§ Mr. Labouchere
moved—That it is expedient to reduce the duties payable on rum and rum shrub, the produce of any British possession within the limits of the East-India Company's Charter, to a duty of 9s. 4d, the gallon.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he had deferred rising to the latest moment, because, from what had passed on a previous evening he had been led to expect that some gentleman would have been anxious to enter into the question of the existence of slavery in India, but as no Gentleman had thought that branch of the subject worthy of his attention, he should proceed to express his views on the question immediately before the House; namely, the alteration proposed by the right hon. Member opposite, in the discriminating duties on East and West-India rum. If he were to enter into a history or defence of all the discriminating duties which had been established in the different colonies of this country, he would have to enter upon a subject too extensive for a single evening's discussion. He should then confine himself to the simple question before the House, the subject of the petition which had been presented by his hon. Friend near him (Sir A. Grant). In dealing with questions of this sort it had generally been the practice of Government to take one of two courses. Either having acquired such information as their official facilities enabled them to obtain, they laid a proposition, before the House, for discussion in the House or, having ascertained that such 587 proposition affected certain interests, they referred the matter to a committee, before which all parties might state their claims and their grievances, and acted on the decision of that committee. But in the present case the Government had adopted neither of these modes of proceeding. It had taken a course calculated to deceive the parties interested, and, having thus lulled them into security, had adopted a step calculated to inflict gnat injury, perhaps absolute ruin. This was altogether a new practice, and he should be glad to hear from any Member of the Government on what principle it had been adopted. He was not there merely to advocate the interests of the particular body with which he was unfortunately connected, he was not seeking for the West Indies a measure of justice more extensive than what might be accorded to any other of our colonies; but he was pleading for the interests of every man who embarked his capital in trade or manufactures, on the faith that he was to be secured in a certain relative position, and who suddenly found that position disturbed without notice to the injury, and perhaps ruin, of his property. He would state the case fairly as it stood. In the last Session of Parliament a petition was presented by the East-India company, in which they stated a variety of grievances under which they considered themselves to labour with respect to the distinctive duties on East-Indian produce. That petition was fairly drawn up, nothing could be fairer than the manner in which it was submitted to the House. Indeed it was only necessary to remember who were the two hon. Members by whom it was put forward to be convinced that they would not lend themselves to anything unfair, however conducive it might be to the interest of the parties with whom they were connected. When that petition was presented to the House, it was suggested that it would be expedient to refer it to a committee, rather than that the House should express at once an opinion upon it. He believed the suggestion in question came from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or from one of his colleagues. [Mr. Labouchere—It came from myself.] In consequence of that suggestion the petition had been referred to committees both of that and of the other House of Parliament respectively. The committee in the other House investigated, at considerable length, the evidence and allegations laid before them. 588 That committee in the House of Lords included persons conversant with the affairs and circumstances of the East Indies and the matters which they had to deliberate on. It was attended by Members of the Government, who took part in, if they did not actually direct its proceedings. The Members of the Government who attended it were, first, the noble Lord who presided over the council, a committee of which specially had charge of all matters of trade, and who from his proficiency in business, and general acquaintance with matters of trade, was to be presumed to be so far qualified to fulfil his duties on the committee. The other was the noble Lord who held the office of Privy Seal, and who, he believed, now filled that of the Duchy of Lancaster, than whom he would say there was not any one of his colleagues better qualified to form a judgment on the matters submitted to him. That noble Lord, from a combination of circumstances, was peculiarly fitted for grappling with the subject of the committee's inquiries, he having filled the office of commissioner of Customs, and thereby having become intimately conversant with the nature and operation of duties—how and in what quarters their pressure was likely to be particularly felt—and what their effects were on the interests of the different possessions of the Crown. The committee appointed by the other House of Parliament, from these causes, naturally commanded the respect of all who took an interest in the question. He now came to the report made by that committee as regarded the effects of spirit duties. As the passage was not a long one he should read it, but in the few observations he had to make, he should not refer immediately to evidence, unless the truth, of what he alleged was denied. He should speak as on the understanding that he should get credit for stating the truth, without troubling the House by quoting the evidence, unless it became necessary, by denials of what he stated, to prove the accuracy of his allegations. The right hon. Gentleman read the following extract,—It would have been very gratifying to the committee had they deemed themselves justified in recommending further, at the present moment, that the duty upon East-India rum should be at once and in all cases assimilated to that levied in British ports on rum, the produce of the colonies in which slavery has been recently abolished; but they are reluctantly compelled to admit, that the circumstances 589 detailed in the evidence, as to the state of transition in which those colonies now are, afford grounds for excepting them at present from the rigorous application of the general principle of equality.That was the opinion, it should be remembered, promulgated not merely by a committee but by distinguished members of the Government. The committee considered the depression that existed in the West Indies to be occasioned by the operation of recent legislative enactments, and taking into view the low wages, the exuberant richness of soil, and the other advantages existing in the East Indies, they were fearful of any departure from a system which, while it afforded some degree of protection to the interests of the West, did not deny prosperity to the East-Indies, or injure the cultivation of the sugar cane, though it did not transfer to the latter a new profit at the expense of the other. Such was the opinion, not expressed lightly, but after a full and careful review of the evidence brought before it, arrived at by the committee of the other House. He (Mr. Goulburn), as one of those interested in the subject, was prepared to assent to that opinion. By the postponement suggested by the committee a time might have shortly arrived when the question might have been properly raised. The feelings which actuated him were by many persons, felt by those, even, who were adverse to the principle of the distinction in the duties. Even such persons were willing to continue things as they were at this present period until the West Indies had in some degree recovered from the various blows which had been inflicted on their prosperity. Hundreds of persons relying on that report, continued to expend sums in the improvement of their estates and the encouragement of labour, in the hope that better times would arrive, when they might get some return. And he would contend, that under ordinary circumstances they would have acted with discretion in so relying on a report of a committee of the House of Lords, which had the sanction of the Government itself. That report was communicated to this House, it came before the committee appointed by this House on the same subject; and, though the committee in question did not contain any Cabinet Minister, it yet contained Members of the Government; and no one would deny, that the noble Lord who was placed in the chair of the 590 committee was both a member of the government and was deserving of all praise, for his knowledge of and attention to business. The report of the Lords, saying that the time had not arrived for placing the duties on an equality, was placed before the committee of this House. They sat for a considerable time, heard much evidence on the subject, and the report which they made was this:—Finding it impossible to conclude in the present Session the evidence proposed to be laid before them, they think that they shall best perform their duty by confining themselves to reporting to the House the evidence already taken,Now, if the West-India proprietors were led, by the report of the Lords, to expect that no immediate alteration would be proposed, was not this report of the Commons' committee calculated to confirm them in that impression? Was not an intimation clearly expressed therein that the committee would in the ensuing (the present) Session resume the investigation of the subject and take fresh evidence? He would put it to any man of sense whether it were possible to anticipate the step now taken? Could it have been anticipated, that at the earliest moment of the Session, before the enormous volume before him was in the hands of members long enough, with the ordinary degree of industry to permit of its being gone through and understood—that, in such a state of matters, the first thing the Government did would be to take a step in direct opposition to the opinions expressed by committees of the Lords and Commons, to opinions promulgated with the authority of the Government itself, and propose an equalisation on the duties, affecting more than one kind of spirits. He said more than one kind of spirits, for though they were told that rum alone would be affected by the proposed alteration, there was, he believed, no man who read over the evidence, and who had consulted those conversant with the spirit Trade, that could entertain a doubt that every kind of spirit manufactured in India would henceforth share the benefits of the alteration. It was well known, that the rum flavour could be imparted to spirits in such a manner, that the most experienced could not detect the difference, and that a quantity of such spirits was imported as rum; no one, therefore, could doubt that the effect of the proposed equalisation would be to admit every kind of spirits made in India, so that the effects would be much 591 more extensive than the statements made in support of the alteration would lead those to suppose who had not examined the subject attentively. But arguing as he was for the maintenance of the opinion expressed by the committee of the House of Lords, he (Mr. Goulburn) would ask what reason was there why the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman could not be postponed to some period more safe, in reference to the great interests connected with the West Indies? a gradual alteration would render the fall less sudden and ruinous. Why should it not be gradual. By delaying this matter there was no great suffering interest which they would run risk of injuring. There was no evidence that the parties engaged in the East Indies in the manufacture of rum or sugar were