§ Lord J. Russell
was understood to say be felt it necessary to state to the House the general circumstances and principles I upon which the Government thought it right to originate this measure. He wished to state what the Government intended to do with reference to the West India colonies, as well as all the other colonies. The emancipation of the negroes took place in 1838, and it was worthy the attention of the House to hear how that act had operated upon those who were the objects of; it. As far as that act went to affect the moral character and conduct of the negroes and the peace of the colonies nothing could be more gratifying or satisfactory than the result. Since that act had passed some negroes had made great acquisitions of property, especially in British Guiana. In that colony one negro had purchased land of tie value of 2,200l. sterling, another 10,000l., a third 4,000l., another 5,000l., and, on the whole, negroes had made purchases there with their own savings of capital to the value of 24,000l. As might be expected, there has been a great decrease in the production of these colonies; and, in the first place, there has been a disincli- 1387 nation—[Here the call of" Order, order," and the noise, prevented the noble Lord from completing the sentence.] The House, continued the noble Lord, may not take that peculiar interest in the subject to which it is entitled; but it is a question of vital importance to the colonies, and it is for that reason that I wish to bring it before the attention of the House. It is a question affecting not the present time only, but it affects the future welfare not only of the colonies, but, I might almost say, of mankind in general. A great change has taken place, accompanied by these circumstances, that the emancipated negroes have behaved with the greatest subordination to the laws—that they have not broken out against the ordinary laws which govern society—that they have not acted in disobedience to the Governor—but there has not been employed that quantity of labour in the production of sugar, as in the former years. Several instances I could supply, but the contrast in production will be so clearly seen by stating the amount of sugar imported into the United Kingdom in the years 1830, 1831, and in the years 1838 and 1839. In the first of the two former years there were 3,913,000 cwt. of sugar, and in the second of those former years there were four millions and a fraction cwts.; whereas in the year 1838 there were but 3,521,000 cwt., and in the year 1839, but 2,822,000 cwt. imported into the United Kingdom. Here is a great falling off. The accounts from the colonies, and especially from Guiana, show a greater falling off. With this diminution in the quantity a great rise in the article of sugar has taken place, amounting from 23s., 24s., up to 40s. per cwt., independent of the duty. Concomitantly with this decrease in the quantity and increase in the price has been the increase of the foreign slave trade. These are facts resting upon high and indisputable authority, proving the increase of the foreign slave trade—that it is more profitable than the free trade—that barbarities of the most cruel character occur—that one hundred thousand slaves are annually sent from Africa to the foreign slave countries, and that a number not less than those imported are sacrificed by deportation, by the transmission, and by the landing of the slaves. That one hundred thousand, at least, are sacrificed to this horrible and detestable traffic, there cannot be the slightest doubt; and it is a question with the people, as with the Government of this country, how we can effectually put down 1388 this abominable trade. It is impossible to expect, unless some effectual means be adopted, while we prevent the slave trade with respect to our own colonies, that the sugar produced by the slave labour of foreign countries will not be introduced either surreptitiously or legally, in consequence of the great demand for this article which is now a necessary of life.—[Tumult continuing.] I am sorry to find that the attention of the House does not accompany me upon the subject. I now endeavour to bring the subject to this point, that the abolition of slavery, though it has contributed very largely to the personal comfort of the individuals for whose benefit it was in tended, yet it has diminished the quantity of labour employed in the cultivation of sugar; that in proportion as the quantity has diminished the price has increased; that there is at present a demand by many persons to have the foreign slave sugar introduced into this country; that there exists at the present moment an increase in the slave trade cannot be denied, and one of the measures adopted by the House, and which received its almost unanimous sanction, is an expedition of British steamships. [Tumuli increasing.]
§ Mr. Briscoe
rose to order. This is a subject upon which the attention of many Members of the House is fixed, and it is utterly impossible to know what the noble Lord says owing to the voice of those Members below the bar who are employed in procuring pairs.
