Passengers Bill was read a third time.
§ Mr. Hawes
rose to move that part of the 8th clause be struck out. He hoped to have not only the consent of the House, but o many of the Members of her Majesty's Government to that motion. Last year a similar clause had been proposed by the then Secretary to the Colonies in bringing forward a measure on this subject, and that clause had been opposed by the noble Lord the present Secretary for the Colonies, by the present Secretary to the Board of Control, b) the present First Lord of the Treasury, by the Secretary to the Treasury, by a right hen, Gentleman now absent, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had all been anxious to avail themselves of the casual assistance of those who differed from them in political opinion, to oppose the then Government as far as regarded that measure. The objection then taken to the measure was that there had been no definite plan for regulating the transportation of these Hill Coolies, and that was precisely the objection he took to the present measure. He could not but contrast the conduct of the former Secretary for the Colonies (Lord J. Russell) with that of the present Secretary (Lord Stanley). The former Noble Lord had not introduced his measure until Parliament had had a full opportunity of discussing the subject; while the present Secretary for the Colonies had introduced the measure without any explanation, and had it not beep that certain papers had been moved for, the bill, under the title of the Colonial Passengers Bill, might have passed without notice. The noble Lord had objected to the measure of Lord John Russell, that there was no definite plan for regulating the deportation of the Hill Coolies, and that was precisely his objection to the measure of the noble Lord, and he would ask the noble Lord what plan had been propounded on that subject since the mea- sure of Lord John Russell? Had the noble Lord any plan—had be indicated any? Certainly not. The noble Lord had certainly written a most remarkable despatch on the subject, and that was all he had done. It would have been wise to have 645 submitted to the House the regulations the Indian Government had made as reasons for passing the hill, and they had a right to know whether those regulations, had been carried out. He thought the noble Lord ought to wait till he had the assent of the Indian Government and the Government of the Mauritius to the measure. In these statements he was not saying a word against a system of emigration conducted upon proper principles, If they could accomplish justice to parties emigrating to the Mauritius, he should not object to the emigration of Hill Coolies, bet he contended that so desirable an end could not be obtained. He did nut make that statement solely upon his own authority, because he found Lord Normanby stating, in 1839, that the Government was decidedly hostile to any project for removing emigrants from the Mauritius; and again, Lord Auckland had stated, in a despatch, that he feared such a system could not be carried out without inflicting grievous injustice and fraud on a helpless people. Lord Auckland had said that no police regulations would ever he sufficient protection to the Hill Coolies in the Mauritius, The negroes there were not provided with hospitals, and their living was extremely bad, and they were generally very badly treated, and their corn-plaints about the non-payment of wages were often passed by without notice. It could not be said that it was necessary to send labourers to the Mauritius with a view to the increased production of sugar. There had been no falling off in the production of sugar in the Mauritius, and there could not, therefore, be any necessity for the importation of labourers into the colony. He contended that if they passed the present measure, the) would run the risk of a renewal of slavery, that they could not adequately protect those poor people from fraud and oppression. He entreated the House, therefore, to pause before they passed the bill, and to wait at least until they should receive further information on the subject. The hon. Member concluded, by moving the omission of part of the clause.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
the bill. He was persuaded that the time was come, when they should provide for a fresh supply of labourers in our West-India colonies; and he believed there was no quarter from which that supply could be so conveniently or advantageously de- 646 rived as from the East Indies. There were but two sources of immigration to which the West Indies could look for a supply, and those sources were, the one the coast of Africa, and the other the East of Asia. They had had the evidence of Sir Charles Metcalf, who had passed many years of his life in high office in the East Indies, and who had subsequently been Governor of Jamaica, and who, consequently, was well acquainted with the social position of both countries, to prove that there could be no objection to the introduction of labourers from the East Indies into the West Indies, except the length of the voyage, and that difficulty the Legislature would speedily remove. The present bill, it appeared, did not provide for a supply of labourers to the West Indies, but he hoped that a bill would be introduced for the! purpose early in the next Session of Parliament. As respected the Mauritius, he was not so qualified to give an opinion; but as respected Jamaica, he thought he might venture to say that the result of all their inquiries was, that these was no fear of oppression to persons of this description. When they were introduced as labourers they would be in the immediate enjoy merit of equal rights and privileges with those freed men who did not work more than they thought fit, which, in point of fact, was inadequate to the cultivation of soil so fruitful, and of so extensive a colony.