suffering. There was no large invested capital to be ruined by the measure proposed; they were not called on to remove any obstruction or prohibition which inflicted injury on the interests or the commerce of the East Indies. Quite the contrary. The evidence told them the contrary. The committee of the House of Lords stated the contrary. The evidence said, that the present system only withheld from the East-Indian producer a new source of profit to which he had looked forward. It stated that a great profit was derived from the manufacture of East-India sugar; that that produce was doubling; and that even the rum alone which was sent over to England at the present rate of duty produced a great profit. Such were the facts which the right hon. Gentleman would find in the evidence of the witnesses. But how was it with the West Indies? Was their sugar trade increasing? The very contrary. From returns on the table it was plain that the produce of the West Indies was annually decreasing. It might easily be calculated, what the effect must be on the civilization of those colonies if, by any sudden blow to the prime elements of their commercial prosperity, they withdrew at once the capital now engaged in the payment of labour, and in diffusing the means of civilization and employment. In the course of a few years the state of society there had undergone a complete revolution. But a short time since the great mass of the population were in a state of slavery. It was indisputable that that circumstance, by limiting the cultivation to particular fertile spots, increased the amount of the produce on them to a degree much greater than the number of labourers em- 592 ployed would cause to be supposed. New he rejoiced as heartily as any one that the period of slavery had gone by; he would never measure the advantages which the system of slavery had conferred on individual proprietors against the advantages accruing to the great body of the people from the acquirement of freedom. He approved of the measures which had been passed for the improvement of the condition of the slaves, and in that for conferring freedom on them. He did not now regret that act, suffering though he did, in common with others, in his personal interests from its consequences. Many who had property in the West-Indies, and who considered, that property had duties as well as rights, had expended the money received by them at the period of the manumission of the slaves in endeavouring, by timely preparation, to make the system of freedom work well. He was himself aware of many who were possessed of property there, who had no debts on their estates, in paying which they would have laid out the capital they received. That capital they expended in the improvement of the estates and of the condition of the labourers; in endeavouring to introduce them gradually to freedom, and prepare them for it; to induce them to a regular cultivation of the soil. What was the result? When money had been expended to a large amount, under the impression that the apprenticeship would continue for the period appointed—when these proprietors were endeavouring to fulfil the intentions of the Legislature—a vote passed, unfortunately for them, to discontinue the system in existence, and they were plunged into a state of hardship and difficulty which it would be impossible for any one not closely acquainted with the circumstances to form a conception of. He spoke of that which had occurred to others as well as himself. By the sudden burst of freedom, a wild, but natural, exultation, was spread amongst the people; a disinclination to labour was excited: one third, and in many cases, one-half of the crops was left uncollected. And, when he said uncollected, many Gentlemen would not understand the amount of injury implied by the word. It would be supposed that nothing was incurred but the loss of the third or half of the particular crop uncollected. But this was altogether a false view. In the tropical climates, a revolution of years and the expenditure of a vast capital were required to repair the injury inflicted by the neg- 593 lect of collection in one year only. Such was the consequence of departure from the principle of apprenticeship that had been laid down. He certainly thought that if that had not taker, place, the condition of the West-Indies would be different from what it unfortunately was at present. Such being the difficulties in which these colonies were placed by the change of system, and now, when the proprietors were endeavouring, by a continued expenditure of capital, to recover from the blows inflicted on them and the devastation of their property, all he asked was, a compliance with the suggestion of the committee of the House of Lords, that a measure should not now be pressed on the owners of property in Jamaica and the other islands which would involve them in ruin. Taken as a mere question of duty, what was the condition of the West Indies? See what an amount of additional duty was practically imposed by the changes that had occurred in the state of society. They had in evidence that the cost of production was doubled compared with what it formerly had been. Take the ad valorem duty on the joint productions of sugar and rum, the distinctive duty in favour of the West-Indies was about 12 per cent. Now, the additional charge which arose from the alteration from slavery to freedom in the West Indies, was a charge equivalent to double that sum. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to understand his argument. What he meant to say was, that the distinctive duty between the articles was twelve per cent, in favour of the West-Indies; and that by emancipation and its consequences, the price of labour in the West-Indies had so increased, and other expenses had so accumulated, as to make more than that difference to their prejudice. He was now arguing against the immediate change proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and in the hope that he would consider the report made by the committee of the House of Lords. There was at this moment no particular necessity for the proposed alteration, when, in fact, a more than equivalent duty had been imposed on West-India produce. He would put aside the question of slavery, which would be alluded to by others; but he felt called on to remark that in the East Indies, whether actual slavery existed or not, those who cultivated the land were unable to dissever themselves from it. They were bound to remain on the soil, to cultivate it, and to give to the landlord a certain portion of 594 their produce. That fact was stated by gentlemen who had spent a great portion of their lives in India, and who were favourable to the proposed change. In however modified a degree, this species of slavery did certainly exist in the East Indies; but nothing of the kind existed in he West. There the labourer might work to-day in one part of the island, might depart where he liked, and might never be heard of again. In the East, on the other hand, from the condition and usages of society, there did exist that connexion between the cultivator and the soil which bound the individual, more or less, to it, and produced a great facility and cheapness of labour. This circumstance, again, should induce them to take a considerate view of the claims of the West Indies. His argument was, not that there should be a permanent distinction, but that some regard should be had, in arranging the question, between the difference in the cost of production. In the committee which had lately sat on the import duties, which was composed of political economists, and which was certainly not favourable to distinctive duties, it was, nevertheless, admitted, that a difference should be made between a country in which there were no taxes, and one in which there were many, because taxes added to the cost of production, nor was it against the principles of sound political economy to make a distinction between places so differently circumstanced? They should likewise consider that they were dealing with places widely differing in the kind of market which was open for the productions of each. In the East they had a market for their sugar of no less than 100,000,000 of persons. A witness had stated that over 100,000,000 were supplied with the sugar of the East Indies. It travelled across the entire continent till it met that of Russia, its only competitor. The produce of the West Indies was excluded from these parts by laws of nature more powerful than political regulations. A witness had stated the average consumption of sugar in the East Indies was about 56lbs. per head per annum, and this would make a consumption of more than fifty million hundred weight of East-India sugar. This was no idle calculation. It was made by a gentleman well acquainted with India, who filled a high station in the country, who had been there a long time, and who, from his talents and knowledge, had been appointed secretary to the Treasury. Look at the different position of the West Indies. 595 The market for their sugar was limited to twenty-eight millions of persons in the British islands. The article came over here in a raw state. But had it the command even of this market? No. It had to meet the competition of the other sugar which shared the privilege of the supply. Under these circumstances, was it unfair to ask for the postponement of such a measure as the one now proposed between parties and places so differently situated—the one having the supply of an enormous market, without any competition; the other confined to a market which was not only contracted, but in which a keen competition was to be encountered! When he saw that the East-India Company were a body who possessed an immensely preponderating power, and unlimited means of extending their traffic in the produce of India, he could not persuade himself that by postponing the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman any danger to the interests of that country would be incurred. The right hon. Gentleman might impute to the West Indies an exclusive monopoly if he would; that would be hard language, but no argument; and the right hon. Gentleman had himself answered it at the beginning of his own speech on the introduction of this measure, for he stated that the price of rum on the Continent always regulated the price in England; and therefore that it was not in the power of the West-India proprietor to make his own price in the market. The right hon. Gentleman doubted the effect on West-India interests of an equalisation of the duty on East and West India rums: was he aware that on the day following, the one on which he made that proposition West-India rum fell full fifteen per cent? He might from that fact know the alarm of the capitalists who held large stocks of rum and the probable consequence of this equalisation to their interests? For these reasons, he (Mr. G.) thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have acted more prudently, more wisely, and more justly, if he had adopted the resolution of the committee of the House of Lords, and not, as he was now doing, attempted to subject the West-India colonies to the additional disadvantage of a new competition, at a moment when every assistance should rather be given them in the struggle they were compelled to make for existence under the new order of things. He was well aware that, as compared with the enormous population of India, the population of the West In- 596 dies was as nothing; but he also knew, and he trusted the House would never forget, that these colonies were among the very first foreign settlements of Great Britain—that they had been the nurseries of our commerce, the main sources of that naval power and national strength; to which we are mainly indebted for our other greater and perhaps more valuable conquests, and that the time might come when this country would itself feel the consequences of their calamity or distress.
