§ Mr. Ewart
resumed the debate, and said, that this question was looked upon by some as a subject of party struggle, and that the measures introduced by her Majesty's Government were attributed, not to financial considerations, but to political motives. He looked to results and not to motives. One thing only would he state, that when, last year, he brought this very question forward, he did understand it to be the intention of the President of the Board of Trade to submit to the pressure of the existing monopoly for one year and no longer. For his part, however, he felt, that the people of this country would not enter into such questions, but that they would judge of the measures upon their merits. They would merely ask whether the measures were conducive or not to the prosperity of the country. He was sure, at least, that that was the only consideration which would have any weight in that great commercial district with which it was his lot to be more particularly acquainted, a region of gigantic manufacture, unequalled in the history of the world, which extended itself from South Lancashire over Western Yorkshire, and linked together by one vast chain of manufactures, the Irish Sea and the German Ocean. He believed, that the alterations contemplated by the Government would be gladly hailed by the manufacturers of that most important district of the empire, and that they would not attend to any insinuations as to the motives of Ministers which might emanate from the other side of the House. But they would enquire by what means hon. Gentlemen opposite would meet the deficiency in the revenue, which they were the first to reprobate. He should like to know what they had to substitute for the measure before the House. Were they prepared to substitute for it a tax upon property? If not, how did they propose to pay the interest on our enormous debt, or to satisfy the commercial wants of the country? The country expected to hear from them, or from their leader, some statement of the measures by which they were prepared to meet the emergency, and to protect the country in a crisis 98 which they had so vividly described. There was one circumstance in the course of the debate which hon. Members had not adverted to, namely, that the Government had drawn a clear distinction between sugar the production of slave labour, and that produced by free labour, having imposed upon the former a duty of 42s., but on the latter a duty of only 36s. It was right to call the attention of the country to this distinction. He regretted to find himself opposed, on this occasion, to his hon. Friend the Member for Beverley. He had had the honour, with the hon. Member for Beverley, to stand up, through many a long debate, against the system of West-India monopoly and in claiming the right of equal duties for the continent of India. Since that period a change had come over the spirit of his hon. Friend; he was suddenly converted; he had formed a new alliance; and was now an ardent supporter of the monopolising proposition of the noble Lord (Lord Sandon). With him and the West Indians he joined in the constant cry of "Protection, protection, protection," a cry, in his opinion, utterly at variance with the interests of the public, and not deserving to be responded to by a majority of that House. Thirty or forty years ago a similar exclamation was raised on the part of the West-Indian interest, when it was proposed to admit foreign cotton into the markets of Great Britain. About the year 1784 American cotton was almost unknown in this country; and it was a singular fact that the Custom-House officers of Liverpool refused to admit the first cargo of cotton which came from the United States, from an idea that in that country it could not be produced. Had the attempt to impose a prohibitory duty on cotton, which was then made succeeded, where would have been that colossal fabric, our cotton manufacture, at once the wonder and the envy of the world? He appealed to them in behalf of the consumers of this country to extend to sugar the same principle, which fortunately for the interests of the country, had been applied to cotton, in the assurance that as in the one case it was for the interest of the country that the protection should be withdrawn from cotton, it was for the interest of the country, equally in principle if not in degree, that it should be withdrawn from sugar. But, if protection was to be conceded in the present instance, he begged to ask the noble Lord and those who thought with him, how long it was meant that that protection 99 should endure? So far from thinking that it ought to last, he believed that the longer they delayed an approximation towards an equality of duties, the worse would it be for the interest of the colonies themselves. If they continued to foster and pamper these interests they would never be able to endure a wholesome exposure to the invigorating atmosphere of commercial freedom. The longer they maintained those monopolies, the less would those monopolies be able to meet a vigorous opposition from the general commerce of the world. But not only did the West-India interests seek to maintain their monopoly; they were now assailed also on the part of the East-Indian interests. He earnestly hoped, that, as the commercial part of the country, was resisting the continuance of the West-Indian monopoly, it would still more resist the colossal monopoly attempted to be imposed on the part of the East Indies. If not, the commercial energies of the country would be depressed by a weight which it would never be able to get rid of. He protested against the statement that any such compact for protection was ever made on behalf of India. There never even had been any such understanding. The arguments against the proposal of the Government were confined to three points—First, that the import of sugar would be sufficient for the demands of the country, even continuing the present system of monopoly; next, that the revenue proposed to be raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be insufficient; and, lastly, they endeavoured to show that the price, under the existing system of protection, would be sufficiently low to meet the wants of the consumer. 110,000 tons was the quantity of sugar that was expected from the West Indies; the West Indians themselves calculated it at 135,000 tons; but he had been informed, upon good authority, that the former calculation was the more correct one. In Demerara the falling-off had been considerable, and from the Mauritius no more was to be expected than last year. They had no right to take into consideration the stock on hand, since there must always be a certain quantity to work on. It was calculated that we could get 56,000 tons from the East Indies; add to this 28,000 tons as the amount of our import from the Mauritius, we should have a total of 194,000 tons; which was no more than the quantity we imported twelve years ago, although the population had in- 100 creased, according to the lowest calculation, at least fifteen per cent. Next to the supply came the question of revenue. It was clear that there ought to be a much larger consumption of sugar now than there was twelve years ago, owing to the increase of population; that increased consumption he calculated to be 29,000 tons, and this ought certainly to give an additional revenue of one million. The third consideration was the price. According to the calculations in his possession, the price would range from 56s. to 60s. The price of brown Brazil sugar was 20s., to which add the duty of 36s., and 2s., extra charge, would bring it to 58s. He would not say that sugar would, at this price, be so low as it ought. He was anxious, for the good both of the consumers and merchants, that the duty on sugar should be reduced as low as possible. He was willing to advocate a reduction of the duty on colonial sugar, and had always said that he would give to the colonists these three advantages: —First, a reduction of the duty; secondly, immigration and its consequence, the means of obtaining free labour; and last and best of all, the advantage of free competition. A great policy was involved in the change proposed. By a liberal reduction of duties, Great Britain would become the entrepôt of the sugar of the world. This was her natural position. This should be the general aim of our commercial policy. The ports of this country, not the ports of the continent, would, under a sound fiscal system, be the sugar markets of the world; as they might be the markets for every other article, under the influence of our capital and commerce. Another great question ought also to be considered. He meant the future commerce of Brazil. Brazil was a country of the most gigantic resources, which might be hereafter developed to the great and lasting advantage of this country; and he trusted that whatever might be the result of the present debate, the time would come when that vast and fertile region would be opened to the people of Great Britain. He was aware that on the present occasion they would have to encounter the interested opposition, not only of the West-Indian and East-Indian bodies, but that they would also have to struggle with the far more formidable phantom of an anti-slavery opposition. He had always been anxious, when the question of the sugar duties was before the House, to draw, if possible, some distinc- 101 tion favourable to free labour and adverse to slave labour. The most mature reflection, however, had convinced him that such a distinction was impossible. He did not believe that any nation could act on such a principle. It was a principle for individual agency. The international commerce of the world should go on, whatever might be the nature of individual opinions. Individuals would, and had a perfect right to, refuse from conscientious motives, to use articles which were the produce of a certain species of labour; but such reasoning could not be applied to nations. He also entertained the firmest conviction that, if free labour were admitted into fair competition with slave labour, it would vanquish it in any market in the world. On that point he held the same opinions as Mr. Gurney and Sir Fowell Buxton. The evidence before the West-India committee of last Session, showed clearly that the voluntary labour of one free man was worth that of two of the most able-bodied slaves. That conviction was gaining ground even in Brazil and Cuba. In Brazil there existed a strong party adverse to slavery, while in Cuba the Patriotic Society of Havannah was working for its discouragement. Mr. Turnbull, in his recent work on Cuba, stated, that that society began by laying it down" as an incontrovertible principle, that the labour of a single freeman who works voluntarily, and for his own interest, is at least equivalent to all that can be extracted from any two of the most robust of the African race." The only radical cure for slavery was, the free commercial intercourse of nations. Commerce was the great emancipator. The slave-trade had not been put down by gun-boats; nor would slavery be suppressed by the warfare of prohibitory duties. Had we refused to admit American cotton into this country, the effect would have been to perpetuate slavery in that part of the world. America, confined within herself would have continued the system without a chance of mitigation. But what had been the effect of our commercial intercourse with that nation? A strong anti-slavery party was rising up in America, and shaking to its basis that great confederation. Commerce would work beneficially in Brazil. The proposed reduction of the duties would enable them to make arrangements for the extinction of slavery there also. If this country met Brazil liberally; and with a disposition to take a fair portion of her natural products on equitable terms, he 102 (Mr. Ewart) had no doubt that a corresponding liberality would be evinced by that empire with respect to slavery. The benefits of the proposition before the House would be felt by all classes, and more especially by the poorer classes, in this country; and he (Mr. Ewart) was as anxious to put an end to distress in those quarters as he was to put an end to slavery in any quarter. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, in his vigorous declamation against slavery the other night, seemed to forget the distresses of the poor of his own country. He left them to Providence. He resembled the good bishop described by Pope: —God cannot love, quoth Bond, with tearless eyes,The wretch he starves, and piously denies;But the mild bishop, with a serious air,Resigns, and leaves them Providence's care.He (Mr. Ewart) was as ardent an enemy to slavery as any one, even as his right hon. Friend, but in his enthusiasm in that cause he could not forget the claims of the poor of this country. The adulteration of sugar had gone on to an extraordinary extent, on account of its high price. People abandoned the use of it in consequence. He knew as a fact—not unknown, perhaps, to his noble Friend the Member for Liverpool —that an association was formed in Liverpool for the purpose of avoiding the use of sugar. His right hon. Friend (Dr. Lushington) announced that the people of England would not submit to the use of slave-labour sugar, whilst any other was to be procured. Whence did his right hon. Friend derive his authority as plenipotentiary of the people of England? His right hon. Friend 'even went so far as to say, in scriptural language, that they would prefer a dinner of herbs to the stalled ox of slavery. But under the present scheme of duties, the poor not the rich, would suffer. The rich, who could pay, would still have the stalled ox. The dinner of herbs would be the lot of the poor only. Surely if the duties were to be reduced at all, that was now—when commerce was depressed, and did not show its usual elasticity in spring—when our manufacturers were working only half time, our commercial towns languishing, and the poor suffering from unusual privation. The cotton trade was in a most declining state; so, likewise, was every other trade connected with the export commerce of the country. The distress affected all classes. It was felt in London as well as in the pro- 103 vinces. Something must be done to revive commerce and relieve distress. Nor was the proposed commercial reform demanded by distress only; it was called for by the improved habits of the people. There could not be a more accurate test of those improved habits than the evidence given before the committee on the import duties last year. Twenty-four years ago, scarcely one coffee-house (exclusively for the sale of coffee) existed in London. The coffeehouses now amounted to 1,600 or 1,800. They supplied the people with an immense amount of periodical journals and newspapers. The reduction of the duties on sugar and coffee was therefore a moral question of great importance. Were these habits of sobriety, this change in the character of the working population to be checked by continuing the present high duties on sugar? But the question at issue involved even more extensive considerations. It involved the consideration of the general increase of the commerce of the country. Foreign countries were gradually becoming more convinced of the extension given to commerce by a reduction of duties on foreign produce. Among these was France. The French Minister of Commerce, M. Cunin Gridaine, had lately shown in his Report laid before the Chamber of Peers, the benefit which has resulted from reducing the import duties of France. In consequence of this reduction it appeared that the general trade of France had increased from 616,000,000 francs in 1829, to 947,000,000 francs in 1839. Her exports, which, in 1829, were only 604,000,000 francs, increased in 1839 to 1,003,000,000 francs; her imports of foreign produce, which, in 1829, were valued at 483,000,000 francs, rose in 1839 to 650,000,000 francs. Navigation, domestic produce, cotton, iron, coal, partook of this general improvement. He (Mr. Ewart) believed that a new era was disclosing itself in the commerce of the world. In this great commercial change Great Britain should take the lead. He strongly felt that this position was due to the honour as well as to the interests of this country. If we sunk back into the old system of mercantile restriction, we should fall like Holland, into a state of early decrepitude and premature decay. But if, in accordance with the times in which it is our destiny to live, we freely open our commerce at home and abroad, he saw no limits to its extent and duration.Nec cursum oceano, neque famam, terminat astris.
said, that he was anxious o state to the House the reasons which would govern his vote upon the present occasion, but he could not, in the first instance, help remarking, that from the course which the debate had taken, whether owing to party tactics or to the forms of the House, it would be ill understood n the country. At the same lime two separate debates were going on, one incident to the announcement made by his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, on the subject of the Corn-laws, and the other solely relating to the resolution on the sugar duties, and the proposals as to corn, timber, and sugar, which was immediately before the House, and upon which his noble Friend, the Member for Liverpool, had confined himself to a dry defence of those duties. He hoped the House would allow him to say a few words on the larger question. The noble Lord was now taking the first step in a long course, he was now proposing the first of a series of measures, all intimately connected with each other, and which deeply affected not only the interests of the colonies and of agriculture, but, in his belief, were calculated to be seriously prejudicial to the manufacturing interests also. On the first subject, that of corn, he did not think, often as he had in that House represented the strong feelings on that subject, that he ever knew a more determined feeling of resistance to exist than existed at the present to the proposition of the noble Lord. It was a feeling in which all ranks and conditions of men shared, and persons of every shade of political feeling. Those who represented the agricultural interests ought at once boldly to say, "We will hear and accept of no compromise—we will not accept the proposition of the noble Lord," for he believed, that a fixed duty the agriculturists were generally determined to resist; and as to the fixed duty of 8s., he could not persuade himself that the noble Lord seriously meant to propose it to the House. His hon. Colleague had said, that he would rather have no duty than such a duty as that. He trusted that the agricultural interest would never be put to so painful an alternative, and he believed that he might give them the information that there was not the slightest chance of such a proposition being carried. So much for protection. Now, as to the question of revenue. In the first place, the pro- 105 position could not surely be brought forward for that purpose, because the noble Lord must have been fully aware that he could not carry it. Could the proposed duty be permanently maintained? If a scarcity occurred, and if they had to depend on a foreign supply, they might soon see a scarcity; could it be maintained? The measure would produce this complication of evils—a scarcity of corn in the country, and at the same time a defalcation in the revenue. Let them look to the extent of revenue which was to I be derived from the Corn-laws, and he asked whether it was safe to make nearly two millions of revenue depend upon a proposition of this kind? The argument which had been used by hon. Members was this, that, though they didn't expect to carry the proposition now, it was something to be done at a future period, but he joined issue with them at once, for he could not see why, as long as the Legislature retained its character for intelligence, and its regard for the interests of the community, that proposition should ever be carried—why that which was unjust to-day should be considered just tomorrow. They took their ground upon the principle that the Corn-laws were sanctioned by justice and even necessity. These were matters of opinion, but he might say, it was matter of fact, that they were in unison with the opinions of a large majority of the constituencies of this country. As to the timber duties, he was far from saying, that if any interest had an excessive protection he was not prepared to take it away; but he asked the House to consider the time at which this proposal was brought forward, and the condition of our North American possessions. Was it not likely to excite that disaffection which had as yet scarcely subsided, and was it giving that reward which they deserved to the loyal inhabitants of those colonies who had succeeded in suppressing disaffection? As to the shipping interest, he owed it great gratitude for the confidence which it had reposed in him, and he contended, that they could not maintain the navy of this country without a great commercial marine. Strength was better than wealth, and a race of bold hardy seamen, ready to fight the battles of their country, was a priceless treasure, far beyond the value of the uncertian advantages anticipated by the noble Lord. In reference to the sugar duties he would 106 say but a word. A great and costly, but a most glorious experiment had been tried in our West-India colonies. He was rejoiced to hear from the statement of the noble Lord of the success of that experiment, but was it the time when that experiment was going on, and was likely to lead to a successful issue, to try a theoretical experiment of this nature? The noble Lord had said, that it would not be manly in him to attack the sugar and timber interests without attacking the landed interest at the same time, and he thought that they might take a lesson from that noble Lord, and that it equally behoved them to say, "We will not defend the land whilst we throw overboard the other interests likely to be prejudiced by the scheme of the Government." He was compelled, therefore, with great pain and reluctance to declare, that he felt it to be his duty to vote against the resolutions. Hon. Gentleman talked about the protection to agriculture. Had not the manufacturing interests equal, and in many instances far greater protection. Let them look at the woollen, and the silk and linen trades, had not they immense and enormous protection? Within ten years enormous bounties had been given, and then, armed to the teeth with protection, they came forward and said, "We wish protection for ourselves, and free trade for every one else;" but he said, if they wished to reform others, they should begin by reforming themselves. Let them not content themselves with making vague declarations, but put notices down on the motion-book of that House. [" Hear! hear! from Mr. Hume.] Oh! no, not vague declarations; he knew that the hon. Member for Kilkenny would promise a great deal—he knew his promises of old. The hon. Member for Wigan had said, that it was now necessary for this country to set a great example. It might be very well for this country to set an example but would foreign countries follow it? We might give up our agriculture, our colonies, our shipping, but would they give up their rising manufactures? He was not for giving up a substance for the sake of a shadow. He therefore was bound to vote against the resolutions; he regretted the necessity for that step, but in announcing his intention he hoped that he had said nothing indicating any diminution of respect for the personal character of the noble Lord. The resolutions had 107 been brought by the noble Lord in a bold and manly speech, which did him great credit, but he could not accede to them, for he was satisfied, that if they were carried it would be impossible to maintain the agricultural, colonial, shipping, or even the manufacturing interests of this great country.
