the noble Lord by the introduction of an equal proportion of both sexes. The permission required by the resolutions was necessary to enable the planters to keep up the growth of sugar. The House was asked to allow the Hill Coolies to be introduced into the Mauritius, which, without such introduction, must go out of cultivation. The course which a wise man ought to take in the present case was to prevent injustice, and to benefit both the labourer and the planter. India had a superfluity of labourers, and the Mauritius, without the benefit of that superfluity, was likely to become a desert.
§ Sir S. Lushington
deeply regretted the question had come in such a form before the House. It was true they were apparently about to discuss the question as to the admission of labour into the colonies, which was contained in the resolutions, to which resolutions, if they stood alone, he should not object; but connected as the subject was with other circumstances, he was compelled to depart, in some degree, from the subject matter under debate, and to state his own views of those principles applicable to the subject, and the mode of carrying those principles into execution. It had been charged against the opponents of the introduction of Hill Coolies as labourers, that they were opposed to the introduction of all free labour into the colonies. That was not true, for one of the principles the opponents advocated was, that when there existed a want of labourers on one hand, and a superfluity of labourers on the other, the deficiency ought to be supplied on terms of mutual benefit. Again, it had been said the opponents were inimical to the sugar market; that they also disregarded the numerous petitions on the subject, and the high price of sugar which the consuming population were likely to be obliged to encounter. It was singular, however, that this outcry had arisen so soon. This deficiency had not yet become so alarming. There was as yet only a deficiency of one-tenth compared with last year, and thus there appeared no real grounds for assuming that the deficiency would be so great as to create inconvenience to the community. In answer to the 938 remark, that the deficiency of labour would create a still larger deficiency of produce, he had only to observe, that all rational men must be agreed in the opinion, that it was a wise course to increase, as much as possible, the produce of sugar by the help of free labour. But the difficulty he had on the subject was from other and different considerations. The hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, had accused the hon. Member for Bridport of a want of knowledge of facts; but he (Dr. Lushington) asserted that the hon. Member had not exhibited any want of facts. The hon. Member had further accused others of introducing revenge in place of justice, but he produced not one fact in support of his assertion. [An Hon. Member: No.] The hon. Member did use these words, and in doing so hazarded an assertion which savoured more of rash presumption than of correct knowledge of the question. He did not intend to be accused of importing revenge in place of justice into his opinions, without repelling the insinuation. As to the clauses, they were ostensibly to enable Government to carry into effect the importation of Hill Coolies into the Mauritius. So far so good. But what he wanted to know was this—Government had already made the experiment, the Indian government had tried all that laid in their power to prevent abuses, and Government had been repeatedly told that the authority exerted to the utmost extent had utterly failed to repress abuses, From day to day, and hour to hour, men were kidnapped and sent away from India; he had the fact from a report, and from papers which he held, and this in addition, that when 250 individuals, from disease, were found to be incapable of work, they were made one 0single shipment of, and all sunk, in spite of the opposition of the authorities. He asked his right hon. Friend if he was going to arm Government with greater powers if he succeeded in carrying his resolution? There was a report, but Government had never produced it. [Sir J. C. Hobhouse: The report never arrived.] That was very extraordinary, for he found the report in the very paper he held. [Sir J. C. Hobhouse said, there was another report.] It had been asserted that he was arguing on a report never made or sent, but that a report was made he ascertained from the paper. The committee appointed to search into the subject had 939 made a report, but that report had, as yet, not been produced. Now, it was an important point to have this report. He wanted the report, because the report would enable him to see if the exportation which had taken place was neither deceptious nor oppressive. The House ought to be satisfied on that head before it proceeded further with the affair. The report on the subject, which had obtained publicity, was from a gentleman, who declared that the frauds which had been committed were beyond conception, and utterly beyond the power of the Government to prevent. The noble Lord might state, in defence of his plan for exporting labourers from the East Indies, that he would bring forward an effectual and perfect remedy against those frauds, and that injustice which had hitherto taken place; but even if the noble Lord did so, what was to become of the exportation from