§ Lord J. Russell
One of the measures which the House sanctioned without a dissentient voice was the expedition to Africa, with a view of forming upon the Niger and elsewhere some commercial relations with the African chiefs, for the purpose of inducing them not to sell their people, but adopt some useful commercial traffic. But, on this point, let the House recollect that we had had the greatest difficulty with the nations of Europe, and with the most enlightened nations, too, in inducing them to concur with us in condemning the slave trade. If that were the case, then, how much more difficult, how gradual must be the progress we could make in persuading the barbarous chiefs of Africa, to abandon their cruel and inhuman traffic. But there were other measures to which the colonies themselves had turned their attention. They say with justice that slavery was abolished; every labourer working in the colonies was free to make his own contract. The prices of labour were to be regulated 1389 by a commission; but, said the colonists, "Let us have the advantage to induce labourers to come to these colonies to see whether free labour here can compete with slave labour in the foreign markets." In Trinidad an ordinance was approved by his noble Friend, Lord Normanby, who was then at the head of the Colonial-office, by which a certain sum was to be appropriated for the purposes of emigration; and persons were sent from the colony to the United States of America to act as agents, and three or four cargoes of negroes left the United States and were introduced into Trinidad. Their labour had been found to be extremely useful. In British Guiana a similar ordinance was passed, by which 400,000l. was devoted for the purposes of immigration; but with respect to that ordinance nothing final has been done. With respect to Jamaica, it is agreed by the Legislative Council, with the consent of the Governor, that 50,000l. shall be appropriated each year, for four years, to pay the passage of persons immigrating into that colony. A general agent has been appointed with a salary, and strict precautions are taken to prevent any inducement to the labourers to immigrate without a prospect of immediate employment. Agents are also appointed to know what the owners of the estates will give the labourer. These proposals are to be circulated, and the labourers are to make their own bargain. There is a provision which, I think, is of doubtful policy. It is proposed that the, labourer should pay his passage, and that he should indenture himself for three years. I think, myself, that the labourer should be allowed a free passage, and that the time of three years is too long a period. At the same time, considering how desirable it is to increase the labour in Jamaica, and seeing how difficult it is to obtain a sufficiency of labour, and also how completely the labourers have the command of the market, I shall not be disposed to advise the Queen to disallow that act of the Jamaica Legislature, although I object to the particular provisions. These provisions as to the colonies apply to emigrants coming from the United States, from Europe, from Africa, and Sierra Leone. The Governor of Jamaica says that there are many complaints of the low price of labour, and that there is a disposition to obtain high wages. Next comes the subject for which I have provided in the bill, which relates to the Mauritius. The House will recollect that three years ago there was a discussion in 1390 this House with respect to the introduction of Indian labourers into British Guiana. The Governor-general of India had written that he heard complaints as to the distance to which the Indian labourers were taken, and also that they were taken in total ignorance of their fate; and he proposed to prevent the transmission of Indians to any other places than to the Mauritius, to which the distance was not so great. Since that opinion was delivered there were representations made in this country, so that it was found better for a time to prevent the immigration of the labourers entirely, but it was always intended that the transmission should become the subject of consideration. Accordingly, in the course of last autumn, various representations were made to me with respect to India and our West India colonies, and I decided that if any thing should be done with regard to it it should be done with respect to the Mauritius. Mr. Charles Anderson, who had stated that several Indians had suffered severely in the transmission, was the bearer of a proposition that the Indians should be allowed to immigrate to the Mauritius only, because the voyage did not occupy more time than three weeks, and that provision should be taken by the Governor-general of India for the appointment of agents to prevent frauds; that in the Mauritius agents should be employed to take similar precautions there also; and that the labourers on their arrival should be at liberty to make whatever engagements they thought proper; and I am of opinion that to Lord Auckland and to Sir Lionel Smith such precautions might be fairly entrusted. This would be just, not only to the Indian labourer, who in India receives but 2d. a day, and who is frequently subject to famine as well as to the persons who employ him. There is another question, not only that the Indians should be allowed to go to the Mauritius, but that the provision should be extended, and that the whole of the West Indies should have the benefit of their labour. But this is a subject of great magnitude and pregnant with important consequences. It is of importance that the Indians should go to the British colonies, that in these colonies they should establish races, and that they should have the privilege of freedom. At first, no doubt, hardships would arise, from the difference of manners and customs, as well as from their ignorance of the peculiar habits of those with whom they 1391 would be associated. I am not, I must say, disposed to undertake the responsibility of so great a change in the aspect of the country. Hereafter it may become the subject of consideration how far it might be for the benefit of those labourers as well as of the West Indies to promote such immigration; but at present I have considerable doubts on the subject, and the opinion of the House was pronounced against the experiment. Not more than 4,000 had emigrated from India to Guiana. They were not attended to as they ought to have been, and many of them fell by the disease peculiar to the climate. The noble Lord concluded by moving the third reading of the bill.
§ Viscount Howick
was anxious to ask his noble Friend whether he proposed to lay before the House the act of the Jamaica Assembly in relation to this subject, an act of which he had only just heard for the first time; because, if that measure was so objectionable as it appeared to be from some remarks of the noble Lord, he should feel it his duty to make some proposition to that House upon the subject'. He trusted, therefore, that the noble Lord would not only lay the bill on the table of the House, but that he would give some assurance that the formal assent of her Majesty to the measure should not be given to it, should it happen to be disapproved of by the House.
§ Lord J. Russell
had no objection to the production of the bill. He would not say that all the clauses in that bill were unobjectionable, but he thought that the most advisable course was, to give the freest scope to free labour, as opposed to the labour of slaves.
§ Viscount Howick
concurred generally with his noble Friend who had just sat down, but he so far differed from him as to think that the labour of indentured persons could not be considered free labour.
§ Sir R. Peel
hoped that the noble Lord would well consider the course which he was about to take, and the precedent which it went to establish. The noble Lord was asked to produce an act passed by a colonial Legislature, as to which the Crown had not yet given its assent, and the noble Lord agreed to do so. That precedent once established, similar acts might again be called for by the House, and the opinion of the House taken upon the subject, the consequence of which would be, that the responsibility of sanctioning, modifying, or 1392 rejecting these measures would rest with the House of Commons. He hoped that before the noble Lord produced the act he he would make up his mind as to the advice which he proposed to give the Crown on the subject.
§ Sir G. Grey
observed, that the bill to which reference had been made, did not require the royal assent; it had already been assented to by the Governor, and it was not usual, unless upon the representation of the Governor, for the Crown to disallow any bill. In this case, the Governor had recommended that the bill be not disallowed.