§ Mr. Lascelles
thought the debate and the vote would be considered as embracing the whole principle of removal of restrictions from the trade and commerce of the country, and he was decidedly favourable to that principle. He could not, at the same time, conceal from himself the difficulties which the Government had created, by bringing forward the subject under the circumstances in which they were placed. He did not, indeed, join in the impntation that had been cast upon Ministers for making this a party manœuvre, but at the same time he did think that having been defeated upon other questions, and the reins of Government having dropped from their hands, they ought to have paused before they threw measures before the country, which necessarily excited much of passion and hostility between the different interests—when they were unable to carry them out. They had no right to consider themselves the exclusive advocates of free trade, and he had stated, on the vote of confidence, two years ago, that he had the most confident expectation that his right hon. Friend (Sir. R. Peel) would carry out, as far as he could the principles of Mr. Huskisson. Although such a thing could scarcely be expected by hon. Gentlemen opposite, yet, foreseeing what was about to happen, he did think it would be well if his right hon. Friend would state the principles of the course he intended to pursue. With reference to the particular question before the House, he thought it was only reasonable that the West Indians should have that amount of protection that would carry them through the experiment that was in progress, but he did not wish to continue an absolute prohibition upon foreign sugars; and he should wish to see the differential duty diminished, although not to the extent now proposed. He considered that, however, to be the question of degree proper to be discussed in the committee. He would again express his confidence in the soundness of the general principle of relaxing, as far as possible, all restriction on trade and commerce.
§ Mr. Grote
the hon. Member for Lincoln, Sir, appears to me to have justly appreciated the true subject and the real character of this debate, and to have judged perfectly right in giving to it a much wider range than that of the mere question of sugar duties. In particular, I rejoice that by doing this he has called forth the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Wakefield; a speech which I listened to with the greatest satisfaction, as well for its excellent sense as for its frankness. The propositions laid before the House by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, as the hon. Member for Lincoln has truly stated, are comprehensive both in their present import and in their future promise; they open the prospect of a revision of our commercial tariff in all its chief defective points; and the number of separate protected interests which the hon. Member for Lincoln has enumerated, in his anxiety to find a ground of justification for protection to the landed interest, sufficiently demonstrate how great is the need for a searching legislative interference. I wish, Sir, in a few words to express my accordance with the general scheme proposed by her Majesty's Government for the raising of additional revenue during the present year by a revision of our tariff, and by the lightening of duties simply differential and protective. I think that the proposition which has been made to us for supplying the existing deficiency in the revenue by a new arrangement of our commercial system, instead of the imposition of additional taxes on the people, is a wise, an advisable, and a comprehensive proposition. Even if there were no pressing exigencies arising out of an ill-supplied Treasury—if we had at this moment a surplus instead of a deficiency—I should still hold that a reduction of those duties, which are simply protective and differential, and which enhance the cost of living in England without enriching the public purse, is a duty which we owe to the country. But when I find the same course of conduct recommended by considerations of immediate urgency—when I discover that the same amended tariff, which is calculated to enlarge our commerce, and to extend our means of giving employment to the people, may also be made to relieve them from the necessity of new positive payments over and above the heavy burthens which they now endure—I must 109 say that I entertain the fullest satisfaction and the most entire conviction in supporting the project which has been laid before us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. How much of the budget which has now been proposed for our notice may be destined to pass into a law, at present I know not. But entertaining, as I do, a sincere persuasion that our present Corn-laws are eminently injurious in many ways, and believing that a nearer approximation to the principles of free trade in other articles would be beneficial to the great mass of the public, rich as well as poor, agricultural as well as commercial—I cannot but feel rejoiced that the proposition of the Government has opened to us the prospect of such considerable improvement, even though the realization is destined to be deferred. The three subjects to which our attention is called in the budget, are corn, sugar, and timber —three main articles of consumption for every household, from the extreme of opulence to the humblest independent cottager. With respect to all these three articles, there are the same general modes of reasoning applicable; there are indeed, some peculiarities belonging to each, especially to the corn trade, which do not belong to the other two; but, in the main, the reasoning respecting all the three, comprises the same conditions, and tends towards the same objects. The purpose of all legislation, as I understand it, with respect to these three trades, ought to be, to place within the reach of the consumer the best, the cheapest, and the most constant supply of all these essential articles of consumption. If it be necessary for the supply of the Government expenditure that a certain additional expense should be incurred by consumers before they can procnre for themselves these important comforts of life, it ought at least to be the object of the Legislature to reduce this charge to a minimum—to find out with how small an additional charge super-added to the inevitable cost of production, the public credit and the public defence can be sustained. This is the sense in which I, at least, construe my duties as a legislator, in regard to the relation between consumer and producer—to try by every means in my power to make the income of each individual householder among the public go as far as it can be made to go in the purchase of comforts 110 and necessaries of life. I need not mention, what is but too notorious, that the enormous majority of these incomes are humble and moderate, very many of them scanty and insufficient—and that, therefore, any artificial addition made to the cost of procuring the necessary comforts of life, cannot but be deeply and painfully felt. Now, Sir, I well know that the project as now laid before us by the Government, neither accomplishes, nor professes to accomplish, anything like that which I conceive to be the proper end and object of commercial legislation. The project of the Government does by no means study the single object of rendering the essential comforts of life cheap and accessible to the great body of consumers. If it did, it would be more consonant to my opinions than it is now; but I know that it does no such thing. It still retains the principle of protection, or that which is erroneously so called, but which is, in regard to the consumer, the direct negation of protection. It still perpetuates the custom of taxing every consumer, not for public purposes and common utility, but for the benefit, sometimes real, sometimes imaginary, of a particular knot of producers. But though the Government project continues and maintains this principle of protection, it restricts the extent of its application, and it mitigates considerably the form and manner in which the principle has hitherto been brought to bear. Sir, I have said before, in discussing the subject of the corn-laws, and I say again now, that I think the trade in corn ought to be perfectly free, and that corn is not a proper subject of revenue, inasmuch as to impose a tax upon imported corn, which can never, under any system, form more than one-tenth of the whole consumption, has the effect of raising the price to an equal extent upon the whole nine-tenths grown at home, without any benefit to the revenue. The project of the Government, therefore, does not accomplish, and does not aim at accomplishing, all which I think ought to be done about the corn trade. But it does aim at procuring, and it does in reality procure, a most serious and important amelioration in the present condition of things. It converts the corn trade, which is now distinguished from all other trades by its extreme irregularity, and its enormous fluctuations, into a steady, regular, and calculable proceeding. I do 111 not think that the ordinary prices of corn will be lower in any sensible degree under a fixed duty of 8s. than they are now; but I entertain full confidence that the maximum of price in extraordinary times will be much less high; and that the trade altogether will lose that hazardous and feverish character which has been so fearfully manifested during the last few years. We shall no longer be exposed to those sudden and unforeseen demands for large importations of foreign grain which so fatally derange the ordinary habits of trade, and so greatly aggravate the dangers of our monetary system. I do believe that this will be hailed by the mercantile community generally as a great and essential improvement. I know that there are many of that community who are favourable to protection, of greater or less extent, to the landlords, but I am persuaded there is not one who does not regard the alternate hot and cold fits of the corn trade, as it now stands, to be a serious evil, and who will not accept, with comparative satisfaction and gratitude, a system which combines a fixed amount of protection with a regular and steady course of trade. The same principle of dealing which the Government project applies to the corn trade, it applies to the sugar trade also. It recognises and maintains the principle of protection to the colonial producer, but it limits the extent of protection granted; it reduces the extent of protection from its present exorbitant amount to a differential duty of 50 per cent. Now, to hear the manner in which this subject has been debated, one would suppose that a differential duty of 50 per cent, was tantamount to no protection at all. But let me entreat Gentlemen to reflect upon this amount of protective duty with reference to any independent foreign market for our exports. Let us suppose that the United States, or any other independent nation, chose to receive French goods at a duty of 50 per cent, less than English goods, would there not be the greatest and the most serious complaints amongst our exporting merchants, of the hindrance thereby placed upon their trade? I do submit to the House that, assuming the principle of protection to be a just one, a differential duty of 50 per cent, is as much as can reasonably be demanded at the expense of the general public on behalf of any special interest whatsoever. I presume it is hardly necessary to prove, that a low price 112 of an article like sugar, is an event highly desirable and beneficial to the community —felt most sensibly by every poor family in the country in its morning and evening meal. And so Gentlemen seem unanimously to regard it, when the question is about admitting East-India sugar into consumption on the same footing as West-India sugar. For what other purpose is it that this relaxation of our previous law has been recently carried into effect, except to render the supply of sugar cheaper and more abundant? But when the question is about the policy of admitting Cuba and Brazil sugar for consumption in England, it then seems as if the cheapness of sugar to the consumer here became a matter of indifference. Now, Sir, I must confess that I take a very different view of this matter. To me it seems a very great blessing that the poorer population of this country should have the command of sugar at the most moderate cost; and if there be countries so favoured by nature as to be able and willing to supply them with it, I, at least, will not concur in the imposition of insurmountable factitious barriers, for the purpose of preventing them from getting it. The hon. Member for Beverley told us on Friday, as matter of satisfaction and delight, that the supply of sugar from the East-Indies was greatly on the increase, and that he expected in the course of the next year, not less than 100,000 tons. Yet the same hon. Gentleman, in the same speech, went on to tell us, as a subject of dismay and uneasiness, that the lands of Cuba were so fertile and so productive, as to yield as much sugar from one acre as can be obtained from six acres of the best land in the East-Indies. If this be correct, why is the cheapness of sugar a misfortune when it comes from Cuba — a blessing when it comes from the East Indies? I observe, Sir, that those who concur in the views of the noble Lord opposite (the Member for Liverpool) adopt two lines of argument which seem to me inconsistent one with the other. First, they treat the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as one which threatens the colonies with ruin, by the extensive consumption which it will occasion of foreign slave-grown sugar. Next, they take the present price of colonial sugar, and of foreign sugar, at the proposed rates of duty, and they make out that the fall of price will be so insignificant as to yield no additional revenue 113 worth mentioning to the Exchequer. Either of these two arguments may stand singly, but they cannot both stand together. The inclination of my mind, and the information which I have received, leads me to believe that the extension in the consumption will not be so great as the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculates; but upon that point I reserve my ['opinion until I shall have heard the right hon. Gentleman explain the grounds upon which his calculation is founded. But the main stress seems to be laid upon the question of slavery, by Gentlemen who take an unfavourable view of this proposition. Emphatic and eloquent denunciations against the system of slavery in Brazil and Cuba are delivered, and such expressions of feelings both deserve and command the ready and the unanimous acquiescence of this House. But Sir, while we sympathise with the feelings in which these sentiments originate, it is necessary for us to ask ourselves to what conclusions Gentlemen intend to make it subservient? Are the conclusions such as reasonably follow from the premises, and such as are worthy of the premises? I must say that I think they are not. When in former years the mischiefs of slavery as it existed in our own islands were forcibly exposed, the conclusions deduced were natural and legitimate, and worthy of the premises laid for them. Parliament said, "Here is a great evil existing, let us interfere and put it down." The generous exertions of those who exposed the evil were rewarded with their proper result—a direct and effective intervention for the purpose of putting down the evil. But when gentlemen denounce the practice of slavery as it exists in Cuba, in Brazil, or in other foreign countries, what are the practical conclusions which they deduce from their doctrine? Do they propose that we should formally require the Governments of those countries to abrogate slavery, and that in the event of refusal, we should fit out armaments to enforce compliance? No person has ever started such a proposition. Do they propose to declare all the products of slave labour tainted, and to forbid them as abominations of which it is not permitted under any circumstances to partake, just as certain descriptions of food are peremptorily interdicted in many countries by religious precept? Sir, I do not find that any. person proposes this; even my tight hon. Friend, the Member 114 for the Tower Hamlets, disclaimed any such proposition on Friday evening last. But, Sir, unless Gentlemen are prepared to maintain this proposition, they abandon the moral ground of the question—they can no longer take their stand upon the dignity of a moral and conscientious scruple—they cannot be allowed to reason upon the moral view of the question up to a certain point, and then to turn their backs upon it when they find inconveniences thickening around them—they cannot be allowed to rate the stain arising from slave manipulation at some fixed sum, such as one penny or twopence per pound, and nothing more. So long as Gentlemen encourage the introduction of slave-grown sugar and slave-grown tobacco, I say that I am only following their example when I treat this question as one of prudence and public convenience, and not of any peremptory moral obligation. I enter fully into those generous sympathies on which the abhorrence of slavery rests: but I must confess that the expression of them loses much of its charm in my eyes, when I find that it ends in nothing else but the factitious recommendation of a rival species of sugar for consumption. We denounce the slave-holders in Brazil and Cuba: we exclude their produce from our markets: and upon whom is it that the effects of our indignation chiefly fall? Why, they fall principally on the British consumer of sugar— and most and worst upon the poorest of British consumers. I would entreat of Gentlemen who object to the proposed alteration of sugar duties, on the ground of their hatred of slavery, to consider what has been the consequence of the policy upon which we have acted up to the present moment. We have hitherto excluded, by means of our system of duties, all foreign sugars, and have we by means of this system brought about any diminution in the extent of slavery, either in Cuba or Brazil? Have we ever prevented the great enlargement of that system? Sir, the fact is, I believe, notorious, that slavery, and the products of slavery, have largely spread in these two countries. We have been successful in causing our own population to bear the serious inconvenience of an unnaturally high price of sugar; but we have not been successful in causing the decrease of slavery, or even in preventing the increase of slavery, in Brazil and Cuba. No doubt I shall be 115 told that the development of slavery would have been still greater had we admitted Brazil and Cuba sugars to our markets; and this, to a certain extent, is true. To a certain extent, our scale of duties has prevented the cultivation of sugars in those two countries from being pushed so far as it otherwise would have been. But how, and by what means, has our scale of duties had the effect of preventing this? Why, simply by means of a serious indirect tax and a heavy burden upon the British consumer of sugar. I do submit that the burden and inconvenience which our present system inflicts upon our own population is incomparably greater than the preventive effect which we produce, as regards sugar cultivation in the Brazils. By persevering in our present system of exclusion, I cannot perceive that we stand the least chance of extinguishing slavery in the countries now under discussion. By a judicious relaxation in that system, it is at least possible that something in that way may be done. We cannot act upon Brazil by force, and we must, therefore, have recourse to persuasion. It might be possible by a well-arranged commercial treaty with Brazil to obtain from that government more effective precautions against the importation of slaves from Africa than any which are now in force. But this will be thoroughly out of the question, so long as we deliberately and systematically exclude their products. And if such condition as this can be obtained by amicable negotiation, we shall have done more to lessen the evils of slavery than can be accomplished by persisting for a century in the system of exclusion. Sir, the resolution moved by the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, dwells upon the hope that the example of what has been done by England, may lead other countries to follow in the same track of trying to extinguish slavery. I fervently hope that it may have such an effect; but I must say, that the line of argument which has been taken by the noble Lord, in support of his motion, tends to defeat rather than to accelerate the accomplishment of this object. For one of the main points upon which the noble Lord insists is, the enormous and incalculable advantage which the inhabitants of Brazil and Cuba enjoy by means of slave labour—an advantage such, that it can only be countervailed by the most exorbitant differential duties. If 116 there be any persons connected with these countries now present at our debate, I fear that they will retire disposed to exaggerate far more than the reality the benefits of slave-labour. Assuredly, neither the example of England, as expounded by the noble Lord, nor the commercial policy of England as he would recommend it, are calculated to induce the Brazilians to imitate this Government in putting an end to slavery. And after all, is it quite certain that there would be any greater readiness than there is now to admit Brazilian sugar, even if those countries were cultivated by free labour, and if the objection arising out of slavery did not exist? When I find the hon. Member for Beverley dwelling upon the fertility of Cuba as a subject of alarm and apprehension, I feel quite assured that anti-slavery motives are not the only grounds concerned in this refusal. The noble Lord, in his proposed resolution, has spoken of the example of England inducing other countries to adopt measures for mitigating or extinguishing slavery. In common with the noble Lord, I have a great opinion of the powerful influence of English example upon other nations, either for good or for evil. It is for that reason, amongst many others, that I desire to see our commercial tariff placed upon a more liberal footing with regard to the admissibility of foreign products, because I feel persuaded that such a change of conduct could not fail to provoke the like liberality from other nations, just as the exclusive spirit which now predominates in our tariff has contributed with but too much efficacy to foster a preference for restrictions on the part of other nations. Looking to the extent of our export trade, and to the large proportion of our population which depends upon it, I am sure that no country can have a stronger interest than ourselves in diffusing throughout the world a spirit of friendly reciprocity in regard to commercial interchange. I am sorry to say, that the spirit in which our legislation has been conducted has been hitherto, with few exceptions, such as to cause unfriendly dispositions in other powers, and to seal up their ports to our commerce. We have struggled to maintain the possibility of selling largely to other nations, without buying anything from them in return; and we seem to have thought that the admission of any foreign produce for sale in this country was a loss not to be submitted 117 to, except under the pressure of an overwhelming necessity. I hope that we may Jive to see the time when the example of England, to which the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, has invited foreign nations to attend in regard to the extinction of slavery, may be no longer cited by foreign nations in support of a restrictive system of commerce. The question now before us in regard to the sugar duties is, not whether the principle of protection to the colonial producer shall be abandoned, but whether that system of protection can, with any show of justice or respect to the great body of consumers, be carried beyond a differential duty of 50 per cent. Can you with any reason require the consumer to pay more than this difference, considering that he pays it, not for the benefit of the State, but for the benefit of certain other private interests— that is, for the benefit of certain other private individuals not at all better entitled to the protection and favour of the Legislature than he is himself? I do not wish, Sir, to draw pictures of distress, or to move the feelings of the House by describing the circumstances of those whose condition is the least comfortable amongst our population. I have never thought that a just or deliberate judgment upon any controverted question could be promoted by such a mode of treating it. It is enough for my argument to state the plain matter of fact, that there are millions of persons of both sexes in these realms to whom the difference in the price of sugar is most sensibly felt in their morning and evening meals. Is it fair or reasonable to draw from each of these persons a sum of money for the avowed purpose of protecting the private interest of individuals engaged in a particular trade greater than is represented by a differential duty of 50 per cent.? Would this be equitable or prudent dealing? Sir, this is a strong case, — but this is not all. Would it be fair or reasonable, in order that you may retain a differential duty of more than 100 per cent, upon sugar, to proceed to impose fresh additional burdens upon these purchasers in other ways, over and above the factitious price which they are forced to pay for their sugar? In the present state of the revenue new funds must be provided by some means or other, and the question is, are you to resort to new taxes and new burdens for the purpose of upholding 118 a differential duty of more than 100 per cent, in favour of colonial sugar? This s the real question, and if the people of England, under these circumstances, remonstrate against new duties, I think it will be very difficult to furnish them with a satisfactory answer. We are told, Sir, that the high price of sugar last year was a temporary accident; that large supplies are coming forward, and that the price, even now greatly fallen, will soon range at a height no greater than it has maintained during the last. I hope the case may prove as they state, but I must contend that this amounts to no vindication of the existing rate of differential duty. The question still remains, can the East Indies and the West Indies supply the consumption of sugar to this country, being favoured in the rate of duty, as compared with all other sugars, in the proportion of 24s. to 36s. per cwt.? If they can, they will still maintain the exclusive supply. If they cannot, can they with any colour of reason, talk of being able to supply sugar at a low price, when the price of foreign sugar is, by their own admission, so very much lower? And can they reasonably claim to be allowed to impose upon the consumer, for their own benefit, a charge so exorbitant and so overwhelming? I do, indeed, admit that the cost at which colonial sugar can be supplied, whether as cheaply as foreign sugar or not, is a matter of importance to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in calculating his revenue; but the fact, that colonial sugar can be supplied so cheaply, is a reason not in favour of an exorbitant differential duty, but against it. I trust that Gentlemen opposite, who take so eager and vehement a part against the proposed alteration of the sugar duties, will, at least, compute the magnitude of the tax which they are imposing upon the consumers of sugar for the protection of private interests. The aggregate consumption of sugar last year was something rather above 180,000 tons, equal to near 400,000,000lbs. weight. One penny per pound upon 400,000,000lbs. is equal to l,600,000l. sterling. All this is a tax paid by the country in addition to the large sum which finds its way to the coffers of the State, for the simple purpose of protection, and the artificial enhancement of price, arising entirely out of the duties, is certainly far more than one penny per pound. I do submit that the mere state- 119 ment of these enormous figures ought to make Gentlemen pause before they insist upon maintaining a protective duty of more than fifty per cent. It was only a few days since, Sir, that I presented a petition in favour of a revision of our commercial tariff, signed by a large number of capital, extensive, and intelligent merchants of London. I am happy to think, that in supporting the present propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am contributing something to carry into effect the general prayer of that petition, and to forward the large commercial interests of that constituency whom I have the honour to represent. Believing, as I do most sincerely, that their interests coincide on this occasion with those of the great body of the people, as well in enlarging our foreign commerce, as in lowering the price of the main articles of domestic consumption, and avoiding the necessity for raising new public burdens—I lend a cheerful and hearty support to the proposition laid before us by the Government.