territories which did not belong to the British Crown? [Sir J. C. Hobhouse: There is no prohibition now.] What he intended to convey was, that there was no safeguard of any kind against fraud and injustice. He would now advert to the middle passage. What were the regulations? At present, they were as stringent as possible, but yet they were baffled, and they afforded no real protection against wrong. He referred to past experience, and he wished to know what was the security the noble Lord could offer for the enforcement of any one order in council he might obtain. He would defy contradiction of these facts. In 1810, we had the colony. In 1814, it was made a capital felony to import slaves. He had presented a petition from some merchants, who declared they could not any longer carry on business if a better system of justice was not adopted in the Mauritius. What arose from this? Why, that make what ordinance the House pleased, in the present state of things in the Mauritius, it would become a mere dead letter, and would never be carried into effect. By the blessing of God, however, a gentleman had come from the Mauritius, who stated that if they adopted his plan all these things would be put an end to. Speaking of the Hill Coolies, that Gentleman said they were all treated in the worst manner by being over-worked, and by the chastisement they received; that their lodgings were most filthy, or they had none at all, and that, in case of sickness, advice 940 was withheld from them altogether. Now, if the noble Lord would find him a system that would provide against those evils—if the noble Lord would give him responsible agents, he would not be opposed to voluntary emigration into the Mauritius. But what was the state of that colony? Why, the persons there worked with police inspectors over them, and were, in fact, slaves to all intents and purposes. Was this no slavery, he would ask? It was a mockery of the grant of twenty millions, and it was a mere fallacy to suppose that those who went there were free labourers. He, for one, could not believe them to be so when he looked at the documents he held in his hand. Look, then, to mortality. What was the statement of Mr. Anderson upon that subject? Why, that it amounted to no less than eight or nine per cent, per annum. Did they wish it to be greater? He, for one, thought that the population would be worn out quite sufficiently with that At present, the system carried on there was brutal in the extreme. The proportion of the sexes of the Hill Coolies brought over was extremely unequal—thirty men to one woman, and nothing was more destructive to peace. The contract between the master and the man was continually violated, and not a single case could be shown where that compact had been set aside. The whole number of the population was between 60,000 and 70,000, of which between 25,000 and 30,000 were imported into the Mauritius. What were the effects of that? Why, there were 25,000 slaves introduced into so small a population, that it was a discouragement to persons to do their duty. Where was the necessity, he would ask, of preferring the Mauritius to all other colonies? Was it because the planters there had not labourers? Just the reverse. Look to the increase of the products of the Mauritius. In 1825, they amounted to 93,000 hogsheads of sugar, and in the last year to 612,000, so that in fifteen years they had increased six-fold. What he asked, and what he wanted from his noble Friend was, not to discourage emigration—he was in favour of it. But what he wanted was, that the whole subject should be considered together. He wished to see rational regulations propounded to the House, and established by its authority, and the executory principle applied to them, and that they should not be a dead letter, but be carried into 941 every quarter of the globe in which emigration had taken place. These were his views, and he was sure his noble Friend would not think that he was raising an improper opposition in the course he was adopting. His firm conviction was, diminished as the products of the West Indies were at present, he entertained no doubt in declaring that that diminution would be less from time to time. Did he, therefore, wish to put a stop to increasing the labourers and increasing the productions? No such thing. He wished to extend to the people of that country the use of that produce, and he would not do any thing to put a stop to its being raised, provided its production did not trample upon first principles. Time had been given to consider the past and present state of the Mauritius, and also to consider whether there were any individual in the country in whom confidence could be placed. He had known something of the Mauritius. He had known of governors going out and coming in, and he must confess that he knew of only one person in that colony in whom any confidence could be placed. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to know what line ought to be pursued with respect to the bill. As to the clauses, there could be no objection to them, but he was now called upon to give his consent to them, upon the supposition that an order in council would be founded upon them. Whether that order would be issued or not, he would not pretend to determine; but all he could say was, that he trusted his noble Friend would give hon. Members some little time to consider the subject.