§ Mr. Labouchere
confessed, that he had heard the speech which had been just addressed to the House by the right hon. Gentleman, with the greatest satisfaction, because, attaching as he did, the greatest importance to the present motion on its own merits, but still greater on account of the principles which it involved, he did rejoice at the assurance, that a right hon. Gentleman, possessed of so much ability, and of so long an experience, had only to produce arguments of so little substance, that it would require only a comparatively short statement from him, inferior as he admitted himself to be. Still he trusted, that he should easily convince the House, not only that it should not oppose, but that it ought to adopt the present resolution. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech by condemning the Government for having assented to the appointment of committees of the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, during the last Session of Parliament, and then, after the House of Lords had expressed an opinion not unfavourable to the present measure, but, on the contrary, favourable in the highest degree, the right hon. Gentleman blamed the Government, and especially him (Mr. Labouchere). Having weighed well the report, and the evidence on which it was founded, he agreed with the committee in the principle which they had laid down, but had not been able to agree in the recommendation of delay. It was not for him to speak slightingly of the recommendation of the committee of either House of Parliament, and particularly not of a committee that had upon it noble Lords for whom he had the highest respect. He held, that no Minister of the Crown, placed in the situation in which he was, had a right to skulk behind the report of a committee of either House of Parliament in defending himself, either for bringing forward propositions which he did not in his conscience believe to be just, or for refraining from bringing forward those which he deemed to be inexpedient for the public interest, He thought that 597 committees were invaluable for the purpose of collecting information, and of suggesting general principles to be acted upon, but as for the determination of the mode and the time of carrying into effect particular measures, he firmly believed, that that could be best done by persons who had the means of official information, and of conversing with those individuals whose interests were at stake in the proposed alterations. The right hon. Gentleman had twitted him with the fact of two members of the committee being noble friends of his. He acknowledged that to be the case, but he believed that those two noble lords had attached much greater importance to the statements of those who were interested in West-Indian produce, as to the effect of the proposed alteration, than they were entitled to. Those persons had stated, that the effect of the adoption of the proposed measure would be a sudden blow, and a check to West-Indian property. He, however, had been able to convince those noble Lords, that this would not in reality be the case, and he trusted that, before he sat down, he should be able to state reasons to the House, which would lead hon. Members to the same conclusion. The question between the right hon. Gentleman and himself was reduced to a very narrow compass. The right hon. Gentleman had not said, that this should not be done, because the West Indies had any indefeasible right to any advantage over the other colonies of this kingdom subsisting in any other part of the world, but all that he said was, that there were circumstances which called for some delay in applying those principles, which he considered to be abstractedly just. He should be able to show to the House, however, that although the effect of the motion must be of great importance, they would necessarily be gradual—that it could not produce any sudden effect, and that all those representations which had been made, were founded upon exaggerated views of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had reminded him of the statement which he had made, as to the condition of the rum trade, when he first brought forward this subject to the House. He had stated, that at this time there was a greater quantity of rum brought to the United Kingdom than could be consumed, and the consequence was, that the surplus was exported to places where it met with foreign and with East-India rum, but that it maintained a monopoly in the English market over those articles; and the right hon. Gen- 598 tleman argued that the price of the article in the foreign market must, of necessity, regulate that which it obtained at home. This did not prove, that if they altered the duty, they did not alter the value of rum in the same way as they would in the case of sugar if they let in foreign sugar. But, he was asked, where was the advantage which East-India produce would derive from this alteration? He believed, that the Leeward-Island rum and the East-India rum were of the same quality, and would compete with British rum; but the Jamaica rum was of a different quality, and the price was nearly double. Jamaica rum thus maintained a monopoly price in the English market. He believed, that if the East-Indies brought their rum here, their manufacture of the article would be improved, and they would be enabled to compete with the Jamaica rum, and finally reduce the prices which were now obtained for it. Was not this, he asked, an object which it was most desirable should be attained? It would require some time to elapse before the manufacture could be improved and the new article introduced; but he would remind the House, that at this moment the prices of rum in England were higher than they had been during the last five years. He therefore contended, that it was for the interest of this country, that an inducement should be given to the East-India proprietors to produce the finer as well as the inferior kind of spirit. He thought, then, that the House must be satisfied, that in acceding to the proposition which he had made, they would take a step advantageous to this country, as well as to our East-Indian colonial possessions, and which would give no sudden blow to the interests of the West Indies, nor reduce the colonies in that part of the globe, as had been suggested to a state of hopeless and irretrievable ruin. But, furthermore, he would beg the attention of the House to what was a very important branch of the subject, he meant the effect to which the present system of discouraging the East-Indian rum, and encouraging that of the West-Indies had upon our supply of sugar. The system had a species of double operation. What was its operation in the East-Indies? It was stated to the committee by Mr. Sym and Mr. Rogers, gentlemen of the highest respectability, and who had embarked large capitals in the cultivation of sugar in our eastern possessions, that they had already reached a point at which they could find no market for their molasses; they could make their 599 molasses into rum, but for that also they were unable to procure a sale. Mr. Sym was asked—The natives generally abstaining from rum, and the demand for molasses ceasing, you can anticipate, unless the export of rum be permitted, no demand for molasses, if you increase the growth of sugar?" and his answer was "No. I do not see how we shall have any demand for our molasses.He had quoted this only to show that it was at least the opinion of those who had embarked capital in the sugar trade in the East Indies, and whose efforts we were bound to encourage, that the present system of duty operated as a serious detriment to their labours. He would now turn to the West Indies: and what, he asked, was the effect of the duty there? There had been some very remarkable evidence given upon this point, and he would refer to the statement of a witness, whose character would be allowed to be of the highest respectability. Mr. M'Queen was a man possessed of very large estates, and he said that the cause of the high prices of Jamaica rum was this, that the high price of the West-Indian rum induced the cane-growers there to convert the larger proportion of the produce of their estates into spirit, and that the consequence, therefore, was, that more rum came to this country, and less sugar, than had hitherto been the case. He had had the management of many fine estates in the West Indies, and he said, that he himself had sent out orders to several of them, directing that less sugar and more rum should be sent home. The right hon. Gentleman said, that this was very advantageous to England, and to the West Indies, but what was the effect on the market? Was it not too bad, that in the present short supply of sugar from our British possessions in every part of the world, we should resort to a system of this kind. In the East Indies, which was the only place to which we could look for filling up the void which was left, arguments were advanced against the establishment of manufactories for sugar. Seeing the injurious operation of the existing duties, both in the West and the East Indies, and being convinced of the gross iniquities of the system; and, on the other hand, being convinced, that there was no real ground for saying, that by taking the step which was proposed, they should be dealing a blow to the West Indies which would be fatal to their prosperity, he felt, that he should have broken his faith with those gentlemen connected with the East Indies, 600 to whom, in a conversation which he had had at the commencement of the last Session, he had expressed his willingness to refer the subject to a select committee, and to consider and give effect to the evidence which should be produced, and apply a remedy to any evil which might be shown, if he had not brought forward the proposition which was now before the House. He need not detain the House by referring at much greater length to the subject; and, indeed, he was almost ashamed to argue the question upon the narrow points on which it had been placed. When he looked at the situation in which we stood with regard to India, drawing from our dependencies there nearly three-and-a-half millions of taxes towards the support of the Government, for which we gave her no return at all, except that to which he thought the House would agree they were entitled, namely, justice; when he reflected, that upon this point India had received from us nothing but injustice, that we had utterly destroyed her manufactures by our manufactures—that the district of Dacca, the Manchester of India, had dwindled to insignificance before the strides which our British goods had made in our Indian possessions, he thought, that upon the merest principles of justice this proposition ought to be acceded to. He would not weary the House with any long details, but there were some facts of importance to which he could not help referring. He held in his hand a return of the cottons and muslins of British manufacture, which had been exported to India. He found that return showed, that the amount exported had increased every year. The right hon. Member read the following account of the
QUANTITIES OF COTTONS AND MUSLINS OF BRITISH MANUFACTURE EXPORTED TO INDIA. Yards. Yards. 1814 818,208 1835 51,777,277 1821 19,138,726 1837 64,213,633 1828 42,822,077
§ COTTON YARN.