said, there had been a great inclination on the other side of the House to widen the field of debate, and introduce the general question of free trade; but he would recall the attention of hon. Members to the fact, that the real question before the House was the amount at which the sugar duties should be fixed. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had skilfully diverted the attention of the House from the real question, in his speech of the other evening. A speech characterised by greater ability—a speech more delightful to listen to, as an exercise of genius, he had never heard. He said that, not only because it was a speech of the most ample argument—of the greatest possible eloquence—of the most powerful appeals, but because he felt how untenable and baseless a case, resting on no foundation of argument or policy, the noble Lord had to deal with. The noble Lord had endeavoured to mystify his hearers, by setting before them all the marvels which free trade was to work, whereas, the real point for the House to determine was the duty on sugar. The hon. Member for Wigan had told the House, that last year, when the reduction of the sugar duties was discussed, the President of the Board of Trade asked but for one year more to secure the safety of the great experiment of emancipation, and said, that if it failed, 120 he would be quite prepared to agree to the proposal for reduction. He found that the right hon. Gentleman was represented in the pages of Hansard to have said, that he believed the people of this country required that the experiment of emancipation should be fairly carried out, and that they would think it was not fairly carried out if at this moment, when the colonists were struggling with the difficulties of their situation, the flood-gates of foreign supply should be thrown open. Were these circumstances altered? He did not think the people of England would accept the championship of the noble Lord. They had declared in former years, when labouring under great financial difficulties, that they would not allow the existence of slavery in the British dominions, nor permit the slave trade to be carried on in the world, and they would not now retrace their steps, and upset all they had done to forward that cause. Because the present Government had involved the finances of the country in inextricable confusion, and in five years had added 7,000,000l. to the debt, was the House to he called on to find a remedy for the difficulties, and such a remedy as would utterly blast and destroy the great measure on which the people of England had set their hearts? There was one remedy which he ventured to suggest, and that was, that they should take the finances of the country out of the hands of those who had brought them into disorder, and that they should find out other persons who would manage them in a different way. He was sure the noble Lord and his colleagues were quite ready for that dignified retirement to which the country invited them; he was sure there was a party in the country which was anxious that a change in the public councils should take place, and that party he conceived was the people of England. If the noble Lord had the slightest doubt on this subject, he had only to consult the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control, and Member for Nottingham, who could inform him, that if there was one topic at Nottingham more unpopular than another, more unpopular even than the new Poor-law, though that was most unpopular, it was the composition of the Ministry who pass, ed it. So much was that the case, that his esteemed and excellent friend Mr. Larpent, found it the best policy to get rid of it as soon as he could, by saying, "I do not come here as a friend of the Government; I have nothing to do with them; 121 if I go into the House of Commons, I go as an independent member." Such, he could assure the noble Lord, was equally the feeling of the inhabitants of Leeds and Sheffield. The noble Lord claimed for the Government the credit of having abolished slavery. Had the noble Lord forgotten who was Colonial Minister when the Emancipation Act passed? Had he forgotten that to the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire was committed the difficult task of conciliating hostile interests, and that to his unrivalled talents for debate was allotted the duty of defending it against two classes of opponents—those who thought that no such measure should be passed, and those who thought the measure of Government did not go far enough? The noble Lord opposite had no right to continue to claim for his party the name of Whigs after they had been deserted by all that was respectable among their former adherents, and thrown away, like a cast-off garment, the principles which distinguished the Whigs of former days. With respect to the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the supply of sugar was deficient, it would be remembered, that during the discussions on the East India Rum Bill, the right hon. Gentleman assured the House, that India was capable of producing an unlimited quantity of that commodity. The hon. Member for London had expressed a doubt whether slave-labour sugar were less expensive than free-labour sugar. Now, what said the witness whose evidence he had already quoted upon that very point?—Slave labour is cheaper when the system is worked with a frightful recklessness of human suffering, which appears to obtain in Cuba, where males alone are imported, with the deliberate purpose of getting the qnickest and largest returns from their thews and sinews, and of killing them off by unmitigated labour.Placing the question upon this footing, the House had to choose between cheap sugar and dear; and how cheapened? By grinding down the African race, not, indeed, in our own colonies, but in Cuba and the Brazils, where the curse of slavery still existed in all its horrors. Yes, in those countries, if it were cheapened, it was cheapened at the price of blood, and by the sacrifice of human life. After the Act of Emancipation passed, in 1833, it was a monstrous thing that the British Government should dare to offer such a proposal to the British House of Commons; 122 and they had reason to thank God that there was no doubt how such a proposition would be disposed of. He likewise found by referring to the same volume—he meant the blue book containing the evidence taken before the committee on the import duties, that the three great authorities on political economy, Mr. Porter, Mr. M'Gregor, and Mr. Deacon Hume, all united in stating, that to reduce the duty on sugar, not only so long as the experiment of emancipation continued, but likewise so long as you imposed duties on our colonies for the benefit of our manufacturers at home, was monstrous, as being contrary to every principle of political economy. He would not trouble the House with reading the evidence of Mr. Porter and Mr. M'Gregor, but would confine himself to reading the evidence of Mr. Deacon Hume. That gentleman said,I am strongly of opinion that all our colonies would be able to compete with the world, and to become exceedingly prosperous, if they themselves had free trade offered to them; and, having granted that boon to them, I think it would be wholly unnecessary to support them by any protection in their commodities in this country. At the same time I must be understood, that they must be colonies that are placed in all respects upon an equal footing with those countries which produce similar commodities. I cannot conceive, having thirty years ago abolished the slave trade, and now abolished slavery itself, that any question of free trade can arise between Jamaica and Cuba—Cuba with abundance of rich and fresh soil, not only having the advantage of employing slaves, whatever that may be, but notoriously importing the enormous amount of 40,000 or 50,000 slaves every year; they have, in fact, the slave trade and slavery; and, as the laws of this country have deprived the planter in Jamaica of that means of raising his produce, I conceive that that is a question, like several others, that is taken entirely out of the category of free trade.And yet, with this evidence staring him in the face, the first attempt of the noble Lord opposite in his project of establishing free trade, is to do that very thing which Mr. Deacon Hume denounced as absurd, preposterous, and absolutely inconceivable. He repudiated with indignation the idea of foisting a measure like this upon the country under the notion of its being a measure of free trade. "But," said hon. Members on the other side of the House, "oh, but this is all for the interests of our manufacturers." He would state frankly, that he did not go along with the hon. Member for 123 Wigan in the views which he had that night stated respecting free trade. On the contrary, he would take any manufacturer whom the hon. Member for Wigan might select, and would ask him this question, "Whether the most important point with him as a practical man was not this, to keep those good markets which he had already for his own produce?" He was quite certain, that there was not a single manufacturer who would answer it in the negative. What, then, were the most important markets for our manufactures? The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on a former evening had said, that the Brazils took annually 5,000,000l. of our manufactures. Now, on that occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer took the evidence of the witnesses examined before the committee on the import duties, and not his own official figures, and his own official figures proved, that it was not more than 2,600,000l. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would exaggerate the Brazilian produce sent here to nearly twofold its amount, it became the manufacturers of this country to consider what their other markets were against which this conjoint blow was dealt by the same right hon. Gentleman. They were the markets of our East Indian possessions, which took from us 5,000,000l. of our goods; they were the markets of our West Indian possessions, which took from us 4,000,000l,—they were the markets of our North American colonies, which took from us 3,000,000l. of our goods. Yes, incredible as it appeared on the first blush, Her Majesty's Government now proposed to strike a blow against our three greatest markets — markets which were under our own command, which nothing could take from us but the infatuation of a measure like the present, and for which nothing was offered in compensation except the market of the Brazils. Besides, it ought not to be forgotten, that the Brazilian agriculturist had other produce besides his sugar to offer in exchange for our manufactures. Why did he take those manufactures? Because they were the best and the cheapest that he could procure, and he would therefore take them, whether the House passed this measure or not. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had told them, the other night, that this was a great commercial crisis; but he trusted, that the House would permit him to contrast with this declaration of the noble Lord a declaration made by one of his noble Colleagues last year, when defending him- 124 self against a charge brought against him by an hon. Friend of his for not having exercised his influence sufficiently on the behalf of the interests of British commerce. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in reply to his hon. Friend, said—You are mistaken. I will show you, that under my Administration the commerce and manufactures of the country have flourished in an unprecedented manner. In the ten years (added his Lordship) between 1830 and 1840, the exports increased from 38,000,000l. declared value, to 53,000,000l. that is, thirty-nine per cent.They had so increased—and where principally? In the foreign or colonial markets? During those ten years our exports to the Brazils had increased eight per cent.; to the British West Indies, which Government was now prepared to abandon forty per cent.; to the East Indies forty-four per cent; and to the British North American colonies sixty-four per cent. In a word, the increase of our exports to all foreign countries was thirty-five per cent., whilst to our colonial possessions generally, it was sixty-one per cent. Therefore, when the question was put to the House, what were the markets which it ought most to favour? his advice would be that it should answer, "We will not neglect the foreign markets; they are of the highest importance to us; but above all we will not neglect our colonial markets." Moreover, when the Government was aiming a blow at our markets in the East Indies, in the West Indies, and in the North American colonies, to offer this measure as an advantage to the manufacturing interests was an insult to their understandings which they could not but see through, and which he trusted they would not fail to resent. But the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies had said, that we were now to have anew basis for our commercial policy with the colonies. Indeed! Why he had supposed from a former speech of the noble Lord, that he had intended to base his commercial policy with the colonies on the system of Mr. Pitt. But no—we were not to stand on that basis—we were not to remove restrictions cautiously and gradually—above all, we were not to discuss the propriety of them without exciting the animosities and the prejudices of party. Instead of pursuing that course, the noble Lord was pursuing a course the very reverse of it. He was making this question of commercial policy a mere party question. It was the first time 125 in our history that commercial questions and manufacturing interests had been used as instruments of party. He repeated that such was the fact. In all former questions of commercial policy, whether they affected the Corn-laws, or our regulations respecting the East or the West Indies, there had been a complete fusion of parties. Whigs, Tories, and Jacobins, Conservatives, Liberals, and Radicals, had all amalgamated together; there had been no display of party tactics, but each individual Member had acted upon his own view of the question before the House. But now an attempt was made to turn a mere question of commerce into a question of party. [Cheers.] Those cheers so given and so reiterated, reminded him of an expression which had fallen from the lips of the noble Secretary for the Colonies on a former night, who had stated that hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House were animated by the spirit of faction, because they would not consent to his new-fangled scale of sugar duties— that very scale against which he had protested only last Session with all his energies, and which he had announced as most destructive to ail our public and private interests. Now, because his noble Friend, the Member for Liverpool, acting as the guardian of a large commercial community, and instigated by the purest feelings of humanity, felt it to be his duty to protest against this very scale, the noble Lord asserted, not that it was the whisper of a faction, but that it was faction itself. He would tell the hon. Gentleman opposite what was party and what was faction. It was party, and it was faction, when a Government having been in office for ten years, and never having made a single attempt to promote the principles of free trade, threw some measure to that effect before the public which they knew they could not carry. [Cheers.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite meant to tell him by those cheers that they had been introducing measures of free trade like those of Mr. Huskisson, cautiously and gradually, he would tell them that they were mistaken, and that what had been carried in the ten years before their administration far exceeded all that they had carried during the ten years that their administration had lasted. But if at a time when as a Ministry they were completely paralyzed—when they could not carry a single measure which they proposed—when the mere proposal of a measure by them damaged it irretrievably with the country 126 —if at that moment they resolved to take up a measure, which they had resisted to the uttermost when it was agitated last year by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and which the head of the Government had then denounced as impossible to be granted without the commission of an act of lunacy—if: it that moment they determined to throw up their caps for free trade, and to tell the House that they were enamoured of the beauties of that system, he would take the liberty of telling them that that was a mode of dealing with the important question of free trade which the manufacturers of this country would neither like nor approve of, for it had already enlisted three great interests against, the doctrines of free trade — doctrines which it was better to deal with at once than to leave them unsettled and liable to all the infusion of party malice and of party venom. It was upon these grounds that he should give his decided opposition to the proposal of her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Greg
Sir, the personal attack upon the Government which you have just heard from the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, I shall leave some member of that Government to reply to, but I can say for myself and my constituents that we heard with the greatest pleasure the announcement of her Majesty's Ministers, comprising as it does a series of measures, fraught with benefit to the whole community, but more particularly to the manufacturing interests, which have long been labouring under a distress unprecedented alike for length and severity, and which are now reduced to a state of despair, from which they can be relieved only by some such measures as those brought forward by her Majesty's Ministers. I had hoped that the very comprehensiveness of the measures would have secured their general reception. That the avoiding the imposition of new taxes whilst the revenue was failing, would be considered as one great recommendation, and that the securing to the people an increased supply of the comforts and necessaries of life, would have still farther conciliated public favour. I had flattered myself that they would have been accepted even by the monopolists themselves, as a compromise at least, however they might disregard the wants, the feelings, and the necessities of the great body of the people. That the East and West India interests, for instance, would have said, "Although we may be in some degree injured in our individual capacities, yet, if we are to be saved from 127 additional taxation, and the power of the community to consume our productions is to be increased by a general stimulus to trade, and particularly by supplying at a cheaper rate the necessaries of life, we may perhaps gain in one way as much as we may lose in the other." And that the landed interest on the other hand would have said, "Although, whilst our monopoly alone was attacked, and attacked without measure and reserve, we could not, and would not yield; yet if the manufacturers are prepared, as they say they are (and I can assure the hon. Member for Lincolnshire that they are prepared, with the single exception of the silk) to renounce all protection for themselves, if other monopolies are to be reduced, if we are to have cheaper sugar and coffee for ourselves and our dependents, and better timber for our houses and for our buildings; if, besides these advantages, we are to be saved from a property tax, and are to be left with a protection on our produce, amounting in duty and expense of importation to 50 per cent., why then, considering all these things, we shall best consult our own interest by adopting the plan, and assisting the Chancellor of the Exchequer in carrying his budget. I think, Sir, the monopolists might have said this with justice, with credit to themselves, and without ultimate injury to their prospects as a party. But it seems that I have been mistaken—that class interests are doomed to prevail for a time over those of the people at large, the interests of the few over that of the many. Yet, Sir, when I recall to mind how long the noble Lord below me gallantly contended for the privilege of returning Members to this House on the part of Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, and long contended in vain, but that when he brought forward an extensive plan, "a sweeping measure of reform," as it was called, which gave Members to a hundred inferior places, this plan bore down all opposition, and became the law of the land, I am encouraged to hope, that when the entire plan of Ministers is before us in all its extent and in all its bearings, it will be found to be so wise, so ample, so beneficial, both in its immediate and prospective consequences, that it will secure an enthusiastic reception from the country, and that the same people who hailed the announcement of the Reform Bill, and by their exertions passed it into a law, but who have since complained that it has not borne all the good fruits which they had anticipated, will now, see- 128 ing these fruits presented to their acceptance, readily stretch forth their hands to seize them. With respect to the question more immediately before us, the sugar duties, I observe from the returns which have been laid before the House, that the average price of Brazil sugar for ten years, from 1825 to 1835, was 23s. 11d. per cwt., which, with the proposed duty of 36s., would have given an average of 59s. 11d. to the consumer. During ths same ten years, the price of British plantation averaged 29s. 6d. per cwt., which, with the duty of 24s., gave a cost to the consumer of 53s. 6d. During this whole period, then, the price of Brazil sugar, being 6s. 5d. per cwt. higher than British plantation sugar, none would have come into consumption. In the five years from 1835 to 1840, the price of Brazil sugar, with 36s. duty would have given an average of 58s. 10d., whilst British plantation sugar, during the same period, gave an average of 63s. 5d., or a difference in favour of Brazil sugar of 4s. 7d. per. cwt. Now, I am not aware that any Gentleman on the other side of the House, not even the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, pretends to assert that, should British plantation sugar continue as high for the future, as it has been for the last five years, that foreign sugar ought not to be admitted. By no means, they only say that plenty is coming from the East and West Indies. If they said otherwise, indeed, the sugar lords would be worse than the landlords, for these last do admit foreign corn when an absolute scarcity prevails. If the quantity should come, which is said to be coming from the East and West Indies, not one pound of Brazil sugar will come into consumption. How, then, say our opponents, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer obtain the additional revenue upon which he counts? Why, Sir, if the quantity comes forward of British plantation sugar which is foretold, prices will be low, and the increased consumption of it will give the required sum, at a duty of 24s.; and if the price of British plantation sugar be high, owing to another drought, or indisposition of the negro to work, then Brazil sugar will come into consumption, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will get his expected revenue from the 36s. duty. So be the price high or low, the State will secure its revenue, and the poor people not be wholly deprived of one of the necessaries of life. It is very easy for right hon. Gentlemen who dine every day 129 upon a "stalled ox," and have as much sugar and coffee for themselves and servants, every morning and evening, as they want, whatever he the price, to talk of the labouring population of this kingdom preferring a "dinner of herbs;" but let me ask, is it a slight hardship, or small evil, that the aged parent, the sick wife, the delicate child, of all the labouring people of this country should be deprived of such necessary comforts, and deprived of them too, that the negro when he pleases to work as he should work, may earn a dollar a day, and revel in luxuries? Sir, I see no difference between passing a direct law, prohibiting nine-tenths of the people of England from tasting sugar and coffee, and passing a law which arbitrarily and artificially, so raises the price of those luxuries, as in point of fact, effectually to prevent the purchase of them. I shall say no more on this part of the subject, nor shall I enter at length upon that of the