§ Mr. Macaulay
entertained so high a respect for his right hon. and learned Friend, and knew so well the services he had rendered to the cause of freedom, that he felt much pain in differing from him. But after the speech they had just heard, he was unwilling to give his vote without stating the grounds of it. He believed, that with respect to the general principle there was little difference between his right hon. Friend and himself. None knew better than his right hon. Friend how important it was to remove labourers from districts where the population was thick and wages were low, to districts where the land was widely spread, and labour in demand. He would admit, there might be exceptions—he thought, that wheresoever slavery existed there ought to 942 be restrictions placed upon immigration, he was also of opinion, that while slavery existed in the West Indies, it was in the highest degree pernicious to the labouring population to permit the emigration from parts where the demand for labour was small to those where it was great. And he considered; that the system of slavery, separating, as it did altogether, the interest of the capitalist from that of the labourer, depriving the latter of the fair advantage, which in a free condition, he had a right to expect from a fertile soil, and a great demand for his labour, rendered it necessary to impose a restriction upon the passage of the labourer from one country to another. But now, if there was any one part of the empire from which it was desirable to encourage emigration, it was India, and if there was any part to which the tide should flow, it was the Mauritius. The wages in the latter place would be fifty times what the labourer received in his native place. When he considered the state of the native peasantry of India, he would say, with every respect for the sincere feelings of humanity which actuated those who were opposed to the present measure, that they might be betrayed by those very feelings into committing a great wrong upon that unfortunate population. He could state it as a fact, that at the time when the debates on the subject of these peasants were going on—while persons were speaking with the greatest horror of the new system of slave-trade, the Governor-general was obliged to turn out of his road to avoid the sight of these wretched peasants dying in the ditches from starvation, in consequence of low wages. He understood his right hon. Friend to say, that as a general principle, they ought not to interfere with the free labourers removing from one part of the country to another, therefore it would appear as if he contended, that in the present case, there were circumstances which counterbalanced the difference between famine and plenty, and between two-pence a day as wages and one shilling. His right hon. Friend had spoken of the disparity between the sexes. Had he heard the statement of his noble Friend, he would have heard that measures were in view which would remedy that great evil. His right hon. Friend had also spoken of the artifices, blameable in the highest degree, practised by the agents in the Mauritius; but had he heard the 943 speech of his noble Friend, he would have discovered that no agency would now be permitted, except such as was authorized by the government in India or the government at the Mauritius. Had his right hon. Friend heard the speech, he would also have discovered that it was intended to limit the contracts entered into to such a degree that the labourers would be at liberty to choose their masters, and that no contract was to last for a longer term than twelve months. That was a state of things under which evils would arise, such as those anticipated by his right hon. Friend. With regard to the point that the language of these people was not understood in the Mauritius, his right hon. Friend seemed to have overlooked the fact, that in that island were constantly to be found a considerable number of the civil servants of the East India Company, men of high respectability, character, and attainments. Those persons understood the language of the emigrants, and would naturally be disposed to feel a strong interest in their welfare. That circumstance alone would constitute a strong distinction between the case of the Mauritius and of the West Indies, which his right hon. Friend had paralleled. With respect to some unfortunate circumstances in the past history of the Mauritius he would say, without attempting to impute to his right hon. Friend any other motives than those by which he was guided, and which were the purest and most humane, that both his right hon. Friend, and the hon. Member for Bridport, had insisted too much upon that point. It was