§ Viscount Howick
had not asked for the bill with any view of eliciting from the House of Commons an opinion upon the subject. It was not usual for acts passed by the Legislature of Jamaica to receive the assent of the Crown. If for two years after they were passed the Crown gave no directions, the acts were finally binding. His noble Friend had not disallowed this act, and all that he wanted from him was a special confirmation, in order that there should be no future disallowance of the measure. For these reasons he thought the course now proposed to be taken would not create a new precedent.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that his impression upon the matter had been shared by all the hon. Members who sat near him. He had given no opinion, nor did he intend to give any, with respect to the policy of the act; at the same time he must say, that he viewed the indenture system with great apprehension. He viewed it as a condition which, however brief, placed the party during his continuance under indenture in a situation very little removed from that of slavery.
§ Bill read a third time.
§ On the question that it do pass,
rose to move an amendment, of which he had given previous notice. He seldom trespassed on the House by reverting to anything that he had uttered in that House on previous occasions, but he could not help bearing testimony to the clear and concise statement as to the condition of our colonies at this crisis, which had been called forth from the noble Lord, in his reply to the observations he (Dr. Lushington) had made. There was no doubt that the general description which had then been given perfectly corresponded with the state of the colonies. Notwithstanding all that had been done, and all 1393 the expenses that had been incurred, it had been asserted that the slave trade had increased, and that foreign slavery in particular had much augmented. Though he was disposed to admit, to a certain extent, the truth of what had been said, yet he was not prepared to say that the increase of foreign slave trade had arisen from the line of conduct adopted in this country with regard to our own colonies, for he begged to remind the House, that the foreign slave trade had increased, and was increasing, before the passing of the Emancipation Act. It was a remarkable fact, that the demand for sugar had augmented on the continent to a degree it was almost impossible to estimate, and that the demand was from year to year on the increase. He admitted that in British Guiana, Jamaica, and Trinidad, a very considerable diminution of sugar had taken place since the Slave Emancipation Bill. He agreed in the sentiments expressed by his noble Friend, and he acknowledged the great importance of increasing the number of labourers engaged in the production of sugar by emigration, so that emigration was carried on by fair and by judicious means. Every one possessing common sense must agree to this proposition, that when there is a country over-populated, and another country such as Guiana, with thousands of square miles without the vestige of a human being, that emigration ought to be resorted to. The question was one of vast importance, and attention must be turned to all quarters of the world, to find the place the most eligible from whence to remove the deficiency. The first suggestion was, to get a supply of labourers from the United States. So far as this could be done, with a due regard to the comparative welfare of the emigrants, he would be ready to give that place his sanction. There was another source, but he would never yield his consent to the project. It was to permit an importation from Africa; for that would, in his judgment, be only a renewal of slavery. There was also another suggestion, and that was to avail ourselves of the slaves captured in the slave ships; but he knew of no reason, whatever might be the number, why they were to be left in slavery in Cuba and the Brazils, when this country had a perfect right, by treaty, to carry them to the British dominions, and to treat them as British subjects.—He lamented the fact, that out of 10,500 slaves, for whose liberty British bounty had been taxed, no less than 8,600 in Cuba were in 1394 a state of slavery to all intents and purposes; for who could assert that their condition was less oppressive than that of slavery itself. When slave-vessels were sailing under the Portuguese flag, why were they not seized, now that we had an undoubted right to take such a course? The last question was, the exportation of the inhabitants of British India to the Mauritius, as contemplated by the noble Lord, and to all the British colonies, as proposed by the amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. G. Berkeley). Under some wise and well-digested plan, labourers might be favourably transferred from India to the Mauritius; but so far from thinking that the present experiment was likely to turn out favourably, he was of opinion that past experience, and the state and condition of the island, demonstratively showed that the experiment, if made, would be made under the most unfavourable circumstances. He had well weighed and considered the matter, and he could say, with truth, that no one was more ready to concede his opinion to his noble Friend than he was, provided he could do so with propriety. He spoke now of the Hill Coolies, and he told the House, that out of all the number sent from Bengal, not one-fifth were Hill Coolies—and that not one-half were employed in agricultural pursuits, or were fit for that employment. The reports which had been received showed that this was the fact. Look at the situation of the inhabitants. Look at the East India Report from the House of Lords. They had been making a great experiment with respect to tea cultivation; millions of acres were still uncultivated, because capital and population were required. But he told them to stop a little before they exported people from India, and not to do so until they could do it with safety. What did Sir W. Nicolay say, and what did the Government of India say? Why, that the experiment had been attended with loss, and injury and suffering to the inhabitants of India, rather than benefit and advantage. No one could get up and advocate the proposition to bring ten or fifteen thousand of the male sex from India, without taking due precautions. He told the House that there was all but an insuperable difficulty to get females to emigrate from India, even to the Mauritius. As this, then, was the case, and in the absence of other information he saw no reason to think why the exportation of these people would not for the future be attended with a repetition of those dis- 1395 graceful scenes that had already taken place. He found that sixteen of these unfortunate people had, while on their passage, been left without a drop of