Corn-laws; but I shall say a few words upon the connexion between the two, that is between sugar and corn, which have been most properly connected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his scheme of revenue, and which ought not to be separated in our discussion. Sir, the ability of the people to consume luxuries depends less upon' the price of those luxuries, than upon their ability to procure the necessaries of life; and I must express my strong and growing conviction, that nothing jean be done permanently, or materially to improve the condition of the labouring classes, or to secure the enormous revenue, which must be raised, except by securing to the people an ample supply of food; and that all the measures which have not this for their object, or, at all events, which do not include this within their compass, must end in failure and disappointment. Sir, it must he remembered, that the labouring classes consume but a very trifling quantity of foreign luxuries, such as tea, sugar, coffee, and tobacco. It is only the surplus of their income which can be so expended, and in ordinary cases, this does not amount to more than one-tenth of the whole. Two-thirds of their expenditure is in food. Now, as to this prime article of their consumption, how can they be benefitted by any measures of relief which do not increase the actual quantity? If the quantity be not increased, how can they have more of it? and if they cannot procure more, I do not see how their condition can be ameliorated, or how that surplus fund is to be increased, out of which 130 alone they can purchase luxuries, and out of which alone the Chancellor of the Exchequer must look for increased revenue. We are in ordinary times, limited to the quantity of food produced in this country. The rich, and their dependents, and the middle classes generally, help themselves to the same quantity, whatever may be the price, and the balance remains for the labouring classes, being sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, according to the season. Now, suppose by some change of fiscal laws, or by other means, the demand for labour be doubled; and suppose, by way of illustration, that this increased demand for labour, doubled the rate of wages, what will the labourers do with these double wages? They must take them into the food market, and being insufficiently supplied with this necessary of life, every man tries to obtain a larger portion, and offers such portion of his wages as may procure it. But the number of quartern loaves, and 0bushels of potatoes are a fixed quantity and remain the same in amount whatever the demand. It is clear, therefore, that any additional wages they may earn, will be spent upon the purchase of food, or rather in the vain attempt to purchase more food; and as this quantity of food is a fixed quantity, the only effect will be to increase the price of food, and not to give to any one a larger share; consequently his condition would not be improved by such increase of his wages, nor his surplus income become greater, out of which surplus alone the revenue can be improved. All the additional earnings would go to swell the treasury of the landlord, and nothing would go to the Treasury of the State. If this view of the case be correct, and if not, I shall be happy to hear a refutation of it; it follows, that no efforts of enlightened legislation, no revision of import duties, no extension of Christian charity, can benefit the condition of the people, or add to the revenue, which is not accompanied by a security for an ample and regular supply of food, and this security can only be obtained by extending the surface of land upon which food is grown, and extending the range of climate, under which it is produced, that is, in other words, by an admission of foreign corn. Sir, it must not be forgotten that we export 50,000,000l. of manufactures and produce, and we are exposed to a competition in foreign markets, becoming every day more general and more severe. We cannot maintain ourselves in this struggle, unless we are upon something like equal 131 terms with our competitors. We cannot possibly pay fifty millions to the State, and another fifty millions to monopoly, and continue to maintain successfully the growing competition we have to encounter. It is true, taxation is heavy upon all, but heaviest upon those classes, who are exposed in their productions to foreign competition. We shall not improve our circumstances by one interest plundering another, still less by all interests uniting in plundering the public, but by following the system laid down by the noble Lord (Lord Russell) of extending the basis of national prosperity, and thus rendering in time, the burthens of the nation tolerable, which are now inconsistent with its comforts, and with its health, and which will in time, if not relieved, compromise its security.
§ Mr. Walter
said, that in giving the vote which he should do upon this important question, he thought it his duty, as he stood upon somewhat peculiar grounds, to assign his reasons. He had voted against that most extravagant grant of 20,000,000l. to the West-India planters as well upon other grounds as because he deemed it made without sufficient enquiry. The sum of 20,000,000l., considering the degree to which the sugar-market had been since affected, was very far from being the whole of the sum which had been taken out of the pockets of the British people. Between 15,000,000l, and 20,000,000l. were also stated to have been expended in attempts to put down the slave traffic, now more cruelly flourishing than ever. It had been calculated, also, that the total sum drawn from the country, since the abolition, by the increased price of West-India produce and other causes, was little less than 5,000,000l. annually more. Now, after such sacrifices, made for the benefit of our fellow-creatures of a darker complexion, who, it was asserted, had been raised to a state of comfort and happiness in our colonial possessions, he would just ask what had been the result with respect to our own labouring population, manufacturing as well as agricultural? Had they been rendered happier or more comfortable? Had they not, on the contrary, been rendered less capable of obtaining this necessary of sugar, as well as the other necessaries of life? He might at least hope that a little of the feeling which was so redundant in favour of negro labourers might overflow in behalf of our white brethren at home. Now, the 132 Government appeared by this new scheme with respect to the sugar duties, to have united the ideas of both lowering prices and increasing the revenue. He doubted the possibility of such an issue, which he should otherwise think most desirable, and should be glad to concur in. But, in conversing with several intelligent merchants, who were themselves as anxious as the Government professed to be to relieve trade from its shackles, he found that there did not exist the slightest confidence in the financial measures proposed for this year, and more especially in this scheme, which contemplated the admission of foreign sugars. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to lay no heavier duty on foreign sugar than 12s. beyond that upon English. Now that, he apprehended, would be no protection at all for the produce of British possessions—for it appeared that the quantity of saccharine matter obtained from foreign sugar, particularly from Cuba, was so much greater than that obtained from sugar of British growth, that such duty would not do more than equalize them. India, also, was the best customer for our manufactures. Now, this step of admitting foreign sugars must immediately operate, as a check on the cultivation of the sugar-cane in that country; so that the right horn Gentleman would give up a certain interchange with India for a very uncertain one with other nations. He objected, also, to the scheme on other grounds. He thought that, if the finances of the country had been properly managed, there ought to have been no deficit to make up; and, for his own part, he was thoroughly satisfied of the incapacity of those who had occasioned the mischief to remedy it. Indeed, who ever expected to be cured of any complaint or malady—a consumption for example—by taking the nostrums of those whose quackery had produced the disorder? He should, therefore, vote for the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, although he thought it would have been judicious had he introduced into it some expressions declaratory of his desire to afford relief to the industrious classes of the community. With respect to the proposition of a change in the Corn-laws, he confessed he was friendly to such change, but the amount of the duty for which he would feel disposed to vote would depend very much upon what he saw done with the 133 Poor Bill. A noble Lord, the Member for Shropshire (Lord Darlington), had been kind enough the other night to speak in terms of high approbation of the result of a contest in which he had been personally concerned, and had expressed his opinion that it had greatly influenced the course pursued by her Majesty's Ministers. Whether that were the fact or not it belonged not to him to say, but of this he was very certain—that the issue of that contest, and a consideration of the principles on which he had succeeded, ought equally to influence the Members on both sides of the House, and he earnestly hoped it would be found that such would be the case.
§ Lord F. Egerton
said, he had listened to the able speech of the noble Lord and to that of the right hon. Gentleman on a former occasion, and it appeared to him that the subjects they had stated to the House had been classified by them under three heads—namely, that a deficiency existing in the finances of the country, they proposed to fill up the gap by affording relief to the consumer in this country, by lowering the prices of commodities, by affording relief to our commerce, and by the extension of foreign trade. With regard to the first item, he confessed that matters of finance were foreign to his inclination to enter upon, and the present state of the finances of this country, he thought, would puzzle more able financiers than he was. But he alluded to the subject, in order to relieve himself from a responsibility which he thought the noble Lord, in his opening speech, had endeavoured to throw upon that (the Conservative) side of the House. "It is true," said the noble Lord," that we are labouring under a deficiency; but this has arisen from causes over which we have no control, and in which you participate, as you voted for all the large expenses we incurred. We had Canada to support." It was true that they had not thought it a proper opportunity (and perhaps they might be blamed) when difficulties had arisen, to occupy themselves in picking holes in the Administration, under whose guidance these difficulties had risen. But he protested for- himself, and those about him, against the share of responsibility which the noble Lord had cast upon them. "Canada," said the noble Lord, "was a subject of disturbance and of difficulty five years ago." He did not altogether 134 admit this; he thought that some of the causes of disturbance and difficulty arose from the conduct of the noble Lord, or of those about him. With regard to China, that question was perfectly open, as far as regarded any censure of her Majesty's Government. The next head related to the relief to be afforded to the commerce of the country, and he confessed that it was a subject of higher interest than any other the noble Lord had discussed—of higher interest than the interest of West Indians, or East Indians, speaking of them as separate interests. And when the noble Lord brought the subject before the House, he worked that part with the ability which he directed to all other topics. The noble Lord had drawn with the hand of a master and he would not say without truth, for he feared it was too true a picture of the condition of the Bolton operatives, turning away with despair, at the price of the commodity under consideration. It was not any part of the noble Lord's business—that was to be done by others, though it might be considered the natural course of proceeding —to call attention to the great experiment that had been made in the West Indies. But it was the noble Lord's business, and he was bound to show some means of affording sufficient and effectual relief; and he doubted not the noble Lord would have done so, if he could. He was far from undervaluing the smallest relief afforded to the poor consumer, and, accustomed as the operative was to deal with the smallest denomination of the coin of the realm, he would ask what was the amount of relief the noble Lord proposed. According to the calculation of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, the reduction of the price of sugar consequent upon the carrying out of his propositions would be 1s. 6d. in the hundred weight. Now, according to this calculation, there was no denomination of coin sufficiently small to measure the advantage to be obtained by the poor customer of the grocer in the purchase of a pound of sugar. It appeared on calculation that the utmost extent of benefit would be six-tenths or sixty-two hundredths of a farthing in the pound. According to the calculation made by Dr. Bowring, the average consumption of sugar in this country was 17lb. per head per annum, and this therefore would, even to the average consumer, yield a benefit only amounting to2½d. per annum. Small, however, as this benefit was, he 135 (Lord F. Egerton) would not undervalue it, nor would he oppose any measure adopted with the view of carrying it into effect, if such measure were not otherwise liable to grave objections. There was no part of the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies managed with more skill, and put forth with more effect, than that in which he endeavoured to deprive all those on the Opposition side of the House—all except his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire—of the advantage to be derived, not from advocating in flourishes of declamatory rhetoric, as seemed to be insinuated, the rights and liberties of the negro population of the West Indies, but of expressing the deep interest which they felt in the great experiment which was now in the course of trial in those colonies, and for the success of which all parties in the country expressed so much anxiety. He had not, like the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, grown grey in the cause of negro emancipation, but looking back into Parliamentary history, he could not see why the observations of the noble Lord should prevent his referring to this point, or having recourse to Mr. Gurney's book. It appeared to him perfectly demonstrable, as far as probabilities could be demonstrated, that the course proposed to be pursued by the noble Secretary for the Colonies would not only have the effect of giving a stimulus to slave labour, but that it would even do worse than this—it would also stimulate the traffic in slaves. It would hold out no bonus to those places where the slaves were treated with humanity, as far as slavery was consistent with humanity, but it offered the advantage to Cuba, that plague-spot amongst slave-holding communities, where all that was vicious in civilization was resorted to for the purpose of conducting with profit the worst and most profligate trade which mankind ever engaged in. Those were considerations which it would be impossible, for which it would be indefensible in any Parliament, to overlook. There seemed to exist a great difference of opinion in the House as to the manner in which the question before it ought to be treated. That difference was apparent when the course adopted by the hon. Member for Wigan was contrasted with that pursued by the hon. Member for London. The hon. Member for London treated it with 136 the seriousness which in his opinion the subject deserved, and, expressing an opinion, framed on philosophical deductions of his, ultimately arrived at conclusions favourable to the plan proposed by the noble Secretary for the Colonies. Notwithstanding the ability and temper with which the subject had been treated by the hon. Member for London, he could not arrive at his deductions nor assent to his propositions. On a former occasion, the subject had been treated by the hon. Member for Lambeth with a degree of levity which to him appeared wholly unsuitable. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had not long since treated the House to a dissertation respecting the metropolitan boroughs, and on that occasion expressed a strong opinion relative to that part of the Reform Bill which invested them with representative power. It was not for him to criticise the noble Lord's dissertation, but the results of which the noble Lord complained were strange and anomalous. The hon. Member for Lambeth said,That his right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, might perhaps maintain, that slavery was in itself sinful.Surely that would be no very unreasonable proposition, nor one which it would be very difficult to maintain. The hon. Gentleman further added,That was a principle which every bigot might appeal to in support of the grossest act of intolerance. They might as well pass an act of uniformity to settle a matter of faith or ceremonial as enforce their own opinion on such a subject by Act of Parliament.The hon. Gentleman seemed further to intimate that the right hon. and learned Member was more fit for the judicial functions of the Consistorial Court, than to pronounce upon questions of international law. It was unnecessary for him to enter into a defence of the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, but he would ask was it a false, a factitious, or a spurious humanity which would hesitate at so critical a moment and shrink from any dangerous interference with the state of the West Indies when the results of a great experiment which was made at a vast expense were about to be ascertained —when the colony was, as it were, labouring with the throes and pangs of parturition, and about to "thank the Gods for all her travail past?" The noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was no 137 doubt actively employed (and if not he was unmindful of his duty) endeavouring, as far as his resources and diplomatic relations enabled him, to check and diminish the traffic in slaves throughout all other quarters of the world. Fie was no doubt engaged in negotiations for this purpose with the Sultan, and with that good-humoured old gentleman who ruled over Egypt. The object of the noble Lord was, of course, to effect the present diminution and ultimate extinction of a traffic equal in atrocity to that which existed between the coast of Africa and America. He had heard the other day of a conversation said to have taken place between the Pasha, and a celebrated naval commander. The Pasha, it was stated, said, that he hated the slave-trade, but that England took her own time to effect her measures. "Give me time also," said the Pasha, "I cannot do these things in a hurry." In any further negotiation on this subject the instance of England would no doubt be again quoted, but would not the cunning and clever old man be able to retort, both with truth and severity, that though England had emancipated her slaves at great expense, and that professions which had for a long time been made had ultimately been acted upon, yet still when a financial pressure came, and with the ostensible view of affording to the consumer of sugar in this country the benefit of the six-tenths of a farthing reduction in the pound, the great Leader of the House of Commons came forward with a measure calculated to subvert all the good which had previously been effected? By adopting the proposition now made, the country would lose the position—the great and elevated position—which she had attained at so much cost. The arguments adduced by the hon. Member would lead to conclusions far different from those which the hon. Gentleman deduced from them. They would lead to the conclusion that it would be more humane to refit our slave-ships, to re-open the traffic in slaves under restrictions more stringent than those which formerly existed, and once again, under the supervision of active inspectors, to legalize the traffic. Might not the West Indies say, in answer to the proposition. "If there is to be a system of non-restriction, let the system be general. Do not restrict us from the employment of slave-labour, which is permitted to others. We 138 will compete with countries, the soil of which you know has fifty years fertility, whilst ours can boast but four?" This would be consistent, but this was now-impossible. As soon could the sun be made to go back as slavery be re-established in our West-Indian possessions. Large assemblages were lately collected at Exeter-hall to promote the extinction of slavery. The wealth, the talent, and the respectability of the country were present, and a Prince, the first subject in the land, presided over one of them. To forward the object for which the meeting was convened, a ship was sent out, which was named, and properly so named, after that Prince.God and good angels guide her in her course,For, not of conquest greedy, nor of gain,Seeks she the distant world.If the House consented to the present proposition they would raise a cry similar to one which, for what purpose he could not tell, had been raised some time since, and instead of "Stop the Pique," the cry would be "Stop the Albert." On these considerations, not being able to see that any appreciable relief would accrue to the labouring classes from the proposed measure, and thinking no just or solid ground had been made out upon which to rest the allegations as to the effects to be produced, he should have no hesitation in voting for the resolution of his noble Friend the Member for Liverpool.