§ Mr. r. Smith
thought the report of the committee would prove as useless for purposes of legislation as any one of the " blue hooks," which the noble Secretary for the Colonies was in the habit of mercilessly ridiculing. His reason for voting with the noble Lord was this, that he thought the experiment proposed to be tried by the bill was one which ought not to be left untried. Considering the bill merely in the light of a measure for facilitating the transfer of the surplus population of India to the island of Mauritius, lie should vote for it; at the same time he must observe, that the noble Lord did not in the mauler in which lie brought for.. ward this bill show that consideration for the House which he was sure the noble Lord would upon reflection feel that he ought to have shown. He must further add, it was with great reluctance he agreed to any measure which invested any Minister of the Crown with such large discre- 647 tionary powers, and yet, if any one were to be so intrusted, he thought that the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary for the Colonies, ought to be that person, when it was recollected that it was he who introduced and conducted through the House of Commons that measure by which the abolition of slavery in the West Indies was effected.
§ Sir A. Grant
rose to do an act of justice to the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. He formed one of a deputation to the noble Lord from the great body of the West-Indian proprietors, calling upon the noble Lord to sanction the appointment of a committee to inquire into the state of the West Indies; and the noble Lord consented to the appointment of that committee with considerable reluctance. When the report of the evidence taken before that committee was published, it would afford a complete refutation to the assertion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, that a West-Indian proprietor could not do justice to an emancipated slave.
Mr. Bingham Baring
complained that the hon. Member for Lambeth was too apt to impute unworthy motives to those who differed from him in opinion. He had on a former occasion reluctantly voted against permitting those persons to emigrate, and he had been induced to do so because the hon. Member for Beverley had given it as the opinion of the Court of Directors, that some delay was necessary in order to institute an inquiry before legislating on the subject. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that unless security was taken that all the abuses which had been complained of should be put down, that it would be improper to permit the immigration of Hill Coolies into the Mauritius; but he contended that by the precautions adopted, a proper administration of justice in the Mauritius was secured, and the recurrence of abuses rendered impossible. The system of contract and bounty had been done away with, and the labourer on his landing in the island was free to engage with any master he liked. If a man were a bad master he would get no slaves. [Mr. Hawes: " Hear, hear."] The hon. Member was very willing to take advantage of an inadvertent word. Under the former system those bondmen were slaves; under the present system, however, they were free labourers. The magistrates in the Mauritius were impartial, and the comfort of the labourers would be 648 secured. It was not the object of the Indian Government to encourage emigration from India to the Mauritius, but merely to permit and regulate it, and whenever wages in India should be higher than they were in the Mauritius that emigration would naturally cease.
§ Mr. Mangles
, knowing how firm a friend to free-trade was his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. V. Smith), had been surprised at hearing his speech in opposition to this measure, which was founded on the principle of allowing the labourer to carry his labour to what market he pleased. His right hon. Friend's speech consisted of very broad assertions, which were not supported by the evidence before the House. He rested his support of the measure on the right of every free man to take his labour where he pleased; and when he was answered that these Hill Coolies knew not where the Mauritius was, and were indeed little better than the monkies, he could only say that the House had abundance of evidence before it to show that if they went to the Mauritius monkeys they went hack to India men, and intelligent men too, so that the longer that House prevented them from going to the Mauritius, the longer it kept them in that ignorant and unenlightened condition which was alleged as the reason for not allowing their removal. The hon. Member quoted many passages from the evidence taken before the commission on the subject, to the effect that in almost every instance the Coolies, on their return from the Mauritius, were greatly improved in intelligence and comfort, and stated that the Mauritius was a very good place. The right hon. Member was also quite mistaken in saying that the Coolies could not have a fair administration of justice in the Mauritius; for the evidence of Sir Lionel Smith, and many other persons, was conclusive to show that since the appointment of the special magistrates in the Mauritius none of their grievances went unredressed. With the safeguards introduced by this bill against the abuses which existed under the former system, he was satisfied that the natives of India might be allowed the privilege of freemen of choosing the market for their labour. He would, however, suggest in addition the propriety of establishing two offices, one in the Mauritius, and the other in India, so as to secure the regular delivery of letters and remittances of money from the Hill Cool- 649 ies in the Mauritius to their wives or friends in India.