worth while to consider whether the last slave trade, so long carried on in the Mauritius, were to be attributed entirely to a lawless disposition and contempt for the mother country, or whether it were not to be attributed to the fact that the Mauritius was close to the slave market, while other colonies were more distant. There were many general local circumstances to induce the belief that the emigrants would be better off in the Mauritius, and return to their own country afterwards under better circumstances from the Mauritius than from the West Indies. He would say, then, looking at the papers, if he were asked whether the evils he saw there were those of the slave trade such as existed between Africa and the West Indies, or those of the slave trade as it existed between this country and the colonies on the other side of the 944 Atlantic, he should say that the evils, though great and requiring correction, certainly belonged to the latter class. He would only add that he believed no persons—or few at least—had felt more strongly than he had felt during the contest that took place on the subject of negro slavery. He would not say that he did not feel for those persons who were connected with colonial property; and he declared that since that time, so far from regarding those proprietors with unfriendly feelings, there was no interest in the empire which he was more desirous to see in a flourishing and prosperous condition, because he believed that on the fate of the great experiment that had been tried depended the fate of slaves throughout the civilized world. If, twenty years hence, those colonies in which slavery continued, should be able to point to those in which it had been abolished, ruined, and the plantations in them abandoned, then he would say that although we should indeed have wiped a stain from our own land, he questioned whether we should have conferred a great and signal boon upon humanity in general. Believing, then, that the measure of his noble Friend would have a tendency to promote the prosperity of the colonies by means at once just towards the labourer, and compatible with his freedom and comfort, he should give it his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Irving
observed, that unless some steps were taken to promote the supply of labour to the colonies, the greater number of them must speedily be reduced to a state of irretrievable decay. In the West Indies, the produce of late years had fallen off nearly one half, and the expenses of cultivation had increased in a much greater ratio than the price of commodities in the home market. In this state of things, it was impossible that the colonies could go on. He must observe, that his right hon. and learned Friend (Dr. Lushington) had not, upon this occasion, stated the facts connected with the case with his usual accuracy. It appeared from the papers which had been laid before the House, that the mortality amongst the Hill Coolies imported into the Mauritius, amounted to 3½ or 3¾ per cent., which was no more than the average mortality in the garrison. It appeared, too, that although a great proportion of them arrived in the island in a state of great debility, a short residence there restored, them to 945 health and vigour, and enabled them to work with cheerfulness and ease. Their condition rapidly improved: and from a state of wretchedness and misery they speedily became contented and happy. He approved of the plan proposed by the noble Lord. It would secure to the Hill Cooly the advantages of free emigration, good treatment on the voyage, and on his arrival in the colony a perfect freedom of choice in the engagement of his labour. This would secure a mutual advantage to the planter in the Mauritius, and to the destitute poor in India. He knew not why the West Indies should not be allowed to draw from the same source a similar supply of labour. His hon. and learned Friend (Dr. Lushington) had spoken of want of obedience to the law in the Mauritius. He (Mr. Irving) knowing something of the island, begged to protest against the accuracy of that assertion. The inhabitants of Mauritius were as obedient to the law as the inhabitants of any other colony belonging to the empire. His hon. and learned Friend had said, that the planters of that island had clandestinely continued the slave-trade long after it had been abolished by the British Legislature. If that were the case, it was done without the participation of the planters, and was discontinued the moment a sufficient protective force appeared upon the coast. The hon. Member concluded by urging upon the House the absolute necessity of providing some means for increasing the supply of labour to the colonies.