water. They had had recourse to a most horrible practise in order to sustain their wretched existence, but it was unavailing, for after long suffering they died. He admitted that the bill of his noble Friend would do much to put an end to such horrors; but there was another reason why he thought the Mauritius the very worst place for the emigration of the Coolies. His noble Friend said that the general opinion was, that they were well treated. Now, who was the author of the plan sent over from the Mauritius hut the very Mr. Charles Anderson who, in a report on the subject, had stated that in the very seat of Government, under the very eye of Governor Merlay, in point of food and accommodation, they were very badly treated. If this, then, was their treatment in the capital, what would it be in the extremities of the island? They had it in evidence that every master claimed the right of imprisonment—that he inflicted personal correction, and did not allow any person to quit his employment without tickets of leave. If this was not slavery, he knew not in what language to describe it—if this was not ill-usage, he was at a loss to know what ill-usage was. But what was the feeling in the Mauritius? Had the Chief Justice not sanctioned a report that had been sent home to Lord Glenelg, and of which that noble Lord wrote back that he was ashamed? Who, then, was to be trusted after this? Not one, if he excepted the Governor, who for twelve years had so conducted himself in his office as to merit the thanks of this House, and the country. There were not any means of holding free communication with the Cookies. At every question put to them their masters were always present. As related to the Mauritius the scheme was a most dangerous one, for it would render it a matter of greater difficulty hereafter to introduce a free labouring population into our West India islands, and was destructive of that principle of freedom they had hitherto advocated. He said that in British Guiana, last year, there had been a great deficiency in the sugar crops, while in the Mauritius it was larger than in any previous year. The gentleman he had already alluded to—he meant Mr. Charles Anderson—actually states that the whole sugar crop of the Mauritius was the pro- 1396 duct of the labour of 15,000 Hill Coolies and 5,000 liberated apprentices. What credit was to be attached to the statement he did not know Were it not for the middle passage from Hindostan to Guiana, he believed that it would be better to transfer the Coolies to British Guiana than to the Mauritius. The climate and the people were better suited to their nature, and the mortality was much less than in the West India Islands; but before consenting even to this he must see some measures securing laws for the protection of those who were unable to protect themselves. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving that the clause of the bill relating to Hill Coolies be omitted.
§ Mr. Elliot
bore testimony that the Hill Coolies were not backward in appealing to the tribunals established in the Mauritius. It was material to keep this in view, because it had been urged that the Coolies were unable to attend to their own interests. He had been in the Mauritius, and though only for a few days, he was—as all travellers, without exception, were—much struck at the extraordinary mixture of races. Most certainly people coming from the East Indies could have no difficulty in finding an interpreter, for there were there Mahometan as well as Hindoo, and every species of the Eastern inhabitants. This was a material point to keep in view, as he thought his hon. and learned Friend had rather too much strained that part of his speech in which he described the Coolies as completely helpless and unprotected. He had been employed to inquire into the condition of the labourers in the East, and he found that in Bengal the remuneration of the labourer was from two to two and a half rupees per month. Would they then, in such circumstances, prevent a man like this from emigrating to a place where he would be much better paid? But this difference in his wages would not be the only advantage. His country was subject to inundations, and the inhabitants to famine. In 1806 he was at Madras, when the dreadful famine existed. He had seen mothers tottering feebly along, scarcely able to carry their infants, and men dying by the road side by thousands, on their way to the coast to obtain some relief from the rice which Government had shipped. Would they then prevent men subject to the chance of such misery from emigrating? He would mention another instance to show the dreadful calamities these people occasion- 1397 ally suffered from it at home. During an inundation at Bengal, he had a friend, who after having made two marches on the way to Calcutta, was forced to return, from the pestilential smell that rose from the dead carcasses. Men, bullocks, and horses, were all swept away. Would his hon. and learned Friend still say to these men, "Do not go to the Mauritius, for though you may earn four or five rupees per month, yet you may have a harsh master?" He had no interest to serve in making these statements. He was not a West India proprietor, and looked only to the interest and happiness of the people for whom they were now called on to legislate. Both at Madras and Bengal ships could not leave the port without the cognizance of the Government; therefore, it was competent for the Government to make any regulations whatsoever with regard to the emigration of the Hill Coolies. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had on a former occasion said, that no women were permitted to accompany the labourers to the Mauritius, which he had described as being a painful state of things; but he understood that, according to the plan intended to be adopted, no Hill Coolies would be allowed to emigrate without a certain portion of the women. [Lord John Russell: It was not a provision in the bill, but part of the plan.] The commissioners had introduced into the Mauritius the system of Savings' Banks, and they mentioned an instance of one of the agricultural labourers who had saved upwards of six hundred rupees. He owned he was much surprised at the doctrine held forth by those who were opposed to the emigration of the Hill Coolies. It was a doctrine directly opposed to all our notions of freedom; and for his part he conceived that no Gentleman in that House had more right to go as one of a party of pleasure to Richmond than these Hill Coolies had to hire themselves out to service, either in the Mauritius, or in any other part of the world. He was surprised, therefore, that a petition should have been presented from the Court of Directors in opposition to this bill. He was astonished at it, and could not refrain expressing his feeling of surprise at the circumstance.