§ Mr. Hogg
said, that though not opposed to the principles of free-trade, he was not disposed to go the length of his hon. Friend who preceded him, and who seemed prepared to extend them to the exportation of human beings. The question had been introduced and discussed as if the revival of the trade in Coolies depended upon the vote of the House. He begged to tell the House that such was not the case, and that the course adopted by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had rendered idle and fruitless, all discussion on the subject. At the very moment he was speaking he thought it probable, that the prohibition had been removed by the local government of India, and that the traffic was again in full operation. He wished the House to know distinctly the situation in which they had been placed, and that if the amendment of the hon. Member for Lambeth should be carried, and the clause struck out, still the views of the noble Lord would be carried into execution, despite the opinion and the vote of the House. The noble Lord did not think it his duty to take the opinion of the House, nor did he let the matter rest on his own responsibility. He carried into execution his own views by means of an order in council, and instructions to the local government in India; and then came to this House to require them to give Parliamentary sanction to his acts, and to embrace the responsibility of a measure they had never an opportunity of considering. Let facts and dates speak for themselves. A few days before Parliament met, there appeared in the Gazette an order in council pregnant with prognostications of divers probabilities. That order in council, in all its hypothetic pomp, went forth over the waters of the Atlantic, and must have reached Calcutta early in April, and he asked any hon. Member who had read that order whether he could doubt for a moment that Lord Ellenborough would consider himself justified in acting upon it, and annulling the prohibitory law. The noble Lord, in his own letter to the corn - missioners for the affairs of India, regards the matter as settled. He says,It is of course not without sufficient reason that her Majesty in Council has assumed that the Governor-general in council will thus far relax and modify the existing prohibitory law.
§ He (Mr. Hogg)
drew attention to this, 650 to show how entirely the contemplated measures were concocted by the noble Lord, who seemed to have regarded India as part and parcel of cola, possessions under his control. But he (Mr. Hogg) was sorry to say that the proceedings in Nita would not rest exclusively on the order in council. That order and the letter to the Board of Control were sent to the Court of Directors, who at first declined forwarding them, stating that they could not authorize the withdrawal of the existing prohibition, without the sanction of Parliament. That opinion the Court of Directors often expressed; but he (Mr. Hogg) regretted to say, that sympathizing in the change which had shed its influence on her Majesty's Ministers, that body concurred in the letter lately laid on the Table of the House, and which virtually ordered the annulling of the prohibitory law, without even noticing the frightful mass of evidence that had been submitted to them, or intimating their own opinions and views on the subject. That letter went out by the overland of the 30th March, and would reach the shores of India in May, so that the legislative enactments consequent upon its receipt would, in ordinary course, be completed and carried into execution months before the result of that night's debate could be known in India. He therefore repeated, that for all practical purposes the present discussion was idle and useless, except perhaps that it might tend to render the House and the public more vigilant in future. Considering that this subject had repeatedly occupied the attention of both Houses of Parliament, and had baffled all attempts at legislation, and considering the interest which it had excited in the public mind, he (Mr. Hogg) should have thought that the noble Lord would have considered it right to take the opinion of the House upon the measures he contemplated. The noble Lord, the late Secretary for the Colonies had distinctly pledged himself to do so; and added, that unless he did do so, he did not think he would be acting with becoming respect towards the House. It might be asked, is a pledge given by one government binding upon another. He would reply that the pledge to which he had alluded was almost extorted from the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and he thought lie had a right to contend, that the Government were bound to respect a pledge thus given in their own requisition. 651 He contended further, that the Home authorities for the government of India were not justified in authorising any relaxation of the existing law, until they had submitted to Parliament, and through Parliament, to the country the measure they proposed to prevent a recurrence of the atrocities that had been perpetrated, and which had excited such feelings of horror anti indignation in the mind of every humane man. What! thirty or forty thousand of the natives of India torn by force, or beguiled by fraud from their homes, transported to a distant island, where, from the nature of the soil labour in the field is severe in the extreme, there, handed over to taskmasters who extorted from them work beyond what their frames were physically capable of enduring, while their families, abandoned in India, were languishing in misery and destitution. And the system which induced these frightful calamities to be again resorted to, without the specification of a single precautionary measure (at least as regarded India), that had not before been tried and