congratulated the Secretary at War (Mr. Macaulay) upon the new ally he had found in the hon. Member for Antrim (Mr. Irving). He would undertake to say that this was the first time in the lives of both that they had been known to concur in any one opinion. What was the conduct of the planters of the Mauritius? He did not find that they had made any effort to accomodate themselves to the new state of things that necessarily followed the passing of the Negro Emancipation Act. They offered no increase of wages to the emancipated negro as an inducement to work. Their object was not to obtain labour at a fair price, but to extort it for the lowest possible remuneration. With respect to the emigration of labourers there was no doubt that was a desirable thing, provided it were free. What he protested against was crimping, not free emigration. That crimping had 946 taken place in India to supply the deficiency of labourers in the Mauritius, could not be denied. That men had been deceived, deluded, and defrauded, deprived of all protection, and engaged with no fair contract by the planters of the Mauritius under a palpable system of crimping, could not be gainsaid. He appealed to the House whether any one part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's (Dr. Lushington's) speech had been answered by the Secretary at War. Not one of the charges against the Mauritius had been replied to. Not one particular of the absence of all means to guard the Indian emigrants, when they arrived in the Mauritius, had been responded to. It was admitted by the Government that this kind of emigration could not continue, except under proper checks and guards. The noble Lord said, that he would establish agents in India, who should furnish means of protection to the emigrant. Was he to be told that no Hill Cooly was to be brought from his native hills to the sea shore for the purpose of emigration, except under the sanction and protection of the Government agent? If that were not the case, the system of crimping would continue as heretofore. Whatever plan was proposed, ought to be clearly and distinctly explained before the House was asked to advance a step in a matter of so much importance. In his estimation it was idle to talk of Government agents affording protection to the Hill Coolies against improper and unjust bargains in India. Until he knew how that protection was to be afforded— until he saw how it was to be carried into effect, he could not regard it as a protection to all. He was of opinion that the clauses proposed by the noble Lord ought to be postponed until all the details of the contemplated scheme had been explained; until they knew what the Government agency was to be, and how the machinery that was to protect the native Indian was to be put in motion. Who indeed were the persons who were to guard the Hill Cooly on his voyage, and to see that he was not assigned, when he arrived in the Mauritius,? Why the Secretary at War told the House that there was constantly a number of invalids going from India to the Mauritius for the recovery of their health, and that amongst this suffering gentry persons would be found who would take care of the Hill Coolies. A goodly security this! and 947 one, no doubt, upon which the Cooly might very confidently rely. But the fact failed the right hon. Gentlemen, for he believed that it was not the custom of invalids to go from India to the Mauritius. But even if it were so, that would be the extent and value of the protection afforded by them to the Hill Coolies. Persons suffering from illness had generally enough to do to take care of their own health, and certainly could not be reckoned upon as likely to become very efficient guardians of the interests and comforts of those in whose welfare they had no immediate concern. What a resource was this for so clever a man as the Secretary at War. Cudgelling his brain for a protection for the Hill Cooly he could find none better than that of the Indian invalid. Admirable device! To be safe, the Cooly must embark in a floating hospital, must make part of a cargo of invalids. Why, was this rational? Did it afford anything in the shape of protection that could be relied upon? But was this all? Did not the papers upon the table show that the wretched Hill Coolies, when they arrived in the Mauritius, were made to work under the inspection of the police— that the armed force of the country was employed to compel them to labour? Was he to be told that this was not slave labour? What was slave labour, if this were not? True, the lash was not left in the hand of the master, (though there was evidence to show that the use of that abhorrent weapon was not wholly discontinued), but did it not amount to a state of actual and degrading slavery, when it was left to the correctional police to enforce the amount of labour? Moreover, it appeared that none of the Hill Coolies employed in the Mauritius, were allowed to leave the plantation on which their labour was engaged without a written pass to go through the country. Was this anything like free labour? He shuddered at this attempt to legalise a new slave trade, and to give a new class of slaves to the British Empire. Free emigration no doubt was a good thing, but crimping was an abomination. If any scheme for promoting the emancipation of the Indian population were to be adopted, it ought to be clearly and distinctly defined, so that no mistakes might arise —no frauds be practised—no injustice done—no cruelty perpetrated—no tyranny established—no slavery revived. To af- 948 ford a proper protection to these persons, there ought to be erected a permanent tribunal of protectorship, well salaried by the State. When he saw a scheme of that kind proposed, he would not resist it; but till then he should feel it his solemn duty to oppose all such vague and undefined projects as was now proposed. He begged to move, therefore, by way of amendment, that the consideration of these clauses be postponed for six months.