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, Sir, I confess that if the only question before the House, and the only motives which actuated it in the decision to which it was about to come, were those referred to by the noble Lord who has just sat down—and that the case was, that all of us being agreed that we had arrived at a crisis of great commercial and financial difficulty, and upon the course which ought to be pursued the only difference of opinion which existed was, whether or not there were special circumstances applicable to the sugar trade, which ought to exempt it from the application of principles which were allowed to be just and necessary in their application to other branches of industry and commerce,—if, I repeat, that were the state of the question, I should feel — I would not say no interest, but—not the same interest which I now feel as to the ultimate decision of the House on the question before it. But, 139 because I have seen various symptoms to the contrary— having found that Gentlemen, the representatives of other great protected interests, came forward and said—" This is a case common to us all. We find that there is, on the part of the manufacturing and commercial interests of this country, a growing opinion now forcing itself on the attention of the Legislature, that it is necessary, without any delay, to revise our financial and commercial interests generally." When I find those who spoke thus prepared to admit no compromise or concession —when I find them opposed to any relaxation of the sugar duties, not from any refined speculations with regard to the slave-trade, but from the consideration that, in defending the duties on sugar, they were at the same time standing out in support of their own monopolies, I freely admit that I look with deep anxiety to the course which the House proposes to pursue with respect to the question before it. I feel too deeply the importance of the question to mix it up with any party considerations, or any of the political taunts which has been bandied from one side of the House to the other. I would, at the same time say, that accusations have been brought against the party with whom I have the honour to act, of which it was fit some notice should be taken. It has been repeatedly asserted, that though the Whigs always talked of free-trade, they never, whilst in office, carried any measures in accordance with its principles, whilst the Tories, when they proposed liberal measures, were sure to carry them through. Now, I think, this admits of a very easy solution. I have been long enough a Member of this House to recollect Mr. Huskisson's efforts on this subject. I very well recollect— and no one can say that I am guilty of misrepresentation in saying what I am about to say I very well recollect when Mr. Huskisson brought forward those great, wise, and sagacious measures, which will ever endear his name to the people of this country, with what sullen, reluctant acquiescence, his views were received by his own party, while he had throughout, the honest, cordial, warm support of those who were his political opponents. They thought that it was not fitting to raise petty cavils against the details of those great measures; they knew what an arduous task it was, to introduce great 140 changes into the commercial policy of this country; they thought that was not an occasion on which to raise petty cavils, and though many Members who then sat in opposition to the Government considered that Mr. Huskisson's plans did not quite carry out their principles, yet they decided that it was but just to that great statesman to abstain from embarrassing him with objections; they felt it to be their duty to give him their cordial and disinterested support. I think that this difference of conduct between the leading men of the two parties on this occasion and on that which I have referred to, may perhaps account for some of the taunts which have been thrown out this evening against the Whigs in respect of their conduct with regard to free-trade. The Government has been told by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Colquhoun) that they had brought forward no measure of commercial policy of importance during the ten years they had been in office. Now, in reply to this, I may mention one measure which I remember, and which I think the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, (Lord Stanley) and the right hon. Member for Pembroke (Sir J. Graham) must also remember, and which was really a very great measure of commercial policy; and what was its fate? I allude to the question of the timber duties—a measure which let me say, very closely resembled the same subject which was soon about to be submitted to the House, and which, if it had been carried then, it is my belief would have been of the greatest benefit to the country. But unfortunately that was not the case. It was quite true that the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and those who acted with him, did not oppose it on principle, but they took that convenient course which is almost always taken by those who wished to defeat a measure in this House without compromising themselves; they stated, that they were not satisfied with the existing state of information on the subject, and proposed to refer it to a committee up stairs; and, because that proposal was not acquiesced in, the measure fell to the ground.—That reception was not very encouraging to the Government to proceed in the introduction of measures of like character; and for my own part I must say that I cannot but feel that it is no slight evil to bring forward measures of this kind, involving great changes in our complicated commercial 141 system, unless they can be brought to a successful issue. Yes; I think that in these circumstances nothing could have justified her Majesty's Government in bringing forward a measure of the kind I am speaking of, unless they had felt that there had arisen an imperative demand by the country for the adoption of such a change, and unless it were clear, that nothing short of such a change could restore the revenue and commerce of this country, to a state of prosperity. But I say, that although I am myself a strong party man, and though I wish to see the party to which I have the honour to belong maintained in power, yet so convinced am I of the necessity of introducing, with a view to the support of the commerce of the country, a thorough and searching reform into our commercial system, that I should think it the happiest day of my life on which I saw those to whom I have always been politically opposed acting on those principles if they come to be seated in power, and I trust that in such a case I should give them as cordial a support on these questions as I now give to those to whom I am attached by every political and personal tie. But perhaps I am wandering too far from the subject before the House. I will begin, then, by relieving her Majesty's Government from the charge which has been brought against them more than once in the course of the evening. It has been stated, that the Government has dealt unfairly by the great interests which were principally concerned in their measures; that those great interests had been taken by surprise; that the conduct and language of Ministers had led those great interests to suppose that no such alteration as was now proposed had ever been contemplated; and an hon. Gentleman opposite, and East-India director (Mr. Hogg), has done me the honour to quote a speech of mine on a former occasion, which the hon. Gentleman stated was quite inconsistent with the course now pursuing by her Majesty's Government. But I think I have a right to complain of the manner in which the hon. Gentleman has quoted me; for really a more garbled account of a speech I believe was never given. The hon. Gentleman studiously excluded every part of the speech which made against the views he was endeavouring to fix upon me. The quotation was every bit on one side. The right hon. Member for Tamworth also quoted that speech, but he quoted it fair- 142 ly; and has done me the justice to state, that there was nothing in that speech which precluded me from taking the course which I am now taking. But there are other facts which show that these parties were by no means taken by surprise. The right hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) has, no later than this evening, presented fifteen petitions from merchants and others in Jamaica, and other West-India islands, in which the petitioners stated that they were in the full expectation that the Government was about to pursue the course which it was now taking. I must say, that it was with some surprise that I found these petitions presented just at the present moment, but it turned out they had lain by for some time in the drawer of the right hon. Gentleman, in order to their being let off at a juncture when they might be useful. I have myself seen many gentlemen from the West-Indies at different times on this subject, and when they have asked me to say whether her Majesty's Government had any intention of altering the sugar duties in the course of this Session, I have always said that I could give no pledge of the sort; that they must judge for themselves, and that Government must be left perfectly free to act as might seem best to them. But, besides this, I would ask the House to listen to what I am going to read, and say, whether it did not amount to a complete announcement on the part of the Government of what were their general views on this subject. In the year 1839, my right hon. Friend, Lord Sydenham, then Mr. Poulett Thomson, and President of the Board of Trade, spoke thus on the subject of the sugar duties. My right hon. Friend then said, that he considered the subject as one "of very great importance, and deserving the most serious attention. He admitted, that it was a matter of very great importance, and one which would be forced upon the attention of Parliament and of the country within a very short period. In the first place, this was a matter which would force itself upon the attention of the Government as connected with the treaty with the Brazils. The present treaty was only of a temporary character and would expire in 1842, and if we entered into fresh relations with that important state, this subject must necessarily be considered. The exports to that country were upwards of 4,000,000l. a-year of British 143 manufactures. This was the most important trade that we carried on, with the exception of the United States of North America. The produce of the Brazils was almost entirely confined to sugar and coffee, and when we came to the period when the treaty was about to expire, this subject must force itself upon the attention of the House. The other branch of the subject was also become a matter of deep importance, and ought to receive great consideration — namely, the short supply of colonial sugar." My right hon. Friend concluded by saying, that "the Government was deeply impressed with this important subject, and it was obvious, that great attention must be paid to this point, as well as to the other subjects to which he had adverted. It was important that they should look at this question— that they should regard the different interests that would be involved by blinking the consideration of it even for a time. But he was satisfied that it must be forced on the attention of the Government and the Legislature, if not by the wants of the people of this country, at any rate by the treaty with the Brazils, and he trusted that it would be met fairly, and the difficuly dealt with in the way that a matter of such importance deserved when it was ripe for consideration." Such was the statement on this subject of Mr. Poulett Thomson, in 1839, and I contend, that, consistently with the reserve which every Government ought to maintain on matters of trade, it is scarcely possible to give more clear notions of the intentions of Government than those which different Members of the Government have stated at different times to the House. Coming now to another branch of the question, I must say, that I should have thought, that I should have been almost relieved from the necessity of arguing the propriety of effecting some change in the sugar duties, with reference to the convenience of the consumer and the increase of the revenue. It appears to me, that on all general principles a differential duty greatly exceeding fifty per cent, is so unsound that it ought not to continue, and that immediate measures ought to be taken with respect to it; I almost think, that I should waste the time of the House by arguing what seems to me to be so self evident. But, although hon. Gentlemen had said, that the consumer had no great interest in this question, yet I, for one, am not disposed to 144 undervalue these considerations. Then they were told that sugar was not an article of which the consumption depended very much on the price; that it was rather a luxury, and that the degree in which it was consumed did not depend very much on the price. F observe, that in the year 1829, when Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Grant introduced the subject of the sugar duties, much discussion took place in the House on this subject, and the right hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) then held that sugars were like wines and silks in this respect, and that the consumption was not materially affected by the price; but I must say, that the arguments of Mr. Huskisson went very far to confute those of the right hon. Gentleman. For my own part I think that there is scarcely any article on which a reduction of price is more likely to increase consumption, and so augment the revenue. I know that at all times details on such subjects as this are repulsive, but I will trespass on the House in this way as little as possible. I have obtained a calculation from the officers of the statistical department of the Board of Trade of the average prices of sugar imported during a series of years, as stated in the London Gazette, together with the quantities imported, and the average consumption per head throughout the United Kingdom. These calculations will not be found to agree quite completely with that which had been made by the officers of the Customs, but the discrepancy has arisen from the two calculations having been constructed on different grounds, and as regards the Customs, on what is now acknowledged to be an error, which arises from the manner in which the quantity of refined sugar exported is converted into its equivalent weight of raw sugar; it is to be observed, that this calculation includes also molasses converted into crystalized sugar, and, in short, that the whole embraces all the saccharine matter consumed in the United Kingdom. I will state from this table* the prices and the quantities consumed by each individual during the years since 1820. In that year the average price was 35s.; the average quantity consumed by each individual in the United Kingdom was 19 9lb. In fact, the actual consumption might be stated at 20lb. per head. In 1831, the average price was 28s. 8d.; the average*See Table following page.145 consumption fell to 19lb. per head. In 1833, the average price was 29s.; the average consumption was 17.99lb. In 1834, the average price was 29s. 2½d.; the consumption was 18.31lb. In 1835, which was a year affording a remarkable exception to the general rule, the price was 33s.9½d.; and the increase in consumption was very considerable, the aver age being 19.21lb. per head. That was an exception to the general rule; but what were the causes of it? The year 1835 was a year of remarkable cheap bread. I quite allow, that the price of bread is a very disturbing cause to reduce the demand for any article not of primary necessity to the working classes, and that at that time the working classes were extremely well off, and able to spend more than usual in articles of this nature; but the inference which I draw from this circumstance is, that it would be most expedient to re-consider our Corn-laws, toge-
146 ther with the sugar duties. In the year 1836, the average price rose to 40s. 9d.; the average consumption fell to 16.58lb. per head. In 1837, the price fell to 34s. 5d.; the consumption increased to 18.38lb. In 1838 the consumption was much about the same, the price being 33s. 7d.; and the consumption 18.42lb. In 1839, the price was 39s. 4½d.; the consumption 17lb. In 1840, the price was higher than ever, being 48s. 7d.; and I beg the attention of the House to the fact, that the consumption per head throughout the United Kingdom, fell to 15.28lb. Upon the whole, if they compared the first year of the period I have taken with the last, they would find, that the consumption of sugar per head throughout the United Kingdom had fallen very nearly one-fourth. Now, when they came to consider, that this diminished consumption did not affect the higher classes in any great degree, but that it fell almost wholly upon the lower classes, they had some idea of the severe privation which those classes must have gone through to account for this reduction in the consumption. I find, that Mr. Huskisson, in bringing forward the measures to which I have already referred, said, that he believed two-thirds of the consumers of coffee in the United Kingdom drank it without any sugar at all. But the price was lower then than now, and therefore, I conclude, that the privations suffered now were greater. But I feel, that really this is not a part of the subject on which I need delay the House. I will only say, that though the two sides of the House might differ on matters of nice calculation—though they might differ as to extent in which the consumer was interested in this question—though they might differ as to the amount of addition to the revenue which would be derived from the change, yet, that they were agreed as to the general principle, and with regard to the question of revenue, I am persuaded that if the House were once in Committee, where alone subjects of this nature can be discussed with advantage, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have no difficulty in convincing the House that his calculations, so far from being sanguine and exaggerated, were, in reality, very moderate. I have conversed on this subject with many persons of competent authority on such matters, in whom not only this Government, but former Go- 147 vernments, were accustomed to rely, and those gentlemen are of opinion that, so far as the revenue was concerned, my right hon. Friend is quite Justified in the anticipations he has made. I admit, that it is very difficult to foresee what will be the course of the sugar-trade next year. I have endeavoured to inform myself as well as I can on the subject, but I have received from the gentlemen whom I have consulted, and who were the best competent to state an opinion, such conflicting estimates, that I find it very difficult to come to any decision. I will state how the case stands. I have taken the petition of the merchants, planters, and others connected with the West Indies, and resident in London, which has been presented by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and I find that they stated the stock of sugar in hand at 35,000 tons; and they said that they expected 115,000 tons to arrive in the next year from the West Indies, 30,000 tons from the Mauritius, and 62,000 tons from the East Indies, making a total of 242,000 tons altogether. This was the opinion of very competent persons. But on the other, the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon), with a deputation of Liverpool merchants, visited me, all of them gentlemen very able and well qualified to form an opinion on the subject, being Bengal and West-India merchants, and when they were asked what was the probable expectation of the amount of sugar that would be consumed next year, made a statement, which I requested them to put into writing, and in which I find a considerable discrepancy from that of the London merchants. They both, of course, stated the stock in hand at 35,000 tons, and both agreed in taking 115,000 tons as the probable import from the West Indies; but then they computed the product of the Mauritius at 10,000 tons higher than the London merchants had done; and that of the East at 70,000 tons, while the London merchants had put it as 62,000 tons. The variations were considerable; but there could be no doubt of this general fact, that a very great supply was coming from the East Indies. I am induced, by this very circumstance, to come to the conclusion, that it is important to revise the sugar duties, and put them on a sound and wise footing. If no other consideration could have induced me, I would have been induced by the manner in which capital has been attracted by the 148 extravagant prices of last year, and is now rushing into the East Indies, because I am perfectly satisfied, that such a state of things must lead to the worst results for those who embark their capital in such speculations. The nature of the sugar supply from the East Indies is this—it is itself a great sugar-consuming country, and only sends us what it cannot, use itself. They had been attracted to send their sugar to England by the known deficiency in the British supply. But when the prices fall here, the supply from India is at once cut off. It is not like the West Indies, which must send over every pound of sugar they produce. If we view this question as a matter of trade, I am satisfied, that we will find, that the best course to pursue, for our colonies and our trade, as well as for the consumer in England, is to put these duties upon a sound and stable footing, giving to our colonists whatever reasonable protection we think the circumstances of the case require; but not an extravagant amount of protection, an amount which, whether in the sugar or in any other trade, will never be found to be really advantageous, even to the monopolists themselves. I see no reason why those principles, which are of sound application to other trades, should not be so to the sugar-trade. I now come to that point which is mainly relied upon by hon. Members opposite. I mean the relation of this question with slavery and the slave-trade. I do not stand here to make light of objections founded upon these considerations. I will address no reproach to my right hon. Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, who urged in the course of these debates the same arguments which I have often heard from that right hon. Gentleman before—very far from it—I have listened to him with most sincere respect, although I cannot acquiesce in the conclusion to which he has come. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the grounds on which he arrived at that conclusion. I heard him say, when replying to an argument addressed to him by an hon. Member as to his inconsistency in not applying to cotton and tobacco the same principles which he applied to sugar, that the reason of the distinction he drew was his determination to adopt practical and reasonable means for the accomplishment of the great end which he had in view, and that he would not go out of the bounds of rea- 149 son and common sense. I am prepared to argue the question with him on these grounds; and think I will be able to prove, considering the subject in that light, that there is no solid foundation for the distinction which he has drawn; It was undoubtedly perfectly true that hitherto they had prohibited the introduction of foreign sugar into the British market, and that it did not stand upon the same footing as cotton and tobacco. But when they came to examine the grounds on which this distinction was made, they would find them to be possessed of but little solidity. When they were told that if they took Brazilian sugar, they would be encouraging the growth of sugar the produce of slave labour, it was worth while to inquire what was the effect of the system which they were now pursuing. They exported each year a large quantity of British manufactured goods to the Brazilian markets. How were these goods paid for? They were paid for in slave labour produce, and especially sugar. It is true that they do not bring that sugar to be consumed in England; but they took it to other countries, or else they brought it to be refined in England, and then taken out in its refined state for the purpose of being sold in other countries. I cannot really see where is the difference. It is true, that by forbidding the direct importation, we are embarrassing, in an extreme degree, the trade of our own country; we limit and reduce the amount of manufactured goods exported to the Brazils, and it is plain from the representation of the Brazilian merchants, that the consumption of our manufactures there is diminishing, and that if we do not alter our system, they will soon dwindle to comparative insignificance. But we do not the less, for every bale of goods which we import to the Brazils, receive payment in slave produce, which is brought either to our own or to other countries. This question was argued at great length in 1829. I beg to remind the House of the proposition which was then made, and the opinions expressed by eminent public men. In 1829, Mr. Grant (the present Lord Glenelg) brought forward his motion upon sugar, which was to reduce the duty upon colonial sugar to 20s. per cwt., that upon East India sugar to 25s., and that upon foreign sugar to 28s., leaving a differential duty, in favour of our colonial sugar, of 8s. per cwt. The protection 150 which Government now proposed was much larger, being 12s. per cwt. Mr. Grant had immediately before held the situation of President of the Board of Trade, and he said,