§ In 1825 the value of twist and yarn sent to India was 10,000l.; In 1837 it was 602,000l.
§ All the evidence received by the committee went to show that the demand on the part of India for our manufactures was only limited by the poverty of its inhabitants, and he would appeal to the feelings of justice and generosity which the House possessed, and more especially to those hon. Gentlemen, who, being the representatives of the manufacturing districts of Great Britain, would find it to the interest of their constituents to give their assent to 601 the motion. He rejoiced, that the right hon. Gentleman had not used an argument which he had seen employed in the public prints that, although he had stated his views as to the West-Indies, on which he thought that the principle which was proposed ought not to be applied, on account of the peculiar position of the West-Indies, he had not brought forward the view or the argument to which he referred, and which was as foolish as it was unworthy. He alluded to the appeal which had been made to the vain fears of the representatives of the agricultural interests, lest it should be found that British spirits should be shut out of the market by those coming from the East Indies. He had expected to hear that argument employed, but as it had not been used, he should make no further observations upon it. He would conclude by saying, as he had said before, that he attached great importance to the question, not only on its own merits, but in a much greater degree, on account of the principle which was involved in it. He was sure, that in a country like this, possessing great colonial territories, there was but one safe and rational course to pursue, namely, to treat with the same measure of justice every part of those territories; and he hoped most sincerely that the House would not withhold its assent to the motion which was before it.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite(Mr. Goulburn) had based his main defence on what he supposed was the impregnable position of the report of the Committee of the House of Lords; but that argument had been fully met by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The right hon. Gentleman next took his stand on the proceedings of the committee of the House of Commons, on the ground that that committee had made no report. But why had they made no report? Was it that they were not convinced of the propriety of equalising the duties? No; but because they were delayed through their whole proceedings—he could not believe, from any unworthy motives—but undoubtedly, in fact, by the conduct of the hon. Member fur Mauritius (Mr. Irving). If, indeed, that hon. Gentleman had the remotest idea of delaying the labours of the committee, and disabling them from making a report—which he was bound to believe could not have been the case— the course he had taken would have that unquestionable tendency. The right hon. Gentleman next said, that the rum of India found a market in the east, and 602 therefore required no extension of its market here. But two witnesses before the committee, one of whom was Mr. Trevelyan, stated, that there was no market in the east for East-India rum, and that it could not be sold at a profit unless the market of England was opened to it. He begged him to refer to the evidence of Mr. Rogers himself, an owner of a factory in India. That gentleman said, that "under the present system there was no effective competition between East and West India rum." The right hon. Gentleman, however, was hardly satisfied with that, but also said there was a large market in the interior of Asia, for sugar itself. That he certainly was astonished to hear; for, if it were so, how came it that we had had so much sugar of late years imported into this country from the east? Mr. Larpent also, a person who had been habituated all his life to trading in the east, stated, to the committee, that there was no market there for sugar; and further, that the market relied on for rum was the market of this country. He should have been glad if the measure now proposed had been of a more comprehensive nature; he thought that the equalization of the duties might have also been extended to the article of tobacco. The tobacco of India was not equal in quality to that of Virginia, and if the duties were equalised an opportunity might be afforded to the poor consumer of obtaining a cheaper article. The course of policy in our commercial character to be adopted towards India had been long pointed out by the current of events. So long ago as 1831, when witnesses from the manufacturing districts were examined, before the East-India committee, this important fact was established: that it was possible, in consequence of the vast superiority of our machinery, to import raw cotton from India, spin it into yarn, send it back to India, and undersell the yarn manufactured by the natives themselves. That was the consummate triumph of capital and machinery. From that moment it became clear that our policy with regard to India; was changed, that we Mere bound to call forth her natural productions—sugar, rum, cotton, tobacco, and indigo—articles that were at that time in the infancy of production. A new policy was marked out by the course of events, and by that course our conduct should be regulated. In pursuance of this policy, we carried, in a few years, the equalization of the sugar du- 603 ties; and now came as a corollary to that measure, as a supplement to it, the equal lization of the duties on rum. He was anxious to call the attention of the House to the extreme injustice of maintaining any duty (such as the duty on rum) which enhanced the price of sugar, especially at the present moment. At the close of the year 1839, the stock of sugar in this country was computed at 47,000 tons; at the end of 1840 it was only 20,000 tons; and the consumption had fallen since the year 1835, when it was 200,000 tons, to 165,000 tons within three years—a diminution of no less than 35,000 tons, with a fast increasing population. Was this the time, then, to continue the discouragement of the production of sugar by maintaining this discriminating duty? Was it a time for maintaining the high duty on the coffee of Mysore? Mysore was virtually a British possession; why should we do an injustice to the people of India, and irritate their feelings, by imposing a higher duty on the coffee of Mysore, than on coffee from the West Indies? He knew not whether the reforms intended to be made by the Board of Trade were to be followed by reforms on the part of the Board of Control; but he trusted that such would be the case, and that justice would be done to the people of Mysore. He had always thought it important to reduce these duties, not only for general reasons, but for this, that whenever the production of one article in India was extended, it encouraged the outlay of capital in the production of many more. For instance; when the cultivation of indigo was extended, it had produced a very beneficial effect on other articles, and the cultivation of shellac almost immediately followed. One of the most important circumstances stated by the witnesses who were called before the committee was the immense capability of India, in the production of cotton. Every species of cotton was to be found in the different parts of India, from the finest sea island to the commonest cotton of Surat. The cultivation of cotton would be encouraged by the facility given to the production of other articles. At the same time the consumption of our manufactures in India would be increased. Notwithstanding the vast capabilities of India, and the industry of the British people, the consumption of our manufactures was less in India than in any part of the British possessions. While our colonies on an average consumed British manufactures at the 604 rate of 1l. 10s. per head, the natives of India consumed only a quantity at the rate of 6d. or 1d. per head. Ought we not, then, to take their raw productions, as an encouragement for them to take our manufactures? He now saw rising many prospects of advantage to the British capitalist in India; the transit duty had been abolished, except (he believed) in Madras, a great relief to commerce and manufactures, and a great inducement to the employment of capital in India. British settlements, he hoped also, was increasing. In the last Session of Parliament he had moved for a return to show the extent of settlements in India. It was impossible at present to trace their full extent; but he believed they were increasing. Greater certainty, he trusted, had been introduced into the tenure of land, without which the producing powers of India would never be developed. He hoped the time was coming when one uniform system of tariff and customs would be established over the vast regions of India, similar to the great confederation, or Zoll-Verein in Germany. The resources of India would never be called forth while they legislated for it in isolated portions. India should be included in one vast and comprehensive system, and consolidated into one vast confederation.