§ Mr. Hogg
said, that the petition to which the hon. Gentleman had referred was presented by him, but it was not from the Court of Directors; it was from the whole East India Company. The very moment their alarm was excited by seeing it stated 1398 that the noble Lord had introduced these clauses, a special court was called, and in that court the petition was prepared and adopted. [Mr. Elliot: Did Sir Richard Jenkins concur with it.] Entirely. The petition was not directly against permitting the emigration of the Hill Coolies. The East India Company agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that it might, perhaps, be possible to admit emigration. What they said was, "Show us adequate restrictions—show us provisions that will exclude a repetition of the abuses and atrocities that have occurred, and we at once concede the general principle." The noble Lord must perceive that this bill was perfect for its own immediate object, without this question of emigration being mixed up with it. If it was right to permit the emigration of the natives of India, that could be much better done by a separate bill. He only entreated the noble Lord to grant a short delay; and the reason he did so was that there was an absence of that information which might almost be daily expected. If any atrocities had taken place connected with the emigration of the Hill Coolies at all, he would admit at once that the most gross atrocities were perpetrated in India itself; but upon that subject the noble Lord had no information whatsoever. A public meeting was held in Calcutta upon the question; and, in consequence of that meeting, Lord Auckland appointed a committee of inquiry to investigate the whole facts connected with it. A letter had been received in England, stating that Lord Auckland expected to be able immediately to send home the report of that committee, with an appendix containing all the evidence; and there was every reason to believe that it would reach England overland on the 4th of next month. He hoped, under these circumstances, that the noble Lord would not be disposed to press these clauses. He trusted, also, that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control would consent to concede to the East India Company the short delay they asked. If, on the contrary, he should persevere, and the bill should pass that House, then it would be the duty of the East India Company to adopt each and every measure by petition and request to impede the progress of these clauses as they now stood.
§ Mr. Grantley Berkeley
would ask whether the delay now required would benefit the West India planters; if so, he would support the right hon. and learned Gentle- 1399 man, but he doubted its having any such effect. The proprietors of West India property were in a most distressed and impoverished state for want of a proper supply of labourers on their estates. The consequence was, that they were incapable of keeping up the churches and schools, so that it would be found ere long that the interests of religion and of society would rapidly fall into decay.
§ Mr. Irving
thought that the interests of the West India colonies could only be saved by a system of general emigration, and he trusted that that system would be produced by the provisions of this bill. He hoped that the bill, having been so far sanctioned by the House in its progress, would not now be rejected.
§ Viscount Howick
said that the question before the House appeared to him to be whether, by the introduction of these clauses, they were to allow the trade which had been before carried on to be again commenced as a matter of private speculation. It was said that it was not to be a matter of private speculation, but unless in some shape private persons were to be encouraged in these speculations, he saw no object with which these clauses could be adopted. The Government themselves were to superintend the conveyance of the Hill Coolies to the Mauritius; but if in that consisted the whole of the regulation, why, he asked, were these clauses introduced for regulating the importation of the natives of India in vessels, not taken up by the Government, but in merchant vessels proceeding to the Mauritius? He thought that in reality the only effect of this bill would be to permit that atrocious trade, which had before existed, to be renewed under some circumstances or other, and although he had no doubt that his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, would endeavour to put an end to the evils of that trade by the appointment of agents and other means, he had the strongest doubts how far any sufficient regulation could be possibly effected. It was found that the system was still carried on, and what security, he asked, was there that abuses of the same kind would not be again perpetrated? There were facts stated in the papers before the House which must remove all doubts upon the point which he suggested, or upon the misery which was experienced by the wretched emigrants. Many of them had felt so forcibly their wretched condition, that in their voyage they had thrown themselves overboard to escape from the 1400 misery to which they believed themselves destined—a fact affording conclusive evidence, he thought, that many of these unhappy persons were carried away by force from their own country. It had been shown that the Governor-general of India felt it to be a matter of difficulty to guard against these abuses, and as long as it was a matter of private advantage for merchant shipowners to carry these persons from India to the Mauritius, so long would they prevail. Agents might be appointed to watch over the proceedings in reference to them, but although they should employ their utmost vigilance, the existing evils could not, under such a state of things, be removed. They might go on board the ships, and all the supposed necessary inquiries might be made; but although those inquiries might be took upon papers, the greatest mischiefs might prevail, for the Surdars, or traders of the gangs, were but too frequently the objects for carrying on a system of the greatest tyranny. If it were proposed that Government were to take upon themselves the charge of the whole system, he called upon the House at once to reject these clauses; and for this reason, that if these were to be Government transactions, they were not necessary for the regulation of their vessels. It was already the duty of the Government to provide proper ships, I and to ascertain that emigration was conducted upon proper principles. No Act of Parliament was necessary to render them more responsible than at present, but it I was their object to lend their sanction to the measure, and to limit their own responsibility. By striking these clauses out of the bill they did not interpose any delay in the proceedings of the Government. There was no illegality now in conveying these people to the Mauritius, but on the other hand, if they introduced these clauses they might do positive injustice by adopting regulations, without being aware of any of those rules which might be in existence in the colony, or which might be hereafter proposed. This was a course which the House ought not to agree to adopt. It was contrary to the usages of Parliament, as well as contrary to the dictates of expediency and good policy, and he trusted that his noble Friend would feel it incumbent on him to adopt the suggestion which had been offered, and abstain from calling for the opinion of Parliament upon this subject until he had it in his power to lay more full information before it. He thought that the plan which was suggested was 1401 open to much objection. It was proposed that money should be advanced from the Colonial Treasury for the purpose of promoting emigration, and in consideration of the money repaid by the persons to whom the emigrants should be consigned, they were to be entitled to their services for a longer or shorter time. This was a plan of which he decidedly disapproved. In Demerara a different mode of proceeding was adopted, the emigrant being left unshackled by any engagement, and to this he thought that much fewer objections existed; but in the state of ignorance in which the House was upon the subject, he did not see how they could be called upon to adopt any general measure. In former times the same plan had been resorted to, and had proved unsuccessful in reference to the Australian colonies. It was attempted by many persons who agreed to go to those colonies, and in consideration of their