Mr. Vernon Smith
trusted, that in the very few observations he intended to offer to the House, he should not be supposed to entertain a less earnest desire for the extinction of slavery than the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, whose able and long-continued exertions to free the slave were so universally known, and whose efforts in that great cause ought in his opinion to have secured for him a high and paramount position in the ranks of those who professed to be its friends, rather than rejection or exclusion. With respect to the question before the House, he must observe that the whole of the debate had turned upon the errors of the past, and upon the mal-administration and misfortunes which had existed heretofore; whereas his noble Friend (Lord John Russell), in opening the subject, stated most distinctly that it was not his intention to revive the system that had previously existed, but to put it upon a totally different footing. What were the evils most complained of prior to the issuing of the order in council? The duration of the contract under which the Hill Cooly embarked for the Mauritius, and the immense majority of the male sex in that colony. Now his noble Friend stated distinctly that his intention was to carry out such a system that the Indian labourer might embark for the colony without being embarrassed by any contract whatever. It was admitted on all sides of the House that emigration was most important to the colonies; but the moment that any system of emigration was proposed, a host of difficulties were raised, and every kind of difficulty thrown in the way. He doubted whether the objections raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell), would not equally apply to the emigration of his own countrymen to this country. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that he did not object to emigration, but to crimping. 949 A more obnoxious word could not be used; but did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say, that his noble Friend's plan tended in any way to encourage crimping? The object of the plan was to provide a greater security for the native Indian leaving Hindostan for the Mauritius than hitherto; and he maintained that if the plan were adopted, the object would be attained. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, said that all the means of protection had been tried already. Had the new system of not allowing them to depart except under contract and accompanied by females been tried? The right hon. Gentleman had long had an opportunity of considering the ordinances of his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, as regarded British Guiana and Trinidad, and had not offered any opposition to them. If he did not disapprove of those ordinances, on what ground was it that he objected to the present plan with regard to the Mauritius? That there was a want of labour in the colonies was admitted on all hands, and it was the duty of the Legislature to offer all possible facilities to the importation of free labour there. The right hon. Gentleman argued that the Mauritius ought not, as regarded the objects of this bill, to be separated from the West India colonies, because, he said, in no place was power so much abused as in the Mauritius, and not one of the authorities, from the late governor down to the meanest officer, was to be trusted. Now his experience in his present office had not been very long, and he must say that he had not met with any of those complaints which such a general inefficiency or misconduct must of necessity have given rise to. But why had not the right hon. Gentleman, if he was in possession of information on the subject, long since brought it before Parliament? Surely it was the duty of a Member of that House, if cognizant of such a state of things as the right hon. Gentleman had described, to have afforded the House an opportunity of considering it and of expressing an opinion upon it. The right hon. Gentleman had called the authority of Mr. Anderson to his aid in his attack on this plan. That Gentleman's authority, however, rather told the other way, for he had since been appointed by those most interested in the importation of Hill Coolies into the Mauritius their agent in 950 this country, and he had come over for that purpose. He would recommend the right hon. Gentleman in the House to read the last report of Mr. Anderson on the subject, in order to ascertain what were his opinions. The right hon. Gentleman argued, also, from the fact that the production of sugar from the Mauritius had increased, that additional labour was not wanted. It was true that from 1834 to 1839 there had been an increase of 11½ per cent.; but it was against the fear of a future want of labour that the Legislature had to guard. He could not agree in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman as to piecemeal legislation in this instance. On the contrary, he thought that it was better for the Legislature to select one particular place for the commencement of the experiment—a point towards which the current of public opinion would set, and which would indicate whether or not the experiment could be tried with success elsewhere. The Mauritius, he conceived, was exactly the colony on which every man of sense would fix as that to which the exportation of labour should be directed. By one means or other a great number of the same class of labourers whom you now proposed to export from India had already been transferred to the Mauritius, and a better field for the experiment, therefore, there could not be. He hoped, from the tone of the discussion this evening, that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not continue to feel towards the emancipated negroes as they formerly felt towards the slaves; but that the Emancipation Act would be an act of oblivion of all feelings but those which tended to the improvement of the condition of the labourers in our colonies.
observed, that as by the title of this bill its operation was confined to "our West Indian Colonies," the noble Lord would find it necessary, before introducing the clauses relative to the Mauritius, to move an instruction to the committee to that effect.