did not agree with the hon. Member for Wigan, that it was not the duty of the Government to consult the West-India interests in this matter, but he could not help saying, that West-India interests appeared to him to have the most direct and obvious connexion with English interests in relation to this subject—a connexion not of ruin, as had been said by his right hon. Friend below him (Mr. Goulburn), but a connexion of palpable benefit. On the ground of West-India interests he was anxious to call in free labour sugar from other countries. He considered that by the introduction of capital into India, and consequent improvement of lands, which he conceived would result from the proposed measure, a great benefit would be conferred upon India and upon West-India interests. But he thought he was bound to look also to another interest. He could not conceal from himself the vast importance of introducing the manufactures of this country into our East-India possessions, but it was impossible that we could expect to secure a market for our manufactures in those countries unless we received their produce in return. Looking then at the manufacturing interests of this country, he said it was important that 605 such a measure as that now before the House should pass without delay. Then if he looked at British interests in India, would any man tell him that there could be a bond so palpable, and so secure, as that of identity of interest wherewith to bind the natives of India to this country? What other bond had we? Identity of religion there was none. Identity of language there was none. Identity of interest, then was that alone on which we had to depend, and if we did not encourage that identity of interests, how could we hope to preserve for any length of time those important possessions? The geographical position of our East-India possessions, with reference to the empires of China and Russia, ought not to be lost sight of. It was important to show to the natives of India, that while the policy of Russia was commercial monopoly, and the exclusion of the commerce of other countries, the policy of England was that large and generous policy which, while it sought to introduce into India the manufactures of Great Britain, would, on the other hand, throw open our ports to her raw material; and thus convince her, that it was not only for her advantage of civilization, but to her interest, to remain connected with this country. On these grounds he should support the resolution of the Government. He would not enter into the question, whether the right hon. President of the Board of Trade had broken faith with the West-Indian interest or not; that he would leave to him and the right hon. Gentleman below him; but he thought he owed it to the Government to say, that having the report of the committee, and the evidence on which that report had been founded in their hands, it did become them to take a direct line, and he believed they had taken the line that was most advantageous to the permanent interests of this country and of India. Mr. Hawes was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Cambridge had left altogether out of sight the interests of the consumers. The high price of sugar had caused them much misery, but that was a point on which the right hon. Gentleman had been wholly silent. There could be no doubt that the West-India colonies, according to the representations of the owners were in distress; but it was a mistake to suppose, that their distress was of modern origin; they had been living for some years past upon a species of Parliamentary charity, and were no worse off now than they had been more 606 than half a century ago. He was prepared to shew that by a reference to evidence of unquestionable character. The hon. Member quoted extracts from the work of Bryan Edwards, from the debates in Parliament, and from reports of committees, to shew, that for a long period antecedent to the commencement of this century, estates had gone out of cultivation, and that the planters had complained continually of being in distress. He referred, also, to a report of the Jamaica Assembly, quoted by Bryan Edwards, to show the distress of the West-India interest, before the abolition of the slave trade. That report refers to a period of twenty years, from 1772 to 1792 states, that in that period, 177 estates were sold for debt, 55 thrown up, 92 in the hands of creditors. In fact, whether the state of the West-India interest was considered before the abolition of the slave trade, or afterwards, and before the abolilition of slavery, or again in later times, after the emancipation bill, the receipt of twenty millions as a compensation for the abolition of slavery, at all times, and under all circumstances, the West-India interest was complaining of distress. To what was this to be attributed? He attributed it to the undue protection which had been afforded to their produce. It was this which had prevented them from employing the plough or machinery; and hence seeing the uneconomical system of cultivation which they had adopted, what other result could be expected than that which had happened? Had the principles of free trade been adopted in respect to these colonies, he was sure that their interests would have been benefitted by it. Turn now to the East Indies, they asked for no protection. All they desired was, to be placed upon the same footing as the West Indies. The East-India grower of sugar, had enjoyed no protection whatever; yet, under that system, the trade had materially increased, and was in a situation ultimately to become most prosperous. Again, as regards cotton, the same results were apparent. Cotton was sold in this market, at half the price of American cotton, slave-produced cotton. This showed, that the produce of free labour of the east, could, and did, compete in price, with the produce of slave-labour of the west. He thought, these contrasted facts afforded the strongest argument in favour of the adoption of the principle of free trade—to be applied, no doubt, with caution, and a due consideration of what is best for the interests of India, and the colonies generally. In 607 proof of the advance of the trade in indigo, also, in the East Indies, the hon. Member referred to documents to show, that whereas the produce of Indigo in 1786 was valued at 57,000l.; in 1809, 1,105,678l.; there was shipped from Calcutta in 1830, 2,000,000l.; and the crop was estimated at in 1840, 2,300,000l. The East Indian Indigo trade was wholly unprotected, and had driven out of the markets of the world the produce of the French and Spanish slave colonies. But it declared that the East Indies were entitled on the ground of justice and of right to equal privileges in the trade with the mother country. Why then came the merchants in the East-Indies to postpone claims founded in justice to the merchants and proprietors of the West Indies. It was the interest of the western country to obtain the raw material on the cheapest terms, and if protection were to be given to any colony, it was the East Indies that was entitled to it; nevertheless all they asked was, that their produce should be admitted into the home markets on free and unfettered principles of trade, on equal terms especially with West-India produce. The indigo of India was superior to that of any other country, and the cotton produced there could be obtained at half the price of American cotton, which was the produce of slave-labour. He believed, moreover, that the sugar at this moment produced by free labour, provided the colonies could buy what they wanted in the cheapest markets, would be able to enter into
|STATEMENT OF THE DELIVERY OF SUGAR FOR HOME CONSUMPTION, WITH THE GAZETTE AVERAGE PRICES, FOR THE LAST SIX MONTHS OF THE YEARS 1839 AND 1840.|
|MONTHLY DELIVERIES.||Decrease in||Gazette Average Prices.||Increase in Price.|
|First week in Jan. no return of price|
|Second week in Jan. no return of price|
|Third week in Jan. no return of price||38||5||50||10¾||12||5¾|
§ successful competition with that produced by slaves. His belief was, too, that giving encouragement to East-India produce would be the surest means of putting down the slave trade, and, as a first step towards that object, he thought that the Government would be right in reducing the duty on rum. But the West-Indian interest said, that unless high prices were continued, they could not keep up the cultivation of sugar. It certainly was a monstrous thing, to be obliged to depend for our supply on sugar produced at a monopoly price. This was a matter which, he maintained, ought to be considered with reference to the interests of the public only. The result of the present system had been a steady diminution in the consumption of sugar, accompanied by a consequent falling-off in the demand for coffee, and a general decline of trade, which must inevitably lead to the imposition of fresh taxes—a thing which he looked on as perfectly unjustifiable, under present circumstances. Indeed, he should be ashamed to meet his constituents, if he had assented to a measure calculated to lead to this result, without making some effort to improve our trade, and thus improve our revenue. He would now show, the quantities of sugar entered for home consumption for the last six months, of the years 1839 and 1840 together with the average price, and its effects on consumption; with their average prices in two different years.609
Did not these facts prove incontestably, that with a high price came, inevitably, a corresponding diminution in the consumption? Besides which, this state of things bore with great severity on the great body of the people. In fact, the practical effect of the present system was, to put into the pocket of the West-India proprietor so much money out of the taxes, which the consumer had to pay over again—to take, in short, out of the public treasury a portion of that general taxation which ought to be applied to national purposes only. One result of these high prices was, that a large trade had sprung up for the purpose of adulterating coffee, which was sold to poor purchasers entirely in consequence of the high price of that article, a fact which came to light in the evidence before the import duties committee. He had presented to the House last year, two petitions from the large dealers in London. The first was from the householders of the metropolis; they asked for a diminution of the difference which existed between the duties on colonial and foreign sugar; they asked for an honest equalization of the sugar duties; they stated that a difference of duty existed, amounting to 160 per cent., which they averred to be inconsistent with the amount of protection extended to any other trade whatever, and this not on an article of luxury, but on one of the greatest importance to the public in general. The other was from the wholesale grocers, stating, "that their trade had diminished; that adulteration had consequently taken place, and that the revenue was thereby diminished." True, various interests rose up to prevent the just and honest course from being pursued in this case, but he contended, that with those the House ought to have nothing whatever to do. He affirmed, that the general interests of the country, as well as the particular interests of individuals, would be best consulted by the gradual adoption of the principles of free trade throughout the whole commercial community. With regard to the plea urged by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the West-India interest had been taken by surprise, he begged to remind the House, that in 1825 Mr. Huskisson, on the Mauritius Trade Bill, stated, that whenever the consumption in this country became equal to, and tended to become greater than the supply, the West-India colonies would no longer be able to maintain their present monopoly. In 1836, when Mr. Spring Rice, then Chancellor of the Exchequer,
introduced his bill for equalizing the sugar duties of the East and West Indies, he had quoted the words of Lord Stanley, with regard to this very point of notice to the West-Indian interests:—
The feeling which every Gentleman had expressed on the subject of the freedom of trade, and, above all, the strong hint which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, against any protection being afforded, were sufficient to show the proprietors of the West-India colonies, that they must not expect a continuance of protective duties.