passage being paid, to bind themselves to work for a certain time for their employers. The plan, however, turned out an utter failure, and for this cause, that there was no stimulus to labour except the dread of punishment; and it was invariably found that the consequence of placing master and servant in a position of enmity was to produce misery to both, and the indentures were cancelled. When he found that in these cases the same difficulty would exist, and also that the people of the Mauritius were already too deeply tainted with the effects of slavery, believing that violence and coercion was all they had to look to, that fact alone was decisive. He conceived that the labourers were not properly protected, or guarded against oppression. The Surdars were in the position of the drivers, and there was no practical check whatever to their ill-usage of those under them. It had been suggested that there were cases of money having been saved by the emigrants. He had looked to find some confirmation of this report, but he found one case only of a Surdar who had saved 600 rupees. He thought, however, that this was no argument in favour of the system, for that the Surdar was the man, above all others, who, having the whole control of the gang, would be likely to have the means of acquiring money. An hon. Gentleman had suggested to him that the instances of the Hill Coolies renewing their engagements were frequent; but this, in his opinion, afforded only an additional proof of the abuses of the system, for there was too good reason to fear that 1402 those renewals were extorted from them by harsh means. He thought that he had stated the main objections to this bill, and that, as he had before said, if the object were really what was suggested, the bill was quite unnecessary.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said that, after the observations of the noble Lord who had just sat down, he should have been disposed to doubt the propriety of the conclusion which he had formed upon this bill, if it were not that he believed that the noble Lord had misunderstood the scheme which was proposed. It was, in fact, totally opposite to that which he had suggested. The noble Lord had said, that it was intended to revive the system by which speculators were to profit by the trade of exporting the Hill Coolies; and, if that had been so, he (Mr. Labouchere) should have opposed the measure as much as the noble Lord; but he begged to assure him that the plan of his noble Friend rested upon this principle, that this emigration should be conducted solely and exclusively by Government agency in India and in the Mauritius. No individual interest was to affect, nor could it do the slightest thing to hinder the emigration; but it was to be placed altogether in the hands of the Government. The order in council upon which this plan was carried on was similar in its operation to that upon which the system existing in Demerara and Trinidad was founded, of which the noble Lord has spoken in such terms of commendation. Another provision which afforded great protection to the emigrant was, that no contract made with him could endure more than one year. He could understand gentlemen who objected altogether to the principle of importation of free labourers from India into the Mauritius, but he could not understand those who, while they admitted the importance of encouraging the emigration of free labourers, objected to the mode of doing so which this bill would give the opportunity of providing. No hon. Member had told them on what principles the emigration ought to be conducted; and he was not surprised at it, because he contended that the details of such a plan had much better be left to the local authorities. They could not effectually be marked out in any bill in that House. He would remind the House that these clauses were introduced at the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke, in order to afford an opportunity for the re-discussion of the question whether the 1403 prohibition of the importation of labourers into the Mauritius from India should be prohibited. He (Mr. Labouchere) had another and a very strong reason for desiring that this measure should pass. The hon. Member for Wigan had given notice of a motion, the effect of which would be to allow the importation into this country of sugar, the produce of slave labour. That motion he should be compelled to oppose. Yet he should, he confessed, do so with regret, when he recollected the present state of the sugar trade, and the difficulties under which those interested in it were suffering from the scanty importation and high price of sugar. While fully aware of all these circumstances, he should, nevertheless, feel himself bound to oppose that motion, because he did not see how we could consistently do anything to facilitate the importation of sugar, the produce of slave labour, at the time when we were making such efforts to abolish the slave trade. The only relief that the Government could afford would be by promoting, as much as possible, the importation of free labour into the Mauritius and the other West Indian colonies, in order to increase the importation of sugar, the produce of free labour. He entreated the House, therefore, not to throw any obstacles in the way of the efforts of the colonies to produce sugar by means of free labour.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that, although all his first impressions and prepossessions had been in favour of supporting the measure of the Government, the more he had reflected on the subject, the more he saw reason to adopt the views which had been so ably stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Beverley, and to call on the Government to delay this measure. In the first place, he thought it was clearly established that there ought to be as free a circulation of labour as possible in the British dominions, and that the House ought, by every means is in its power, to encourage as much as possible the importation of free labour into the West Indies, where some of the most fertile soil in the world was unproductive for want of hands to till it. With these feelings, no slight reason would induce him to offer any obstruction to the passing of a measure, to many points of which he was prepared to give his approval, especially to those which provided for the passage of the slaves, and to the regulations to be observed with regard to the proportion of the sexes, and the provisions for their return to their native 1404 country. With regard to the passage, it the difficulties could be overcome as regarded the passage to the Mauritius, he did not despair of overcoming them as regarded the longer passage to the West Indies. So also with regard to the treatment of the labourers in the colonies—he did not think that there existed as regarded the Mauritius any greater security for the treatment of the Hill Coolies than existed in Demerara and Berbice. His difficulty lay in those points which had been stated by his hon. Friend, the Member for Beverley. They were, in fact, called upon to legislate without having had any defined plan laid before them by the noble Lord. Before being called on to legislate, they ought to have before them the report of the Calcutta committee, and the opinion of the heads of the Indian government. He thought the Government ought immediately to communicate with the Governor-general of India, and that during the recess a plan in detail should be prepared for the purpose of practically checking those abuses, the existence of which was universally admitted. Had the noble Lord intimated that he had such a plan prepared, then he had such an entire confidence in the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, having from an early period known the kindness of his disposition, and his cautiousness before giving his sanction to any plan which his conscience was not satisfied was for the happiness of any large portion of his fellow-creatures, that he felt he might safely leave the subject to him. But he had yet to learn that the noble Lord had prepared any plan in detail, and he, therefore, thought it would be much more satisfactory to the House and the country if this bill were postponed until some more matured plan was agreed upon, unless the noble Lord would consent to withdraw the objectionable clauses. Unless the noble Lord was prepared to adopt one or other of these courses, he would most reluctantly feel himself compelled to vote against the measure.