Statement of the quantities of Sugar and of Molasses converted into its Equivalent weight in Crystalised Sugar, that were retained for Home Consumption in the United Kingdom, together with the average Consumption of each Person in the United Kingdom, and the average price of Sugar according to the London Gazette, in each year from 1830 to 1840. Years. Quantities retained for home consumption. Average consumption of each person in the United Kingdom. Average Price of Sugar, according to the London Gazette. Sugar. Molasses converted into its equivalent wgt. in crystallized sugar. Total. Stated in cwts. Stated in tons. cwts. cwts. lbs. s. d. 1830 4,147,350 126,993 4,273,945 213,697 19.94 25 0¼ 1831 4,233,569 130,731 4,364,243 218,212 20.11 23 8 1832 3,974,627 212,508 4,187,135 209,356 19.00 28 8¼ 1833 3,780,138 241,457 4,021,595 201,079 17.99 29 7½ 1834 4,013,919 190,492 4,154,411 207,720 18.31 29 2½ 1835 4,116,158 233,429 4,421,145 221,057 19.21 33 9½ 1836 3,676,496 246,405 3,922,901 196,145 16.85 40 9 1837 4,127,446 222,007 4,349,053 217,412 18.38 31 5 1838 4,089,453 197,329 4,418,334 220,916 18.42 33 7 1839 3,838,627 199,987 4,171,938 208,596 17.16 39 4½ 1840 3,606,038 158,672 3,764,710 188,235 15.28 48 7¾ Average 4,186,310 209,315 33 4When I was President, I brought this proposition before the Cabinet, of which I was a Member, and received its assent to the principle; the only difference between us being as to the time of bringing it forward as a question of revenue.It would be unfair to say, that the circumstances were precisely the same. They had not then passed the Emancipation Act. But there was this common point between the two cases; —The slave-trade, which was the strength of their argument, was at that time rife to Cuba and the Brazils, and the argument in this respect remained the same. The West India interest, too, at the period referred to, had come forward vehemently to oppose the measure; and their arguments did not then appear quite so conclusive to hop. Gentlemen opposite as they do now. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Cambridge, was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and said that, though he might differ from Messrs. Grant and Huskisson, he did not differ from them upon any matter of principle, but upon one of calculation. The argument derived from the trade to Brazil has been so admirably answered by Lord Glenelg, that I will read an extract from the speech which he made upon that occasion. No one who knew that statesman would represent him as unscrupulous, or as one disposed to overlook the evils of the slave-trade; for if ever there was a conscientious and pure-minded public man, Lord Glenelg was that man: —" On the subject," he said, "of opening the trade in foreign sugar, it is said, that we would be opening new sources for the encouragement of the slave-trade. The amount of such encouragement (if encouragement it could be called) would be small indeed, since no foreign sugar could enter the market till ours rose to a much higher price than it could ordinarily be expected to arrive at. And in fact, without reference to these contingencies, we are at this moment as completely encouraging the slave-trade as we could be supposed to be under the proposed plan. Take the Brazils for instance. Our exports to Brazil last year were to the amount of 3,820,000l. and the imports thence were 1,380,000l., the difference 151 being nearly 2,500,00l. Now, I would wish to know what becomes of those two millions and a-half of money. They were manifestly paid in the produce of Brazil —the produce, be it remembered, of slave-labour—and carried in British vessels to foreign markets. In fine, my plain proposition is, that it will give improvement to the comforts of society in this country." This proposition was made to a Cabinet to which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth, belonged, and in this proposition the right hon. Member for Cambridge University, speaking as Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that he acquiesced in principle, and differed from it only as a matter of calculation. I quite agree that it is of the utmost importance that no foreign country should be led to believe that we were relaxing our desire to suppress the slave-trade. But I do believe, that this putting forward of unfounded reasons would lead persons to believe, that they rather made this question a pretext and screen for other questions, than were bonâ fide asserting a great principle. I have already alluded to the advice given by Mr. Poulett Thomson, to apply themselves to this subject, at the approach of the close of the treaty with the Brazils. I have heard with great surprise from Members representing great manufacturing districts attempts to depreciate our foreign trade. They say, that our home trade is very valuable, and also our colonial trade, but that there is no necessity for looking so nearly to our foreign trade. I have heard this with great surprise. It would be a fatal error to undervalue our foreign trade. In 1839 the total amount of our exports to the East-Indies and the colonies was 16,700,000l., while the total amount of our exports to other parts of the world was 36,507,000l. Thus it was perfectly plain that they could not materially cripple their foreign trade without producing such effects upon their commerce and industry, upon the peace and welfare of the country, as it was fearful to contemplate. They would form no adequate idea of the trade with the Brazils if they looked merely to the present amount of their exports. A most remarkable change was going on in that country. Some of the greatest rivers on the face of the earth flowed through that country, affording boundless facilities for internal communication. North America 152 had no advantages in this respect, compared with those of South America. The mighty element of steam power was only in its infancy in the Brazils, and it was impossible to calculate the wide extension to which commerce might there attain. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was so fully impressed by the importance of these considerations, that he has opened negotiations with the Brazilian government to secure moderate and reasonable transit duties upon their rivers for the trade of this country. The House would recollect that the treaty into which they had entered with the Brazilian government was most advantageous, securing no higher import than 15 per cent, ad valorem upon British goods, and guaranteeing to us the payment of no higher duty than any other country. This treaty expired, according to the construction of the Brazilian government, in 1842. According to our interpretation of the correctness of which, after full consultation, I entertain no doubt, it does not expire until 1844; but there appeared to be a most erroneous opinion very generally prevalent in Brazil that it will expire in 1842. The legislature of that country has a strong feeling of irritation against us with regard to the course which we have pursued in obtaining the most liberal concessions for our own commerce, and keeping up almost prohibitory duties upon the articles which they send us. This state of things weighed so much with me, that some time since I wrote a letter to noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, suggesting to him whether it would not be desirable, considering the immense interests at stake, to endeavour to enter into negotiations at once with the government of Brazil, and perhaps not to insist upon the continuance of the present treaty to the full term to which we were entitled, if for financial or other reasons the Brazilian government might desire to put an end to it, provided we might come to some arrangement which should place our commercial relations with that country on a safe, equitable, and permanent basis, and of mutual benefit to both parties. I feel it to be my duty to state these views, that it may not be supposed that it is quite safe to put the matter off for two years longer, and trust to carry out our own interpretation of its non-expiring before the year 1844. There is another way of considering this 153 subject to which I must call the attention of the House for a moment. I have before attempted to prove, that this country gained very little—nothing worth considering, with regard to discontinuing slavery, by conducting her trade with Brazil in a circuitous, instead of a direct, mode. Now, that is really the only distinction between the two plans. But if they acted on this principle at all, they ought steadily and purposely to discourage all trade between this country and the Brazils, because that was the only way in which they could avoid encouraging the industry of that country and her slave-trade. But if they applied that principle to sugar, why did they not extend it to other articles? Let them take the instance of coffee. The present system of duty with regard to that article was generally acknowledged to be one of the most absurd that could be adopted—but not only that, it was eminently unjust with regard to Brazil and every other coffee-growing country in the West. How did we treat their coffee? There were two scales of duty, such that coffee by touching at the Cape of Good Hope came to this country at a less duty than if it came in a contrary direction. Java coffee, therefore, by touching at the Cape, which was not much out of its way to this country, paid a less duty, while the coffee of Brazil must go half-way round the globe to obtain the same advantage. We have engaged by treaty to treat the produce of the Brazils on the footing of that of the most favoured nation; but while we adhere to the letter of that engagement, we avoid its spirit by this arrangement of our coffee duties. But there is another point which 1 think the House ought to consider. I am of opinion that it is the duty of this country by every practicable means in her power, by persuasion and by her influence, to attempt the entire suppression of the slave-trade. I then ask the House to consider whether it is more likely the will achieve that object by refusing all commercial intercourse with a nation that supported slavery than by encouraging those commercial relations, by inducing Englishmen to go there with English habits and English feelings, diffusing far and wide the intelligence and civilization of this country. It was but the other day that the Government had to decide a question much of the same description. The state of Texas made an offer to this coun- 154 try to enter into a commercial treaty. The Government thought it right to make such a treaty. They felt satisfied that it Was their duty to do so; but did they lose sight of that cause which they knew to be so dear to the people of England—I mean the cause of the slave-trade? No. My noble Friend, the Foreign Secretary, in expressing his willingness to sign the treaty, said he was willing to do so, but, at the same time, the slate of Texas must bind itself to give to this country that which all allowed to be the most effectual means of suppressing the slave-trade—the right to search, and the noble Lord made that a sine qua non of the treaty. That is the way, I say, in which British influence may be employed most beneficially in the advancement of the principles of justice and humanity; and a much better mode it is, than by crippling the industry and commerce of the country. There is also another point of view in which this question may be considered. If this measure had been brought forward by itself, I could well understand hon. Gentlemen saying, "after all, any alteration in sugar will produce a general impression, though not very well founded, perhaps, that you are not standing on the same ground with regard to the slave-trade as hitherto." I understand that, and I think this was one of the reasons which has hitherto justified the Government for having permitted the state of the sugar duties to remain so long unaltered. Since the year 1829, no measure has been passed for the purpose of altering them; but I think it is brought forward as a very different measure when it is proposed as part of a great whole, when foreign countries see that this is not being done with reference to sugar only, but that on general grounds the Government of this country is advised to reform her whole commercial tariff. It would, then, be absurd to exclude the article of sugar from that revision. There was, in my opinion, a sufficient reason why the Government did not think it desirable last year to make this change; but this year the whole financial and commercial state of the country justifies them in making it. I began by stating that, important as this subject was, if I could really believe the House was disposed to decide it on its own merits only, and no other question was involved in it, I should not attach to it such a degree of importance as I did, 155 but it is because I cannot help thinking that the decision the House comes to will be a decision on far greater and more important subjects that I look to with an anxiety which no language of mine can express. I am not at all disposed to hold forth the language of despondency with regard to the future stale of the country, for I know that in her situation, in her minerals, and in her wealth, she possesses great advantages over other countries; and I believe, that the most valuable of all her possessions is the most indomitable energies of her people; but I feel it is not wise, not humane, to tax those energies too heavily. I say this country has arrived at one of those revolutions in commerce, at one of those crises in financial affairs that would either lead to great good or incalculable evil. The name of Mr. Huskisson has been often mentioned in the course of the debate. Happily for this country, that right hon. Gentleman was in the councils of the Crown on a very similar occasion, when he found a state of things requiring great alteration. Boldly did he propose it, and he was supported, not by any mere party, but by the general sense of the leading statesmen of this country— by men who felt, that the welfare of the country, and a regard for their own fair fame, was of more consequence to them than any mere temporary or party considerations. And that great and necessary reform was proposed and supported, and encouraged, and carried into effect, in spite of that opposition which such measures must always provoke. A great revolution had then taken place in the commercial, political, and financial stale of the world; and I am satisfied that we have now arrived at a period very similar, in which there is the choice either to adapt the laws to that altered state of circumstances, or sustain the greatest possible inconvenience and mischief. It would be going into too wide a field to enter into particular instances; but I am sure that any commercial gentleman will readily admit, there are many points in which great changes are desirable with regard to our commerce. This country has foreign rivals, who more and more, year by year, are rendering her less able to compete with them in many important branches of trade; they not labouring under the same disadvantages. I feel this so strongly, that if the House should agree to the measures now proposed to 156 them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it will be my duty in the Customs bill of the year to recommend other measures of great consequence. I must beg the House to observe, that it is entirely impossible to do this without encountering some protected interests. They were bound to make those changes with all fair and due consideration; but at the same time, it was quite impossible to make them really and thoroughly without encountering opposition, and, perhaps, injuring some interests. The moment that was done, what was the answer? The persons interested said, "yes, that is all very well, but why are we to be sacrificed?" And then they pointed to other great monopolists, and argued, and argued justly, that it would be hard that the same principles should not be applied to them. With regard to this whole subject, I can only say, I never remembered a period when there existed in the mercantile and manufacturing community of this country so general an impression on any question not brought forward for party purposes, or by any party man, nor conducted in a manner in which party measures were generally carried on, but having for its end a far more serious and important object. In former years, when the Corn-laws were debated in this House, I have observed the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, has always referred to the accounts of the exports, and always said, "This cannot be true, that your manufacturers are in such distress, for your exports continue to increase." Now, I say it with great regret, that argument will fail in the present year. The exports from this country during the last year have much decreased, and the more the House examines into them, the greater will be found the cause for apprehension, unless they relieve the weight that now oppresses the industry and energies of the country. During the last year, as compared with the year preceding the value of the exports has much fallen off, to the amount of about a million and a-half; in earthenware in the one year the value of the exports was 771,000l.; this, in the last year, has fallen off to 574,000l. In hardware, the former was l,800,000l.; this has decreased to 1,300,000l. and in woollen goods it has decreased from 6,271,000l. to 5,336,000l. In cotton yarn there is an exception; but that has gone to feed the manufactories 157 of other countries. One manufacture of this country, however, has increased; it is the manufacture of refined sugar. I can understand hon. Gentlemen drawing a distinction between coffee and sugar, and articles of that kind; but how can they draw distinctions between sugar consumed in this country and sugar prepared here to be consumed in other countries? But refining sugar has been one of the most flourishing branches of our manufactures. In the one year it was only 209,000lb. in the other year it was 444,000lb. And that led to a point extremely well deserving the attention of the House in considering this subject. It was said, if you put sugar on a reasonable footing, you will make England the entrepot of all the sugar in the world. I have the opinion of Mr. Huskisson on that point, who in the debate of 1829 attached the greatest importance to it. That right hon. Gentleman said—We had advantages for sugar refining which no other country possessed; and if the system of duty was reasonable, foreign sugars would be brought here, and that which all must admit would be desirable would be attained, namely, England would become the great market for all the sugars of the world.I have stated, I believe, that the merchants and manufacturers of this country feel the greatest apprehension on this subject, and they have expressed that most distinctly to the House. But one very remarkable petition has been addressed to that House by the merchants of London. I heard with some astonishment the right bon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, the other night, in presenting a counter petition against the plan of her Majesty's Government, and I believe on this very subject, state that many of the most respectable merchants who had signed the first petition had also signed that one. I feel it to be my duty to call the attention of the House to what the petition was. I have done so once already, but after what was stated by the right hon. Baronet I cannot help reverting to it again. The petition of those Gentlemen was, I believe, by far the most important with regard to signatures that had been presented to that House since the memorable one presented by Lord Ashburton, immediately before Mr. Huskisson's commercial reform, and it stated, that the present restrictive and prohibitory duty was highly detrimental to the commercial interests of the country; 158 that if there were a revision of the Customs' duties, the petitioners believe the revenue would be increased, that trade would be promoted, and the merchant shipping extended; and that their opinion was strengthened by the satisfactory evidence that had been taken before the select committee of the House on the important subject of the import duties, and by the report of that committee; and they therefore prayed the House to make such an alteration in the excessive restrictive and prohibitory duties, as would be beneficial both to the merchant and the consumer, and also promote the trade and the interests of the country. I will leave it to the House to say with what degree of consistency and candour Gentlemen could, after that, sign any counter-petition, and say they were opposed to the plan of the Government. How could Gentlemen say they had read the report of the select committee on imports, and that they agreed to that report, but with the exception of sugar, timber, and corn? I certainly was surprised to hear, that Gentlemen could adopt such a course. It appeared to me, indeed, to be so foolish as to be almost impossible. Those Gentlemen might have made exceptions in their own particular cases; for instance, the West-India merchant might have excepted sugar, the timber merchant Canadian timber, and the agriculturist corn; so that those particular exceptions might have been made, although they agreed to the general principle. All I can say upon that point is, that in dealing with a whole system, as a whole, they must not attempt that kind of piecemeal legislation which it might be alleged, with great plausibility, was unfair and unjust. Upon these grounds, I hope the House will abide by the recommendations of this important petition, instead of that which was presented by the right hon. Baronet opposite. It may be said, that although it might be well to do the things therein recommended, it would take a long time to accomplish them. But the country is now in that state which renders delays extremely dangerous. I can assert, that it is the general opinion of the merchants and manufacturers of the country, that those things must be done, and done speedily, if they are to continue to prosper and to flourish. There is one other consideration connected with the subject to which I shall slightly advert. I allude to 159 our finances. It so happens that the present crisis arises just as it becomes necessary to make an effort to repair those finances; and if we turn that necessity to a good account, it will, in my opinion, be the most fortunate circumstance that ever befel this country. If we meet that necessity with bold, but at the same time prudent measures, embracing commercial alterations, I believe that immense benefit may accrue from it to the country. Independently of that consideration, however, the subject is surely one which deserves to be well and seriously weighed by the House. The deficiency in the revenue may be supplied by a loan; but I concur in the very just sentiments frequently expressed upon that by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. I concur with him in thinking, that nothing could be more unworthy of a Government, or more fatal to the interests of the country, than in time of peace, to be adding materially to our permanent debt, and making no effort by other means to supply the deficiency. What then remains? Direct taxation on the people. To apply direct taxation under such circumstances as the present is a course which I never should feel myself justified, as a Minister of the Crown, in proposing, or as a representative of the people, in supporting. What the Government now proposes to do will supply the deficiency, not only without imposing fresh taxes on the people, but by actually relieving them from a portion of the burdens they were already enduring. I have that confidence in the integrity and spirit of the people of this country that they would cheerfully submit to taxation whenever it could be shown to be necessary, either for supporting the establishments of the country or maintaining our character as a nation; but I do not believe, that they would cheerfully submit to taxation if they supposed that the money could be obtained by other means, particularly when recourse to those means would actually afford them relief. These are opinions which are becoming more and more general through the country, and these are questions which are not now confined to political economists. There is a spirit of inquiry abroad upon them which must be satisfied; and, however this House may for the present refuse to go into the question, depend upon it they cannot always do so. The people of England bear with just and natural impa- 160 tience those burdens which they conceive to be imposed upon them, not for the purpose of supplying the national treasury, not for the purpose of maintaining the honour, the interests, or the dignity of the country, but for the purpose of unduly favouring particular classes. I conceive that the course which the House takes on the present occasion will be a reply to the country as to the view they take upon the subject. For myself I can only say, that I feel it to be the duty of the Government to bring the question before the House; that, placed as they are under the necessity of providing for the financial wants of the country, finding at the same time those views entertained by the commercial and manufacturing classes of the country respecting the alteration of our commercial system, and having, after mature consideration, completely satisfied myself that these views are founded in justice and in reason, I certainly do feel, that the Government would have been wanting in their duty to the House and to the country if they had not brought the question fairly and comprehensively before them. What the decision of the House may be, it is not for me to anticipate; but of this I am certain, that, though the measures of her Majesty's Ministers may not triumph to-day, there is that justice and soundness in the principles upon which they are founded that of their ultimate success no doubt can be entertained.