Since 1825, then, they had been told in the most emphatic language, that they must not rely upon the continuance of their monopoly, and now the only argument urged against this bill was, that time ought to be given—that the West-India interests ought not to be taken by surprise. But, he begged to ask, would the right hon. Baronet fix any time? Only let them continue a system of monopoly, and the time would never come when it would be convenient to introduce the principles of free trade. He would conclude by expressing his gratification at the introduction of the measure, though it did not go to the full extent of his wishes, and by thanking the House for the attention which they had paid to him.
§ Sir A. Grant
said, this question had been considered purely as a question between the East and West Indies, but he contended that the question ought to be discussed with reference to the peculiar circumstances in which the West-India colonies were placed. An important feature in the objections to this measure was the impossibility of finding a test to ascertain whether simulated or real produce of the East Indies was imported; and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had quoted the opinion of the chairman of a committee of the East-India Company, who had said, that he would as soon rely upon the certificate of a revenue officer of the East-India Company as upon the certificate of a Government officer. But he begged to remind the hon. Gentleman, that the revenue officer appointed by the Government of this country could have no other interest but to do his duty in enforcing the proper regulations; and he could not help thinking that there was a broad distinction between the revenue officers appointed by the Crown and those appointed by the company. The argument of his right hon. Friend the Mem- 611 ber for the University of Cambridge had no reference to a comparison of the East and West India interests; it was founded entirely on the peculiar position of West-India property. He was not going now to argue upon a state of things which existed fifty years since, and which appertained to a state of slavery. The West Indies had been placed in a novel position. He stood not there to defend slavery; but when the measure for its abolition was introduced, it had found the landowners of the West Indies possessed of certain rights which they had acquired on the pledged faith of this country. The country might be quite right to deal with those rights, but the impossibility of dealing with them without compensation had been acknowledged by the grant of 20,000,000l. He was not going to deny that 20,000,000l. was a large sacrifice for the people of this country to make. But when he came to the term compensation, he had a right to impress the House with the difference of the position in which he now stood. He could appeal to Mr. Bernal, and if it were for him to leave that chair he would confirm the statement which he made, that the West-India proprietors had suffered great loss from that measure. He appealed to Mr. Bernal with reference to the income which he enjoyed before and that which he had enjoyed since the passing of that bill. It was quite right that the House should understand that. The argument used in favour of the measure was the reduction of the quantity of sugar; but what they did raise now was raised by the payment of high wages, which they had not paid before, and the remuneration the West-India proprietors received was wholly insufficient to cover that loss. It might, perhaps, be said, that he was here affording an argument in favour of encouraging the production in the East Indies, but that was not so. He only asked that they might have fair play. In former times the West-India produce had been more than enough for our consumption. Our West-India colonies manufactured about one-third more than we consumed; and though, notwithstanding the good behaviour of the emancipated population, the high price of labour had necessarily diminished the production, he had no doubt that in Jamaica, which was the principal of our West-India colonies, and with which he was particularly acquainted, the supply would, if they had fair play, be again raised in a short time to what it was under the old system. Since the termination of the apprentice- 612 ship he had gone on cultivating his property at a great loss. The high price of sugar this year might, perhaps, relieve him from actual loss, but that was a state of things which could not endure very long. The estates must, in the end, go out of cultivation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said distinctly the other evening that both parties attached too much importance to the matter, that the West Indians felt that it would do rather more harm to them than it really would, and, that upon the whole, he did not think it would do the East Indians much good. It was a question at all events whether something ought not to be conceded to the alarm of the West Indians. To some portion of the House these were matters of vital importance. As to the question before the public, the price of sugar was certainly high, but of that price it was to be remembered, the public had to pay about 25s. for war duties, which were pledged to be removed upon the expiration of the war, and which the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year had increased, by raising the customs 5 per cent. He would now suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, a verbal amendment upon his resolution, which might save the trouble of dividing the House. Instead of the resolution as it now stood, he would suggest that the words should be "gradually reduced," which would pledge them to the principle of the resolution, but would remove the objection to it on the score of surprise.