thought that the more this subject was considered the more apparent would be the necessity to postpone the consideration of this project. He fully agreed in the importance of increasing the supply of free labour in our colonies, but in doing so they ought to take care that it should be free labour, and guard against any danger that it would be made slave labour. He certainly agreed that the Government ought to be anxious to facilitate the supply of free labour, but they ought 1405 also to take care that that labour should be perfectly free and at the disposal of the labourers. As to Guiana, it appeared that both the governor and the planters in that colony were disposed to facilitate free labour, and to leave it fairly at the disposal of the labourers. But the reverse of this had taken place in Jamaica to a frightful extent. Every thing was done there to prevent labour from being free, and Sir C. Metcalfe exhibited a fatal facility in concurring in the measures of the planters. One of the bills passed by the Assembly of Jamaica contained a clause providing for a three years apprenticeship. Though they had not formally before them the measures passed by the Jamaica Legislature, there appeared in the newspapers a schedule of acts passed by the Legislature of Jamaica. (The hon. and learned Member here read the titles of several bills passed by the Jamaica Legislature. One of these was an act to prevent the combination of masters or servants.) Masters were introduced to make a show of impartiality. Under the provisions of this act no five negroes could meet without being punishable for combination. All these acts to which he referred were manifestly framed with the desire to obtain for the magistrates and planters full dominion over the labouring population. He thought, then, that they ought not to facilitate the importation of free labour into that colony until they had an opportunity of considering those acts that conferred powers in favour of slave labour. So far as Guiana was concerned, they ought to facilitate the importation of free labour; but with respect to Jamaica, he did not think that, at present they ought to do so. So far as the Mauritius was concerned, it was impossible to place confidence there. He admitted, however, that the present governor of the Mauritius had, by his previous conduct in the West Indies, entitled himself to confidence so far as he was concerned. The President of the Board of Trade had said, that the working of this bill must be confided to the local authorities; and he thought, therefore, that it was more necessary that they should see that those authorities were entitled to confidence. He thought that they ought to postpone these clauses until they had the bills of the colonial Legislatures on the table of the House, and until the Government had perfected some plan to afford adequate protection to these individuals, and the means of returning to India if they desired it. He con- 1406 cluded by repeating that whilst they did all in their power to increase the supply of free labourers, they should at the same time take care that it should in reality be free labour.
Mr. V. Smith
said, that the right hon. Baronet opposite had very properly divided this subject into three branches. First, with respect to the condition of these labourers in India, their condition on the voyage, and their subsequent condition in the Mauritius. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had argued against the introduction of these labourers into the Mauritius; but the main drift of his speech was, with reference to the acts passed by the Assembly of Jamaica. That, however, was a question into which he would not now enter further than to say that those acts, having been approved of by the Assembly, were entitled to the most sober consideration of parties at home. With respect to the introduction of these labourers into the Mauritius, he certainly thought that nothing had been said to convince him that they ought to depart from the general principle, that every British subject had a right to seek the best market for his labour whenever he could find it. It was true that great evils had existed in the Mauritius, but not to the extent that was alleged. But, out of the several estates with respect to which an inquiry had been made into the condition of the labourers, it appeared that there were only three in which the conduct of the owners were complained of. This question had been before the House for a longer period of the Session than almost any other that had engaged its attention, and he certainly did not think that they ought to be asked to postpone it further. It had been urged by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) as a ground for delay, that they ought to wait for the report of the committee and the opinion of the Governor-general of India. This the right hon. Gentleman anticipated would reach this country by the 4th of next month. But let the House consider the mischief that would arise from this delay. Delay would be productive of ruin to the colony. All this bill asked was to affirm and provide for the possibility of emigration from India to the Mauritius taking place. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had said he would intrust the powers of this measure to Sir Lionel Smith; the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke had expressed his willingness to confide the 1407 powers to his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. Why, then, refuse this power or protection of free labourers to his noble Friend, to Lord Auckland, and Sir Lionel Smith? When hon. Gentleman spoke of the philantrophy of the East India Company, and that they stood in loco parentis to free labour, they ought to remember that it was not until the orders in council were revoked that they thought of the immigration of their subjects to the Mauritius. The hon. Member for Beverley asked for a delay till the 2nd of July; the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke asked still further delay, and therefore would increase the mischief and danger to the colony. If some plan was not agreed to, there would be a defalcation in the sugar duties next year, and the people of India would be told that the Legislature would prevent their crossing the sea to acquire better wages than they now enjoyed.