§ Mr. W. E. Gladstone
Sir, it will be a consolation to the House, at this late hour of the night, to be informed, that I shall discard altogether from my consideration a large portion of those topics which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced in the course of his speech. It is not indeed my intention to insinuate, even in the remotest degree, that the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to escape from the discussion of the question actually before the House, by a diversion to matters extraneous and irrelevant, for I am quite sure, that the right hon. Gentleman is altogether incapable of such a subterfuge; but still I cannot help expressing my astonishment at the number and variety of topics falling under that description, and at their total want of bearing on the question really in debate. Sir, I am not here to contest or to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman, the principles of trade—I decline them altogether—they are not upon the present occasion legitimately before the 161 House. The motion now proposed to the House by her Majesty's Government is to go into committee, with a view to considering a reduction in the sugar duties, which is intended to form a part of a general revision of our system of import duties. The amendment to that motion offered by my noble Friend, the Member for Liverpool, speaks to this effect: that the sugar duties are not a fit Subject for such alteration, by no means on account of any principles of trade, but for reasons connected with other and higher principles, which must be disposed of before principles of trade can with reason be brought to bear upon the case. To my mind, Sir, the subject thus limited affords ample matter for the consideration of the House, without entering at all on that wider field, and in my view of the case it is to this subject in this province, and not to the general policy of our import duties, that the House should direct its attention. Indeed, Sir, so far as regards the general phrases in which the right hon. Gentleman has stated his principles of trade, I find in them little or nothing that seems to me liable to objection. The language of the right hon. Gentleman, I think, was this: that he disapproved of monopoly with regard to the products of the colonies of this country, and that he wished to substitute for it a fair and reasonable protection. Now who, Sir, I should like to ask, who in this House, is prepared to contest such a proposition? Who is prepared to maintain, that the consumer at home must buy exclusively from the colonial producer, and that if the supply be unequal to his wants, he is still to have no other resort? No doubt, Sir, such doctrine may be ascribed to Gentlemen on this side of the House by their opponents; but it is an ascription wholly inconsistent with truth, and one that it will be found difficult indeed to sustain by anything in the nature of evidence. But now, Sir, to come to the question which, as I have contended, is that legitimately before the House. The right hon. Gentleman has argued, that the adoption of the plan proposed by the Government would confer advantage on the consumer, would increase the revenue, and would give increased scope to the industry of the manufacturer. We, Sir, argue, that with an amount of benefit to the revenue altogether inconsiderable, with a slight, nay an imperceptible relief to the consumer, and with detriment to the sure interests of the British manufacturer, you are asked to abandon what is nothing less than a great principle of hu- 162 manity, that has received the most solemn sanction of the Legislature, the principle of hostility to the slave-trade and to slavery. The right hon. Gentleman has said, that plenty of sugar will be obtained under the projected scale, either of colonial or of foreign growth; but the question is which it is to be? If an abundance of sugar, the growth of our own possessions can be had, how are the Government to be justified in making the present proposition? Now, Sir, with respect to the advantage which it is proposed to realise for the consumer, I do not deny the object to be reasonable and desirable; but what is the amount of benefit which may be expected? I have made the most searching inquiries in my power into the question, what fall in price would probably follow the adoption of the scale of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the results very nearly correspond with those which were stated on Friday night by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, although I should estimate the reduction somewhat, not greatly, higher than he did. But I have a right to measure his boon to the consumer by the statement which he himself made of its amount. He placed it at 1s. 6d. per cwt. He said foreign sugar of a given quality is to be had at 22s.; adding 37s. 6d. for duty, we have a price of 59s. 6d. per cwt. British sugar of the same quality might, he considered, be purchased at a price, including 25s. duty, of 61s. or from that to 62s. Upon this he promised a relief of 1s. 6d. to the consumer. Now, does the noble Lord seriously think that the prospect of such a reduction justifies the expectations which his speech was calculated to excite on the part of the suffering labourers of England? I had always understood it to be an admitted principle of Governments in this country, and a wise one, that those at the head of affairs should, above all things, be cautious of raising hopes on the part of the people which it is obvious are not to be realized. But such does not appear to be the principle of the present Administration. What comfort can it afford to the poor weaver of Bolton, upon whom so much verbal sympathy has been lavished in the course of this debate, nay, is it not rather a mockery and an aggravation of his hardships, to be told that the price of sugar should indeed be reduced, but by an amount of reduction so small, that it cannot possibly reach to the minute quantities in which he consumes it. On this point, Sir, I will cite an authority whom the noble Lord is bound to respect, 163 the authority of Mr. Macgregor. In his evidence before the committee of last year, on Import Duties, Mr. Macgregor stated, that any reduction in the price of sugar which did not bring it down by at least 1d. in the pound, would be totally unavailing for the relief of the poor, who purchase in fractions of the pound. So much for the effect to be expected from a reduction of 1s. 6d. per cwt. But what has now become even of that reduction? While the noble Lord was speaking that speech, there appeared a new number of the London Gazette, announcing that the average which had immediately before stood at 37s. 7½d., and had been so quoted by the noble Lord, had now fallen to 36s. 1d. Thus the advantage promised by the noble Lord to the working classes has at this moment entirely vanished. Now, Sir, with respect to the increase of revenue which it is promised that we shall secure, I confess that I was astonished to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer, under the plea of preferring a plain statement, and of a sort of friendly apprehension lest he should puzzle and bewilder the House of Commons with over many figures if he put them in possession of his calculations, proposing to raise an additional revenue from sugar to the extent of 700,000l. annually, by the simple operation of lowering the duty on foreign sugars from 63s. to 36s. per cwt., without laying before the House a single datum, or any of the grounds on which he had founded his calculation and by means of which we might test it. The House will, of course, distinguish between that increase in revenue which will doubtless take place under the law as it now stands, from increased supply, and as consequent thereupon a fall in prices and an augmented consumption, and the additional increase to be expected from an alteration in the duties. The Government has a right to take credit for the latter only, in arguing for this plan: but it is of great importance that we should well consider the former. The noble Lord was pleased to make himself merry the other night on the subject of the increased supply to be expected from British possessions; and he asked the House what security the producers could give him for that increase. The noble Lord evidently thinks it unreasonable to calculate revenue upon an estimate of the supply to be received during the current year. He thinks this a visionary proceeding. But before the noble Lord again indulges in such merriment, will he 164 have the goodness to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer who sits beside him, upon what principle if not on this he has calculated the remaining items of his budget? How does the right hon. Gentleman know that he will get his twenty two millions from the Customs, his so many more millions from the Excise? Is it not by estimating the amount of production and importation of articles, of which many depend upon the contingencies of crops and seasons; and is not the dependency of sugar precisely the same? Surely, if the noble Lord were conversant with the practice of British commerce, he would know that such estimates as these were continually made, and that, subject to exceptions under rare casualties, our mercantile men are able, as a general rule by their skill and their experience, to make calculations for the current year with a very considerable degree of certainty. Such are the calculations that have come before the House, with respect to the supply of sugar for 1841. Now the right hon. Gentleman has said, that these estimates vary so much among themselves, that he cannot tell what to make of them. I have seen several of them, and I can perceive no such extraordinary variance. He himself mentioned two: one of them, omitting the 35,000 tons of stock on hand, amounted to 225,000 tons, the other to 207,000 tons, from the East Indies, Mauritius, and the West Indies. Now let the right hon. Gentleman take the lowest of these—the lowest estimate which any person of whatever class has put forward, and I say that this estimate thus reduced upon each of its items, exceeds, notwithstanding, the greatest consumption, that has ever taken place during any year in the United Kingdom; namely, that which took place in the year 1837, and which reached to 197,000 tons. Therefore, Sir, we are fully home out in the conclusion, that the British consumer will be supplied during the year from British possessions, with an abundance of sugar at fair and reasonable prices. But, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has himself stated, that we may, beyond all doubt, expect, he did not say a moderate—he did not say an increased—but actually he said, "a very great supply" of sugar from the East and West Indies, during the year. Upon this concession, which has now been made by the right hon. Gentleman, I take my stand. The proposition is one indispensable and all important to the question at issue. For it may reasonably be urged, 165 that we are not so to compassionate the negro as to forget consideration for our own fellow countrymen, for their wants and their almost essential comforts. In that sentiment I agree. The principle of humanity to the African, may, at a certain point, be met and countervailed, not by any consideration of mere policy, but by a kindred principle of humanity to the Englishman. But I contend, that the Government have failed in showing, that the plan proposed is to relieve the people of England; and, unless it can be shown, that there is a real and severe pressure upon them, then, I say, it is impossible, that the proposers of the plan, can resist the force of the arguments against it, from the encouragement which it has been shown that it affords to the slave-trade, and to slavery. And, indeed, there was a time when there was something like a real distress in this country from the scarcity of sugar. The average price of the last year, was as high as 49s. There was one month of that year, in which it rose to 58s. 3d. Whatever I might have thought of the intrinsic merits of the measure, I should have been less surprised had the right hon. Gentleman then proposed to relieve the consumer. At that time, he refused to do it; and now when the distress has passed away he comes forward with his scheme. Yes, Sir, when the distress has passed away, the price of sugar has now fallen to 36s; the calculations of the noble Lord show, that no reduction from this price is to be expected in consequence of the proposed alteration, from which, however, I would except the fall which I have no doubt would take place in the first instance, through the influence of panic: and yet, under the pretext of relieving the consumer, the Government deliberately propose to forego a great principle on which Parliament and the country have acted with respect to the slave-trade. However, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said, that we must not place permanent reliance on the East Indies for a supply of sugar. I will not weary the House by stating in detail the grounds which I think may reasonably be urged in verification of the estimated supplies of sugar from the West Indies, Mauritius, and the East Indies; but with reference to the last, I will remind the House, that it is only of very late years, that we have had any considerable sugar trade with India; that Mr. Trevelyan, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, gave in evidence last year, before the East-India Produce Committee, that 166 that country supplied a hundred millions of consumers, and could easily supply the whole United Kingdom, nay, the whole world. In addition to this, it should be remembered, that according to the evidence of Mr. Melville, before the same committee, last year, the trade of India labours under a great difficulty, in the want of a medium of remittance; that there is a sura of four millions or thereabouts annually, which must be sent home; and that the trade in sugar to this country goes to supply that medium in the most convenient form, and thus meets the peculiar want to which I refer. So that a variety of reasons combine to justify our expecting from that country a steady, permanent, and increasing supply. But, Sir, when so much has been said respecting cheapness of sugar, as if this were the main consideration by which we ought to be guided, I must refer to another aspect of this part of the case. There was a period of the history of this country, when the people could buy sugar cheaply enough, when they had it at a rate but little above the prices of the continent, and very much lower than according to any calculation it is imagined that they can have it under the plan of the Government. The average price of sugar, during the seven years from 1828 to 1834, was only 27s. 11d. per cwt. The noble Lord does not now propose to reduce it below 36s.; and yet when the price was at 28s., did the people of this country consider that easy price as a justification for continuing the existence of slavery? No, they rose as one man, and demanded its extirpation. It was then plainly represented to them, and every person well informed upon the subject was perfectly aware, that if they abolished slavery, they would have to pay largely for it, not only in the shape of compensation, but likewise in the shape of an increased price for sugar. Every person of common sense believed, whatever other sanguine anticipations he might entertain, that the immediate effect of emancipation must necessarily be to diminish the production of sugar, and, consequently, to enhance the price. Yet they persevered in the work, in the noble work, which they had undertaken, and they added even to these expenses further and heavy charges. And does the noble Lord suppose, that after the experience which the people of this country have now had of the measure of abolition, and of its beneficial effects in practice, they will, for small and paltry advantages, of a pecuniary kind, infinitely 167 less than those which the system of slavery secured to them, consent to forego the high title and the noble character which they have earned before the whole world, by adopting the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman? No, Sir, never did it happen to me to rise in my place in this House, more effectually supported, not only by an entire and heartfelt conviction of the justice of my cause, but by the certainty, that it cannot fail to triumph; because, in contending for the resolution of my noble Friend, we are borne along upon the strength of a resistless principle, of a principle which, at different times, has come into collision with many interests, and has shattered them all, and one which the people of England are fully determined to observe. Now, Sir, I have said, that this country has maintained and acted upon a great principle with regard to slavery and the slave-trade; and lam not surprised that the remark when uttered and taken without explanation, should have elicited from Gentlemen opposite some tokens of doubt and of difference; because I admit that our opposition to slavery has not at any time been uniform and unqualified. At the same time I argue that there has been a principle in our exclusion of foreign sugar, a principle of magnitude and of moral weight and interest to humanity, and one which it is well worth while to continue to observe. The objection urged from the other side of the House is this— that although it be true that we have excluded sugar, the produce of slave labour, from our markets, yet we have not similarly excluded coffee and cotton. Now, Sir, I do not say that the policy of this country, with respect to coffee and to cotton, has been precisely what it ought to have been. On the contrary, I know it to be the opinion of some whose opinions are entitled to great respect, that, with regard to cotton in particular, if we took proper means to encourage its production in the East Indies, not by bounties and legislative protection, but by local improvements and attention to the mode of cultivation, we might obtain from that quarter a supply more secure than that which we now derive from America, and at least equally advantageous in every other respect. I will, however, at least say, that with regard to cotton, and likewise with regard to coffee, there are some most material distinctions between these and the case of sugar. I will not rely 168 upon the circumstance, that the admission of slave-grown coffee originated not in any deliberate purpose of the Legislature, but from an evasion of the law, which I believe was quite uncontemplated at the time when it was passed. But I will urge this, at least, that the coffee produced by slave labour, which is admitted into our markets, does not displace coffee produced by free labour. Let hon. Gentlemen well observe this—there is, as has been shown, and there is likely to be for some time, more free-grown sugar than will suffice for the consumption of the people of this country; but of coffee of that description there is an actual deficiency. Our consumption of coffee reaches to 28,000,000lbs. and the entire supply derived from the British possessions is only 17,000,000lbs. It is a very different thing to admit slave-grown coffee to supply the actual wants of the people, where it cannot discourage the production of the same article by free labour, and to admit slave-grown sugar, which, if it find its way into our markets at all, can only enter by displacing so much sugar, the produce of free labour. This, however, is not all—there are other material distinctions between the two cases; and I might argue much in the same manner with regard to cotton. They are such as these: coffee is an article well adapted for free labour in tropical climates; sugar, on the contrary, is one which seems peculiarly adapted to slave-labour, and to the economy of estates which derive their manual strength from the slave-trade. I believe that the whole process of the cultivation of coffee, from first to last, is one of very light labour, one that suits well the organisation of the family, that affords abundant occupation to women and to children. I may quote, Sir, the case of Hayti. When that island became free, it ceased to export sugar, but it continues to export coffee to no less an extent than 50,000,000lbs., and it competes advantageously with slave-labour coffee in the markets of the world. Upon the other hand it is sugar, upon which slavery and the slave-trade chiefly depend. The labour of cultivation is not light; it affords comparatively little occupation for women and young persons, it does not meet the natural composition of families, it demands mainly the masculine vigour of the arm of the adult, it holds out a peculiar inducement to gathering together labourers of this description; and thus it tempts men, 169 the stealers of men, to pass to Africa, to rend families asunder, to seize those who are in the vigour of their age, and such alone, and these, too, chiefly of the male sex. Through this economy of sugar cultivation it is easily seen how closely the slave trade depends upon it, rather it is sugar upon which it is dependent altogether; and I do believe it is not too much to say, that if we could destroy the inducement to pursue the slave-trade for the sake of the production of sugar, so far as cotton and coffee are concerned, that trade, and even slavery itself, would soon die a natural death. These surely are material distinctions of a practical kind; and it is most important, that if, in secondary degrees, or by indirect processes, we have given encouragement to slavery, we should not make that encouragement an excuse or apology for fresh encouragement, and much more if it has been proved, that that which we have hitherto refused to encourage, is that upon which slavery mainly depends. Such being the case, I am justified in asserting that, although we may have admitted slave-grown coffee, yet in excluding slave-grown sugar from our markets, we have been acting upon a most important principle—upon a principle which, since the Emancipation Act, has been deliberately contemplated and entertained by the British people, for which they have knowingly and of full purpose made great sacrifices, and which, as I believe, they are determined resolutely to maintain. However, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman alluded in passing to the fact that we do not refuse to refine slave-grown sugar in bond, and he exclaims against our inconsistency in this particular. Of course, on such an occasion as the present, every inconsistency in our practice is dragged into light, for the wretched purpose of using it as a plea for further and for more monstrous inconsistency, or in order to substitute an uniformity in wrong for an inconsistent acknowledgment of what is right. Yet, Sir, I must observe, that the case of refining for the use of other countries is materially different from that of consuming the Brazilian sugar; it opens no new market, it affords no new distinct stimulus to production; on these grounds, if I remember right, in the year 1833, the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, argued in favour of permitting the refinement of foreign sugars in bond. 170 Then the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, went on to say, that whether we did or did not admit Brazilian sugar to consumption, our exports to the Brazils, or a portion of them were at this moment, and would continue to be, paid for in sugar: and he seemed to intend that we should hence, conclude in favour of the proposition of the Government. Sir, I cannot imagine any thing less consequent. If I understand the argument, it is this— we already give so much encouragement to the sugar of the Brazils, we are already so far implicated in the responsibility, that no new responsibility is to be incurred, and consequently no new encouragement afforded by the present proposition. But, then, if such be the ground occupied, what becomes of the boon which the right hon. Gentleman tenders in this measure to the British manufacturer of goods, for the Brazil market, and to the Brazilian producer? But in point of fact, Sir, it is not so: the case is plain: the truth ought not to be concealed and evaded; the market of England is beyond all dispute the greatest and the best sugar market of the world; and therefore it is to the opening of this market that all producers look with the greatest possible anxiety. Even already, Sir, if we may believe the accounts of those who have resided in Cuba, I allude particularly to the authentic work of Mr. Turnbull, the merely remote and undefined speculation that their would be a falling off in our own West Indies, consequent upon the abolition of slavery, has given a powerful stimulus to the production of sugar in that island. Even at this moment the foreign grower is keenly watching over the fence which you have erected about your own colonial production, for the moment when he may find access within it. Mr. Turnbull says, "the practice obtains among the merchants of the country of directing the commanders of ships, to call for orders at some convenient point of the English coast, in which case they are entered in the return of exports from Cuba, as for 'Cowes and a market' although the Continent generally may have been their original, and some particular continental port their ultimate destination." It then it is true that the foreign producer looks with so much anxiety to the possibility of finding entry into England, is it not true that the bearing of this measure upon slavery and the slave-trade is of direct and fearful importance? If he wishes to be admitted in- 171 to this market, it is on account of the immense consumption of sugar in this country, a consumption which comparatively large as it is, is nevertheless, I believe, capable of even indefinitely great increase. That increased consumption, must require an increased growth; that increased growth requires that there shall be more hands to produce it; and this, if we are to repair to foreign sources for our supplies, means that more and more of the natives of Africa must be borne by the slave-trade from their homes. These are plain undeniable matters of fact, and this as I conceive is the view of the case before us which common sense will take. Therefore, Sir, I do contend, that the proposition of the Government involves the abandonment of a great principle of British policy, which has been at great cost observed and with considerable steadiness. And now I proceed to complain more warmly still of the proposition as it was originally made on Friday week. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has the character of a plain spoken, straightforward mail; came down on that evening and announced a scheme by which he proposed to reduce the differential duty upon foreign sugar; but he told us not a word at that period of any scale of differential duties upon different descriptions of foreign sugar; and yet this is what he now proposes; and this most material alteration he has introduced into his plan without any notice whatever to the House; a course to which I trust this House will give no encouragement. Now, Sir, what was the effect of the plan in the shape in which it was first proposed? Its effect would have been not merely to displace a part of our own sugar, which is entirely free-grown, by foreign sugar of which as we know a very large proportion is slave-grown, but further, as between the different descriptions of foreign sugar, I affirm that it tended to give no advantage worth naming to that which is produced by free-labour, and that it was favourable only to that produced by slave-labour. The evidence of this proposition is so clear and simple, that I need not trouble the House many moments with its proof. The House should be aware that there exists a very great difference in the intrinsic value of the foreign sugars, amounting in many cases to no less than 50 per cent.; and it unfortunately happens that whether from superiority of soil, or in the command and combination of labour which slavery affords, 172 or from whatever other reason, the most valuable sugars are those of slave-growth. The first inequality of all the foreign sugars usually brought here are those of Cuba; the next are those of Brazil, both of these produced exclusively by slave-labour, then come those of Java, of which I cannot clearly ascertain to which class they should be assigned; with those of Siam and Cochin China, and last of all those of Manilla, which three last places are the only places whose growths can be certainly affirmed to be from free-labour. Now let us consider how the plan of the Government would have operated on these several kinds of sugar. I hold in my hand the most recent prices current, as well of our own markets, as of the different parts of the Continent: from these I could easily show, but I will not trouble the House with the figures, that the slave sugar of Cuba exceeds the free-grown sugar of Manilla in price, which is the test of intrinsic power and value, in a great proportion, very commonly reaching to 50 per cent. If, therefore, the Government had intended to give equal terms to these kinds of sugar, they ought to have proportioned the duty to the value. If, then, two articles are to be admitted on the same footing, and the value of one is to that of the other as three to two, it is undeniable that the duty should be in the same proportion. Inasmuch, therefore, as he proposed to lay a duty of 36s. on the least valuable foreign sugar, such as the free-labour sugar of Manilla, he ought by this rule to have imposed a duty of no less than 54s. on the most valuable, namely the white sugars of Cuba, which form, I may add, the great bulk of the produce of that island; and in so doing he would have done no more than strict justice to the foreign grower of free-labour sugar, as compared with the foreign grower of slave-labour sugar. But what was the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman? He proposed a duty of 36s. upon Manilla sugars which were worth perhaps 20s., and at the same time proposed the same duty for Cuba sugars worth 30s. thus practically he would have laid a tax greater by one half upon the cheaper article, that being the article which was the produce of free-labour; so that the effect of this must have been, that while the British market would have been swamped with foreign sugar of slave-growth, scarcely one pound of sugar the produce of free-labour could have entered there. But though the right 173 hon. Gentleman has altered his scheme in a manner which I think this House ought to discourage—yes, Sir, I do hold that this House ought to discourage such a course, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman will himself agree with me that it is desirable that when Chancellors of the Exchequer announce their budget they should announce the propositions which they really mean to make, and not other propositions, which they are to alter without explanation by a printed paper circulated on the very evening when the discussion is to come on —yet unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman has not altered his plan enough to escape the whole force of the objection which I have just made to it. He proposes to fix the duty on brown and yellow sugars at 36s, and that on white clayed sugars at 42s., making a difference of 6s. to correspond with a difference in value which I have shown would require, for the extreme descriptions, a difference of 18s., so that it still remains true that, the free-labour foreign sugars will have but little chance of entry into our markets, and that whatever may come in will almost wholly proceed from Cuba and the Brazils. As to the amount of differential duty which it is proposed to establish in favour of British sugars, I am not discussing this question in the character of one connected with our colonies; if I were discussing it in that capacity, and if I were arguing for a greater protection, it would be a question of one or two shillings more or less, important doubtless, but not fit to be entertained here: it should be considered in a committee of this House: but I am not now regarding the question as one of protection to commerce, it is a question of protection to human liberty and life. And as I have been speaking of dealing fairly by free labour sugar, I must regret that I do not see in his place the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin. He, Sir, has put upon record, in the list of notices of motion, a most interesting testimony of his concern for the welfare of the negro. He means to propose in the Committee of Ways and Means, that the foreign sugar to have access to our markets shall be exclusively free labour sugar. Sir, I hope that some Friend of the hon. and learned Gentleman, will kindly convey to him that of which he is doubtless not aware; that there is one trivial objection to his plan, namely this, that it is absolutely precluded by express stipulations of our treaty of reciprocity with the Brazils, which provides, that the 174 produce of Brazil shall be received in our ports upon the footing of that of the most favoured nation, and thus render it impossible without a direct breach of national faith, so far as Brazil is concerned, to draw a distinction in favour of the sugar of any other foreign country as compared with that of Brazil. Sir, if it were otherwise, if it were possible to draw such a distinction, I speaking for myself alone, and having no man's proxy, should be glad to entertain it, and thus give a practical proof of willingness to recognise the principles of fair competition; because I do admit, that competition is attended with certain beneficial results to the producer as well as to the consumer of commodities, and that monopoly is the parent, not only of hardship to the consumer, but of a sloth and dulness in trade, and hinders the development of its energies. I should also be desirous if it were practicable to see some such distinction attempted with this view, that we might thus explain fully to the world that we are now imposing very heavy duties on foreign sugar not merely because it is not of home growth, but because it is the produce of slave-labour and stimulates the slave-trade. Again, Sir, with respect to Brazil. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, conceiving, I imagine, that his proposition if displayed in its nakedness before the eyes of the British nation would be too ugly for them to endure, did employ certain soothing words about negotiation with Brazil, and about the exercise of the moral influence of this country for the mitigation of the existing evils, nay he went so far as to say for the ultimate abolition of the state of slavery. But what is the proposition of the noble Lord, and is it a mere vision and a dream of the imagination, or a scheme of one accustomed to practical affairs and knowing the nature of man? Here we are dealing with the Brazils, a state involved in all the responsibility of slavery and the slave-trade; and most unwilling as we know, like the people of Cuba, to abandon them: we again hold in our hands something in the nature of an inducement, namely, a privilege of regulated access to the British market; and the noble Lord actually advises us to give away this inducement at the outset, and then forsooth to enter on the negotiation. He will abandon the consideration to the holders of slaves, and then having so abandoned it, and having nothing left to offer, he will proceed to make his 175 bargain. It seems now to be proved by the confessions made on the other side, that any additional advantage to the revenue, to arise from the plan of the Government, over and above that advantage which will doubtless arise in the natural course of things from the increased supply of British sugar, and the reduction in price and increase of consumption consequent upon it, is altogether trifling: and in the same manner it is admitted, that the consumer has nothing worth mention to anticipate from the plan, and on this head, I can only hope, that the vain hopes which the speech of the noble Lord was calculated to raise, may at once be dispelled. It appears, therefore, that we are called upon to forego a policy friendly to humanity, without even a show of necessity. There is one other point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which I wish to allude. He alleged with some appearance of triumph, that when in 1829, Mr. Grant proposed to reduce the duty on West-India sugar to 20s., and that on foreign sugar to 28s., my right hon. Friend, the Member for Cambridge, declared himself friendly in principle to the proposal; and he seemed to think, that he has an advantage over my right hon. Friend in this circumstance. There is, however, one material distinction between that and the present case which he himself remembered: that was a question of competition not between free sugar and slave sugar, but between slave sugar and slave sugar. I admit that it was between slave sugar and slave-trade sugar. But there is another answer which I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit to be conclusive. Whatever may have been anticipated from such a reduction at the time, the subsequent events have shown, that in practice it would have been quite in operation, for a reason easily to be explained. The noble Lord stated the other night, that when slavery existed, the monopoly of sugar was complete: the noble Lord never was more mistaken, and he showed by that statement, that with whatever address he might have applied his mind to the present state of this question, he had not paid an equal attention to its earlier history. During the latter years of slavery, the British production of sugar outran the demand: in consequence a large surplus was exported to the markets of the Continent, and the price of that surplus naturally governed the price in the home market, with the exception of an advantage enjoyed by the British grower through the medium 176 of the drawback, on which I need not now dwell in detail, but it was estimated at 4s. or 5s. or thereabouts per cwt. This advantage through the drawback was practically the only protection then enjoyed by the British colonist; and, in point of fact, the prices of British sugar, during eight years, from 1828 to 1835, never once exceeded the prices of Brazil sugars by so much as 8s. I find from the Gazette averages, that in that series of years the excess in the price of British over Brazil brown and yellow sugar was as follows from year to year: 3s. 10d., 6s. 11d., 6s., 5s. 9d., 6s. 3d., 7s. 3d., 6s 1d., 6s. So that in no one year was the actual protection worth 8s. per cwt., the sum which Mr. Grant proposed, and the change he proposed was accordingly altogether nugatory, even as it would be nugatory in practice if the present duty of 63s. were changed into 63l., either being generally equivalent to prohibition. Sir, having stated, that I would not follow the right hon. Gentleman into his general discussion of the principles of trade, I will be faithful to my promise; and I will forbear to inquire, with what degree of justice the claim is advanced on the other side to the credit of having been favourable in former times to commercial relaxations. But I did think that the noble Lord was unfair in some of the remarks which he made in his speech, his able and brilliant speech, of Friday last, with respect to the question who had heretofore been the friends of slavery, and who its opponents. Blotting out altogether the memory of the past, is it not enough for us to know that the slave-trade is a monster consuming every day we live, and that from year to year, according to the minute and careful calculations of Sir Thomas Buxton, a thousand human beings? While it may be said of war, pestilence, and famine, that each of them destroys its thousands, it is not less true of this abominable traffic, that it consumes its ten thousands. But I will not attempt to dilate upon its horrors. It is I know supposed impossible, that those who are connected with our colonies, or even those who sit on this side of the House, can entertain any sincere sentiment of those enormous evils. "The Gentlemen opposite so said the noble Lord, "are claiming, credit for what is but an affectation of humanity; "such were the terms that he did not scruple to apply. Well, Sir, I will lay humanity aside; but have I not a 177 right at least to feel and to plead for the decent consistency of my country? have I not a right to hope that it may escape being visited, from all the nations of the world, with that mingled ridicule and scorn which must follow the adoption of the proposal of the Government? Is it a fact upon record, or is it a dream, that this country paid twenty millions of compensation to the West Indian planters? Is it not true that in the maintenance of squadrons, in the support of settlements, in payments to foreign powers, and in various other charges, England has expended fifteen or twenty millions more in order to effect the abolition of the slave-trade? Is it not true that upon a very moderate computation, she has paid ten millions more in the shape of an enhanced price of colonial produce during the last seven years, mainly for the direct benefit of the emancipated labourer? And is it money alone that she has contributed? Has she not freely sacrificed the lives of many of the bravest of her sons, some of them in the settlements we have formed, many more who hover upon the seas to watch for the marauder? Are there not at this moment quitting your own shores, a devoted band, who are about to pierce through that broad cincture of poisoned air that girds the coast of Africa, in order to find an entrance for designs aiming at the extirpation of the slave-trade? With what decency can this sacrifice of life be continued? Well has Mr. Turnbull said, cent per cent is stronger than physical force: one physical force we apply for the suppression of the traffic, and we are invited, at the same time, to minister the strongest incentives to that lust of gain, by which we know that it is fed. The noble Lord the other night made allusions which, at the time, I did not well understand, to General Tarleton, but he did not then apprise us to what an extent he was indebted to that Gentleman. Yet the very arguments which General Tarleton used in and before 1806 in support of the slave-trade, the noble Lord has burnished and reproduced as his own. If the noble Lord says no, then I say he has reason to complain of General Tarleton in the words of the adage, pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerint; for the General has been guilty of a sort of plagiarism by anticipation, and has purloined beforehand the arguments of the noble Lord. The words of the noble Lord were, that he did not think it would 178 be any gain to the negroes of the Brazils to be told that their sugar was not to get into the hands of English shop-keepers or artizans, that they might be flogged to death, but that their consolation must be that to Germany or Switzerland must go all the produce of their labour: just so said General Tarleton in 1806, the consequence of giving up this trade in any degree would be to throw it into the hands of the Americans, who could carry it on cheaper,' and, 'these Gentlemen are now for turning over the trade to the Americans, by whom the slaves would be treated with much more cruelty.' The parallelism of the argument, allowing for the necessary change of phrase, is exact. General Tarleton argued, ' as we cannot prevent others from partaking in the trade, let us partake in it ourselves': the noble Lord argues, ' as we cannot prevent others from encouraging the trade, let us encourage it ourselves.' However, the noble Lord urges that his party has always been the party favourable, and Gentlemen on this side of the House usually unfavourable to humanity. But what claim does the noble Lord mean hereupon to advance? Does he mean that if he proposes a measure, it is on that account alone to be considered as favourable to humanity, and that we must accept it without examining its merits in that respect, or whatever may be our own opinion of its bearings? In point of fact, Sir, this question has intrinsic merits which supersede the inquiry, by what persons it is brought forward. The country will not be content that it shall be judged otherwise than by those intrinsic merits. But is it not also true, that if in other times you have been the friends of the negro, your guilt is rather the more aggravated if you have abandoned your former course: and do you not expose even your previous conduct to taunts on the part of those who are inclined to suspect you, and to the charge, that if you use this as a question of party now, you were doing the same then, and neither now nor then were governed by the true principles applicable to the case, but by extrinsic and secondary considerations? And if the noble Lord forces us to examine this proposition with reference to the men by whom it is advanced, then I say there is to my mind a peculiar impropriety in the fact that these should be the persons to advance it who have laid claim to such credit for the past. Mr. Turnbull, in the dedica- 179 tion of his work on Cuba, to Lord Clarendon, calls him the illustrious author of the treaty of 1835 with Spain, and exhorts him to persevere, as the man peculiarly qualified to effect the abolition of the slave-trade; yet he is a Member of the Cabinet who has proposed the present plan. There is another name still more strangely associated with it. I can only speak from tradition of the struggle for the abolition of slavery; but, if I have not been misinformed, there was engaged in it a man who was the unseen ally of Mr. Wilberforce, and the pillar of his strength; a man of profound benevolence, of acute understanding, of indefatigable industry, and of that self-denying temper, which is content to work in secret, to forego the recompense of present fame, and to seek for its reward beyond the grave. The name of that man was Zachary Macaulay, and his son is a Member of the existing Cabinet. I know, Sir, that this occasion is viewed by many as one of great political excitement; and that great interest is taken with respect to the particular votes which are to determine the division. I do not share in such curiosity, but I am satisfied with the conviction, that the strength of the principles opposed to the present measure cannot fail to destroy it. The right hon. Gentleman must know, that it will be absolutely impossible for him to carry his resolution; and, for my own part, I am at a loss to know what rational motive could have induced the Government to mix with a genera! question of trade another question which the people of England are determined to entertain upon the basis of humanity; I can only ascribe it to that infatuation which is often found to accompany a laxity of principle. The noble Lord knows this House will not affirm his proposition. I know not how many of his adherents will follow him in the division; but I know that some who do it will do it with doubting minds and quailing hearts: the people will not admit that this matter is one to be decided by merely political or commercial considerations. The noble Lord, in his speech, described the poor man quitting the grocer's shop, unable to purchase sugar on account of the high price of last Season. But that poor man did not sign a petition for such a measure as the present. During the pressure of last year, there was scarcely a petition from the people. This year there are no petitions in favour of your plan. The commercial classes mis- 180 trust your legislation, the people of England repudiate your boon, and I well know, that the vote of the British House of Commons at the close of this discussion will vindicate, in the eyes of Europe, and the world will amply vindicate, their country's fame.
§ Debate again adjourned.