would, for the present, I exclude from his view of the subject the state of slavery in the East Indies, but would call the attention of the House to other topics. There were three great interests which should be considered by the House before it came to a determination on the subject. In the first place, they ought to consider the effect of the present system, and of the proposed measure on the consumer they also had to consider the just claims of the inhabitants of their extensive dominions in the east; and they likewise must not exclude from their serious attention the state and condition of the population of their West-Indian colonies. These were the three great points they had to look to. He most heartily concurred in the great principles laid down by his right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, as to the effect of their proceedings in India; and that the greatest consequences might result from their proceedings on this question. He believed, that 613 Great Britain had no right to go to a foreign territory, and make the great conquests which she had done in India, and to continue to hold possession of the country, on any other principle than for the promotion of the benefit and happiness of the inhabitants of the country. He confessed, however, that he could not look back on the history of our connection with India, without strong feelings of shame and sorrow. He might admire the glory gained by our arms, and the great achievements of our warriors in those climes; but he felt, at the same time, that there were shades of a dark hue in the history of British India, which must excite painful feelings. If our proceedings in that extensive territory were carefully regarded, it must be admitted, that however much we might admire the victories gained by the bravery of our troops, that the measures that had been adopted in the government of the country, were not calculated to promote the benefit and happiness of the people. If any one wished to see how badly our duty to the people of India had been performed, it was only necessary to look back to what had been done during the last ten years. They need only refer to the result of the labours of the committee of 1832, and to the report that had been then prepared. No one could read those documents without feeling, that it was the duty of the British Legislature to do all in their power to remedy these particular acts of injustice, and to do all in their power to raise the prosperity of the country, and to remedy some of the evils that had been inflicted on its inhabitants. Who could read, in the recent report of the committee of the House on East-India produce, the account of the destruction of the manufactures, and the decline of the produce of Dacca, without entertaining the strongest feelings of sympathy and pain? Entertaining this view of the subject, it was impossible, that he should not feel disposed to give every possible aid and relief to the inhabitants of Hindoostan, and, as far as they justly could do so with regard to other interests, raise them up from their present sinking and declining state. Again, looking to the condition of the great body of the consumers of colonial produce in this country, it was impossible not to feel deeply and keenly the injury and privations inflicted upon them by the high price of sugar. This operated with the utmost severity on the inhabitants of this country; and it was not possible to suppose, that they would long continue to 614 bear it, without making their complaints heard in the House, in a manner which could not be mistaken. From the highest to the lowest—from the wealthy and respectable middle classes, to the inhabitants of the cottage of 40s. a-year—all felt aggrieved at the monopoly price of this article of necessary and general consumption. The chief objection, however, to the proposed measure was the fear, that attempts might be made to introduce slave produce into the home market. Now, he, in spite of what had been said by his hon. Friend, the Member for Lambeth, as to the insignificance of this consideration, both actually and morally, might be told, that there was a great distinction between the dear labour of our colonies, with the cheap labour of the Brazils and Cuba, but he was satisfied, that with the same advantages of soil, and with the same convenience of ingress and egress for its produce; and, above all, if the slave-trade was truly and honestly put down, there was nothing to fear in the competition between free and slave labour. But if his hon. Friend meant to assert, that the produce of the colonies of Great Britain would stand in competition in the foreign market with that of those countries which openly and avowedly carried on the slave-trade, he did not hesitate to say, that he did not believe, that they could do so for a single moment. At the present time, the price of Cuba sugar was 23s. per hundred weight. In that island thousands of men were annually employed in breaking up a new soil, without any regard being had to their lives, but were treated worse than post-horses. He believed, that it was utterly impossible, that any produce of free labour could be brought into successful competition, as long as the demand for labour, without regard to human life, was fully supplied in these slave countries. This was one of the points of view in which he regarded the present question. As for the argument of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, that the West Indies were in a state of transition, and that they should be allowed some time before any change was effected, and that, therefore, this measure should be postponed, he believed, that it very much overrated the difficulties of the case. It was his firm conviction, that this measure never could affect them, and could not produce any mischievous effects in the West-Indian colonies. He would not repeat the argument of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere), on this subject, but he 615 was sure, that the result of the strictest investigation would be, to show, that the evils that were anticipated were altogether groundless. He recollected, that in the discussions on the proposition to admit the sugar of the Mauritius at the same duty as that of our West-Indian possessions, and which he strongly opposed at the time, under the conviction that the slave-trade was still carried on in the former colony, Mr. Huskisson said, more than once, that he never for a moment believed, that East-India produce could enter into successful competition with that of the West Indies. The view taken of the subject by that distinguished statesman had been fully confirmed by the result of the admission of East-Indian sugar at the reduced duty into the home market. It had been stated, that, the result of the competition of East-Indian with West-Indian rum, would be to throw the latter entirely out of the home market. But what was the case at the present moment in the foreign market? Did the introduction of East-Indian rum into those places so materially affect prices, or drive West-Indian produce out of competition? The truth was, from all that he could learn, that the West Indies were recovering from the state of depression in which they had fallen. As a proof of this, he would mention, that in the island of Antigua, which was formerly one of the poorest of our colonies, with a worn-out soil, there had been a great increase in the produce of the colony, which was now in a most thriving state. Again, in Barbadoes, it appeared, that with the exception of last year, when there had been a falling-off in consequence of a severe drought, there had been a gradual increase in the produce, and the colony was in a flourishing condition. The same was the case with British Guiana, Trinidad, and other of our colonies, but he admitted, that this might not be the case with Jamaica, or other colonies, where, he believed, that there would be found circum stances of a local nature, materially to interfere with the prosperity of the colony. With respect to the present measure, he would only observe, that he would not support any bill on the subject, unless it contained ample provisions to prevent the importation of slave-grown rum into this country. If this were not done, the West Indians would have good grounds of complaint, and the people of England would be justified in remonstrating, after they had given 20,000,000l. to put a stop to slavery in the colonies. He would not, at the present moment go into the question, of the 616 distinction between domestic or prædial slavery in the East Indies, but he would take care at a future stage of the bill to ask the House to take such steps, to prevent the introduction of slave produce as the country was justified in demanding as a protection. He might be told, that there was no slave produce now; if that were the case, the restrictions which he should propose, could do no harm; but if there was slave produce, he only proposed to adopt proper checks and cautions. He hoped to bring forward a motion which, if slavery should exist, would finally put an end to it.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, there was one class which had not been mentioned in the debate, but which he looked upon as very important—the free labourers of the West Indies. The House ought to protect the great experiment of free labour which it had there set on foot. With this view he thought it of great importance to encourage the exertions of the West-India proprietors to maintain and promote the industry of those colonies. The House should beware of doing any thing which would induce the West-Indian body to withdraw their capital, or diminish their exertions in the promotion of colonial industry, and thereby endanger the success of that great experiment which had already cost the country so much. He confessed that neither of the propositions now before the committee for the immediate or gradual equalization of the duty on rum exactly met his views of the justice and policy of the case. In his opinion, the interests of the whole empire would be best promoted by fixing a limited period— say two years, when the equalization should be carried into effect. This would enable the West Indians to provide an increase of labour, which was absolutely necessary to enable them to sustain competition with those engaged in the cultivation of sugar in the east. The struggle at present was an unequal one; it was essentially fettered labour against free labour. Parliament had not yet devised measures which would allow a free immigration of labourers into the West-India colonies without the risk of inhumanity; and the price of labour being thus enhanced artificially by restrictions of our own, some reasonable space, if not positive encouragement, should at least be afforded to increase the supply. He therefore hoped the suggestion he had offered, of fixing some period when the equalization should 617 take effect, would find some favour with the Government.
§ Mr. Labouchere
did not think it at all advisable to accede to the proposition. In point of fact, even if the resolution were passed, and the bill to be founded on it carried into effect, a considerable interval must of necessity elapse before it could come into operation. It was his intention in all cases to insist on the production of a certificate from India, so that neither the; rum now in bond, nor that now on its way to this country, could be affected by the equalization. It must at least take six months before the bill could come into operation, even allowing no time at all for the increase of the establishments in India. If the House were satisfied of the justice of the proposition, and that it could not inflict any serious evil on the West Indies by carrying it into immediate operation, he submitted it would only be trifling to adopt any amendment, the tendency of which would be to interpose any delay.
§ Mr. Hogg
could not help thinking it would be gross inconsistency in the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets attempting to introduce such a proviso as he had described, "provided always, that it is not the produce of slave labour." He could not allow that a single pound of sugar was ever exported from Calcutta, or ever manufactured in India, the produce of slave labour. But if there was the remotest ground for the imputation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had thrown out, he hoped some remedy more substantial and worthy the cause of freedom would be introduced, than the ridiculous and paltry check he proposed by way of a proviso.