§ Sir A. Grant
should not have risen on the present occasion but for the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, reflecting upon the course of conduct pursued by Sir Charles Metcalfe, who had done more than any individual had ever effected in so short a space of time as that during which he had governed the colony. He had reconciled the most discordant interests in that distracted colony. He felt bound, as a person interested in the welfare of the island, to say thus much of the government of Sir C. Metcalfe. That gallant officer had on no occasion sided with the planters; he had pursued a strict impartiality, and in contradiction to the last sentiment expressed by the hon. and learned Member, he thought him entitled to the confidence of this country. He should vote against the amendment of the right hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and afterwards in favour of the motion for adding "British Guiana and the other colonies of Great Britain" to the clause after the word "Mauritius."
§ The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question: Ayes 109; Noes 158; Majority 49.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Bewes, T.|
|Adam, Admiral||Blackett, C.|
|Alston, R.||Blake, M. J.|
|Archbold, R.||Blake, W. J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Bodkin, J. J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Bowes, J.|
|Barry, G. S.||Brodie, W. B.|
|Berkeley, hon. G.||Browne, R. D.|
|Brownrigg, S.||Marsland, H.|
|Buller, C.||Martin, T. B.|
|Buller, E.||Maule, hon. F.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Chalmers, P.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Clay, W.||O'Brien, C.|
|Clements, Viscount||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Cole, hon. A. H.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Collier, J.||Paget, F.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Craig, W. G.||Parker, J.|
|Cresswell, C.||Parker, M.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Patten, J. W.|
|Davies, Colonel||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Denison, W. J.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Power, J.|
|East, J. B.||Pusey, P.|
|Eastnor, Viscount||Rawdon, Col. J. D.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Roche, Sir D.|
|Fitzalan, Lord||Rundle, J.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Gordon, R.||Scholefield, J.|
|Grant, Sir A. C.||Seymour, Lord|
|Greenaway, C.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Smith, R. V.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Harland, W. C.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Hawkes, T.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Heneage, G. W.||Strangways, hon. J.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Thomas, Colonel H.|
|Horsman, E.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Hume, J.||Tufnell, H.|
|Hutton, R.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Irving, J.||Walker, R.|
|James, W.||Wall, C. B.|
|Knight, H. G.||Wallace, R.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Ward, H. G.|
|Lister, E. C.||Williams, W. A.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Wyse, T.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.||Young, Sir W.|
|Maher, J.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Marshall, W.||Steuart, R.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Blennerhassett, A.|
|A'Court, Captain||Botfield, B.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Bradshaw, James|
|Bailey, J.||Bramston, T. W.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Briscoe, J. I.|
|Baillie, Col.||Broadley, H.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Brooke, Sir A. B.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Brotherton, J.|
|Baines, E.||Bruce, C. L. C.|
|Baker, E.||Bruges, W. H. L.|
|Baring, H. B.||Buck, L. W.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Buller, Sir J. Y.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Burroughes, H. N.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Busfield, W.|
|Benett, John||Butler, hon. Colonel|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Canning, rt. hn. Sir S.|
|Berkeley, hon. H.||Clerk. Sir G.|
|Cochrane, Sir T. J.||Marton, G.|
|Conolly, E.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Corry, hon. H.||Morris, D.|
|Courtenay, P.||Nicholl, J.|
|Darby, G.||Northland, Lord|
|Darlington, Earl of||O'Connell, D.|
|Dick, Quintin||O'Connell, J.|
|D'Israeli, B.||O'Connell, M.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Packe, C. W.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Palmer, G.|
|Dunbar, G.||Pattison, J.|
|Duncombe, hon. W.||Pease, J.|
|Dundas, F.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Eliot, Lord||Perceval, hon. G. J.|
|Evans, W.||Philips, M.|
|Ewart, W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Fielden, W.||Polhill, F.|
|Fellowes, E.||Pollen, Sir J. W.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Praed, W. T.|
|Finch, F.||Pringle, A.|
|Fitzpatrick, J. W.||Pryme, G.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Rickford, W.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Roche, R. B.|
|Fleming, J.||Round, C. G.|
|Forester, hon. G.||Rushout, G.|
|Freemantle, Sir T.||Salwey, Colonel|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Smyth, Sir G. H.|
|Goddard, A.||Somers, J. P.|
|Godson, R.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Spry, Sir S. T.|
|Hamilton, C. J. B.||Stanley, E.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hector, C. J.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Henniker, Lord||Stewart, J.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Hill, Lord A. M. C.||Style, Sir C.|
|Hillsborough, Earl of||Sugden, rt. hon. Sir E.|
|Hindley, C.||Thompson, Mr. Ald.|
|Hodgson, R.||Thornely, T.|
|Hogg, J. W.||Thornhill, G.|
|Holmes, hon. W. A'C.||Turner, E.|
|Holmes, W.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Hope, G. W.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hotham, Lord||Waddington, H. S.|
|Howick, Viscount||Wakley, T.|
|Hughes, W. B.||Warburton, H.|
|Humphery, J.||Welby, G. E.|
|Ingham, R.||Williams, W.|
|Jackson, Mr. Sergeant||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Winnington, H. J.|
|Johnson, General||Wodehouse, E.|
|Johnstone, H.||Wood, C.|
|Kemble, H.||Wood, G. W.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Wood, Colonel T.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Worsley, Lord|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Wyndham, W.|
|Lockhart, A. M.||Yates, J. A.|
|Lowther, hon. Colonel||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Lushington, Dr.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Hawes, B.|
§ Amendment agreed to. Bill passed.