§ The Speaker
said that, consistently with the title of the bill, those clauses could not be introduced without an instruction to the committee.
§ Original motion and amendment both withdrawn.
§ Lord John Russell
moved that it be an instruction to the committee that they have power to regulate the intercourse between the East Indies and the Mauritius.
§ Mr. Gladstone
said he thought these clauses practically nugatory, because the power given by them was one which the Government already possessed by virtue of their control over the possessions of the East India Company. It was his intention, however, to vote for those clauses; but in doing so he must beg to be understood as only assenting to the general principle of emigration from the East Indies, not as pledging himself to adopt all the details of the noble Lord's plan. The noble Lord must be understood as taking the responsibility of any particular plan for carrying out that principle. With the greatest pleasure he had heard the hon. Gentleman opposite declare his conviction that this emigration question was one of great importance, not only to the planters and labourers, but to the general interests of humanity. He must also say that it was in vain for us to trust to the temporary prosperity of the colonies and the efforts of the planters to maintain cultivation; because when prices fell in this country, as they must do, the sources of the wages of the labourer would be dried up, and the existing prosperity would no longer continue.
§ Mr. Wakley
considered this proposal as a means of reviving, under another name, the odious traffic in slaves; and he, therefore, hoped the House would not proceed another step with these clauses until the noble Lord stated precisely what his plan was with respect to the introduction of these labourers into the Mauritius.
§ Sir C. Grey
considered the introduction of the clauses perfectly legitimate and necessary. From his own knowledge he could say that these Hill Coolies were a peaceable and well-disposed race, and if the Government in India would lend its co-operation, and these Coolies were made acquainted with the fact that there was a place where they would be employed and well treated, there would be no difficulty in carrying out the plan, without any approach to coercive measures.
§ The House divided: Ayes 79; Noes 44; Majority 35.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adam, Adm.||Bewes, T.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Blair, J.|
|Alston, R.||Blake, M. J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Blake, W. J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Brodie, W. B|
|Berkeley, hon. H.||Brownrigg, S.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Buller, C.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Burroughes, H.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Clay, W.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Collier, J.||Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Patten, J. W.|
|Cresswell, C.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Pryme, G. R.|
|Dundas, D.||Pryse, P.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Pusey, P.|
|Euston, Earl of||Rawdon, Col.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Russell, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Gordon, R.||Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.|
|Greene, T.||Seymour, Lord|
|Greg, R. H.||Sheil, right hon. R. L.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Smith, J. A.|
|Grey, rt. hon Sir G.||Smith, B.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Smith, R. V.|
|Hobhouse, right hon. Sir. J.||Stock, Dr.|
|Hodgson, R.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Hope, hon. C.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Hoskins, K.||Talbot, J, H.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Hurt, F.||Tufnell, H.|
|Hurt, W.||White, A.|
|Irving, J.||Wilde, Sir T.|
|Labouchere, rt. hn. H.||Williams, W. A.|
|Macauley, rt. hn. T.B.||Wilshere, W.|
|Marshall, W.||Woodhouse, E.|
|Marshland, H.||Wyse, T.|
|Maule, hon. F.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Muskett, G. A.||Parker, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Mackinnon, W.|
|Aglionby, Major||Oswald, J.|
|Bailey, J.||Phillips, M.|
|Bailey, J, jun.||Praed, W. T.|
|Baines, E.||Protheroe, E.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Roche, E. B.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Round, C. G.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Round, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Scholefield, J.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Sheppard, T.|
|Bryan, G.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Busfeild, W.||Style, Sir C.|
|Darby, G.||Thornely, T.|
|Doughlas, Sir C.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Du Pre, G.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Ewart, W.||Wakley, T.|
|Hawes, B.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Hindley, C.||Wood, B.|
|Hughes, W. B.||Worsley, Lord|
|Jackson, Serg.||Yates, J. A.|
|Lushington, rt. hn. S.||O'Connell, D.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Warburton, H.|
§ Instruction agreed to. House in Committee.
§ The House resumed, bill to be reported.