§ Sir C. Grey
denied the existence of slavery in the east, and defied the ingenuity of his right hon. and learned Friend to draw up any clause to effect his purpose without throwing the whole bill into utter confusion.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, this was a most important discussion, for it should be borne in mind that they were now, in fact, called upon finally to decide the question, and that, after the resolution had been passed, it would not be competent for them in committee on the bill to alter the tenour of the proposition so far as the increase of any duty was concerned. He had, therefore, to state very briefly to the House the impression left on his mind by reading the evidence which had been taken before 618 both committees. His impression might be an erroneous one, but it was at least unbiassed by party considerations, and by any personal interest in the question, He was utterly unconnected both with the East and West Indies, and if he had any leaning at all, it must be towards the consumer. It was impossible, he thought, to deny the principle laid down in the Lords' report, that the colonial dependencies of the British empire should be treated with perfect equality. It also became important to consider what was perfect equality. They could not decide this by a mere equalization of duties. It would be absolutely necessary to consider whether the colonies in respect of which they were about to equalize the duties were themselves on an equality as to facilities of import. That was a consideration they were bound not to overlook; but the general principle appeared unquestionable. If the principle itself were indubitable, it appeared to him, considering the peculiar circumstances of our Indian empire, to apply, with special force, to the situation of that country. Looking to its immense extent, the vast importance, yet extreme difficulty, of procuring any satisfactory mode of adjusting the remittances from the east—above all, when he considered the injury we had in one sense inflicted on the native industry of that country by the importation of our own manufactures, he did think the general principle of equality between colonial dependencies applied with at least unrestricted force to the British possessions in India, with reference to our dependencies in any other portion of the globe. Some of the arguments brought forward against the equalization of duty did not make any impression on his mind. The facility of making spirits from rice must be disregarded; the comparative cheapness of labour, too, in the East Indies, could not be admitted as a valid objection to the equalization of duties. He came, therefore, to the other argument urged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets—namely, the existence of slavery in the East Indies, as a reason for subjecting imports to discriminating duties as compared with the produce of the West Indies. He was bound to say, he could not admit the force of that argument. After referring to the best evidence he could procure upon this subject, he could not bring himself to admit that slavery existed in the East Indies 619 under any circumstances which would entitle them to say, that equalization should be postponed until what was so called slavery was abolished. If the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman had any force at all, if they conceived that a state of slavery existed in the East Indies which should disentitle to equal protection, why not adopt measures for its immediate abolition? But when the learned Gentleman came to consider the connexion of that sort of forced labour with the system of task-work, he would find it more difficult than he now imagined to abolish it by act of Parliament. To postpone, however, the equalization of the duty on East and West India rum until he had actually settled that abolition, would be deferring its operation to a much more distant period than even the most ardent advocate of the West Indians could wish. To define exactly what constituted slavery in a country circumstanced like the East Indies must lead to a conflict in the Custom-house regulations, which would practically exclude any regulation of the kind proposed. So far, therefore, as the ordinary arguments applied against the principle of equalization, he was bound to say they did not produce any impression on his mind. But at the same time he did entertain a doubt. He did not agree with this passage in the report of the House of Lords—"We are reluctantly compelled to admit that the circumstances detailed in the evidence as to the state of transition in which our West-India colonies now are, afford grounds for excepting them at present from the rigorous application of the general principle of equality." If they acted on that principle, their conduct would amount to an indefinite postponement. Next year there might be circumstances which would render the application of the principle still less convenient than at present. The most satisfactory and just course, perhaps, would have been to take some step for the immediate reduction of the duty, and provide for its ultimate extinction at no distant period. He would reduce the duty on East-India rum, say 2s. a gallon this year, and 2s. more the year after, providing for an assimilation of duty at the end of three years. That would be a perfect guarantee to the East Indians that we recognized the principle of equality, and also that the Legislature took immediate and effectual measures for defining the period when the discriminating duties should entirely cease. 620 His ground for that course of proceeding was, that the West Indies had a right to say, "You ought to have given us early notice of your intentions." He thought the experiments which had been made upon their interests and the state of society there, had been experiments of the greatest magnitude, but the existence of the state of transition should not have prevented the Government at home from laying the foundation of equalization, and, therefore, the West Indies had now a right to say, that the measure was harsh towards them. He was of opinion, that before the House proceeded to the equalization of duties in the month of February, 1841, the Government ought, in the course of last Session, to have given some notice, and announced its intention on the subject. Not only, however, was there an absence of all notice, but the proceedings adopted by Parliament had a direct tendency to mislead. For what did the West Indians find? They found that, with the consent of the Government, a committee had been appointed in the course of last year, but no intimation was given by the Government, that the object of the committee was to provide for the equalization of the duties on East-India and West-India rums. They found a voluminous report from the House of Lords—more voluminous indeed than was necessary— voluminous as far as evidence was concerned, and no intimation was given, at the time, that evidence was laid upon the Table in the course of last Session, that on the part of the Government, the equalization of the rum duties was in contemplation. The West Indians then referred to the report of the House of Lords, and they find that report leaning most justly, in his opinion, towards the East-India claims; laying down the great principles of equity, and indicating an inclination on the part of the Lords' committee to find a remedy for the complaints made by the East Indies. They found, in that report, the passage he had already quoted, and he asked any person to consider the position under such circumstances of the West-India colonies. Seeing that no indication had been given by the Government—that no report had been made on the subject by the House of Commons, but in the Lords' report there being a distinct admission—in which he did not concur—that the time had not arrived when any step could well be taken for the equalization of these duties, was it not more than probable that 621 every West Indian would come to the conclusion that the month of February, 1841, would pass without any proposition of this nature being made. He also felt the force of the observations made by his noble Friend (Lord Sandon) with reference to West-India pecuniary interest, and he certainly thought that it was of immense importance, that the great experiment of the substitution of free labour for slave labour in the West Indies should be successful, not only for the sake of the colonies themselves, but for the purpose of of depriving France and the United States of an opportunity of appealing to the failure of the experiment made by this country as a justification for abstaining from following its example. He thought every instant precipitate removal of capital from the West Indies would have a great tendency to disturb the due progress of that experiment, and to prejudice its success; it was not improbable that some of the most respectable inhabitants of the West Indies might be tempted to withdraw their capital from those colonies fur the purpose of speculation in the East Indies, a proceeding which he feared would have a most prejudicial effect upon the result of the great experiment to which he had adverted. On the whole, therefore, he contended it would have been more consistent with justice to have taken some immediate step towards a reduction of the duty on East-India produce, thereby recognizing the principle of equalization, and giving a pledge to carry it into effect within a definitive time. Under all the circumstances of the case, and in the absence of all notice to the colonies, this, to his mind, would have been a much more satisfactory course; but he felt so strongly the justice of the claims of the East Indies—he felt so strongly the importance of some immediate step being taken for the application of the principle of equalization, that if some other hon. Member proposed a reduction in the way he stated—viz., an immediate reduction, and the definition of the time when the duty should be totally repealed—he should feel it his duty to vote for it. Unless such a proposal, however, was made, he had no wish, on his part, to disturb the unanimity of the House by calling for a division on the proposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Viscount Sandon
wished to ask the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, whether it were the intention of Government 622 to propose the adoption of any measures for the promotion of emigration to the West-India colonies?
§ Lord J. Russell
asked if the question of his noble Friend applied to emigration from India particularly, or from the colonies generally?
§ Lord J. Russell
replied, that with regard to free emigration from India, the noble Lord was aware that, by a decision of the House last year, further information was called for on the subject, and since that time there had been a report made, which, however, did not come to any decisive result. With respect to emigration from other quarters of the globe, there arose a different question, There could be no objection to voluntary emigration from India to the West Indies, individuals paying the passage-money, but it would not be just or fair to raise a tax in the colonies for such a purpose. In the next place, for the good of the colonies themselves, great care had been taken to see that emigration was properly conducted, and that there should not be that disproportion of sexes which had caused so many evils in some of the colonies. There remained a third consideration, which was to take care, by every possible means, that, under the name of emigration, nothing like the slave trade from the coast of Africa should arise. All these considerations he had held in view in looking at the laws passed by the colonies themselves. With respect to Trinidad, there an Order in Council had lately been passed, altering a former order, which forbade emigration from Africa to Trinidad as far as it related to Sierra Leone. In Jamaica, an act had passed, which he last year stated required amendment, and though the bill effecting those amendments had not yet been officially received in this country, still it had been passed with the same limitations as the Order in Council at Trinidad, and it was probable also that in British Guiana, the same measures would be adopted.
§ Resolution agreed to, and the House resumed.