found unavailing. As a Member of that House, and speaking only from that information which was open to all, he (Mr. Hogg) had a right to complain that the Court of Directors had deviated from that course which they led the public to believe they would pursue, as indicated by their despatches, and their petition to the House. In the letter ordering the prohibition, the Court expressly advert to measures pending in Parliament. Again, in September 1841, the Court say that they cannot authorize the Government to withdraw the prohibition without the sanction of Parliament. The same view of the subject was taken by the court of proprietors, with whom the directors acted in concert. At a general court of proprietors held the 17th July 1840, a petition was unanimously agreed to against the clauses proposed by the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies, to be added to the then pending Colonial Passengers Bill. He had the honour to present that petition, and he believed that a petition from so influential a body as the East India Company, aided by the eloquent remonstrance of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, went far in influencing the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to abandon his intended provision. He was aware that the petition only prayed for delay till the report of the committee that had been assembled on the subject should be received. 652 It was true that report had now been rescinded, but how was their position altered? They then acted on vague rumour, but they had now before them a report signed by three gentlemen of the highest character, and a mass of evidence depicting atrocities and sufferings far exceeding what had ever been apprehended; and yet they were called upon to sanction the withdrawal of the prohibition, without having submitted to them any means of preventing a recurrence of the abuses. He wits very reluctant to oppose any measure introduced by those with whom it was his pleasure almost invariably to act, but no change had come over his opinions and views, and he could not support on one side of the House a measure which he had opposed when in the other. Upon a former occasion, the noble Lord near him (Lord Stanley) bad undertaken to defend his right hon. -Friend (Sir J. Graham) from the imputation of inconsistency, and there could not be a more able or accomplished advocate. But so sorely was the noble Lord pressed, that he fled for refuge to the perilous sanctuary of confidence. He contended that the confidence reposed by his right hon. Friend in the present Government fully explained any alteration in the course he pursued. Surely the present question was not one when any Member could be influenced by feelings of party. His own acts in that House had hot evinced any great political confidence in the late Secretary for the Colonies) but he felt a pleasure in stating, that in any question involving the great interests of humanity, that noble Lord should command his entire and unqualified confidence. His hon. Friend, the Member for Guildford, had contended for the right of the Indian labourer to carry his labour to the best market. He (Mr. Hogg) had never opposed that principle. He was ready to admit that the natives of India had a right to emigrate to the Mauritius or elsewhere, and all he required was to be satisfied that their emigration was voluntary. He must say that, under the circumstances, the announcing of these propositions of abstract right had very little to say to the matter before the House. The papers before the House, and this very discussion, sufficiently proved the helplessness of the Indian labourers, and that they needed protection, and the only question was, the expediency of the course pursued by the noble Lord and the Court of Directors. It was admitted by all; that the grossest abuses 653 had been perpetrated in India under the cow aestivation, alleged to be voluntary, and his hon. Friend had not attempted to show how these abuses could be prevented. He would not venture to weary the House by referring in detail to the evidence, but he would beg their attention to the facts which the committee stated to have been distinctly proved. They state that it was proved beyond dispute, that the Coolies and other natives of India, exported to the Mauritius, were generally induced to come to Calcutta by misrepresentation and deceit, practised upon them by native crimps called duffadars, who received a considerable sum per head for each Cooly. That if the Coolies had been made aware that they were to go beyond the sea, very few, and probably not one, would have entered into the engagement. That they were induced to leave their home, under the belief, that they would find employed in Calcutta under the Company. That many of them, particularly the Hill Coolies, were incapable of understanding the nature of their contracts. That in despite of the local regulations and the interference of the police, an impression was created and maintained, that they would be liable to penal consequences if they expressed dissatisfaction at being sent on board ship. That kidnapping prevailed to a very considerable extent, and that the Coolies, when brought to Calcutta, were detained there in a state of close imprisonment. They add, that local legislation, with all the advantages of local knowledge, had entirely failed to remove, or even materially to check the abuses. And they deliberately state their opinion, founded on a knowledge of the country and the natives, that no legislation could prevent a repetition of the evils, and they deprecate a renewal of the trade. It had been urged, that only three out of the six Members named by Government had signed the report, and much importance had been attached to the dissents of Mr. Dewson and Mr. Grant. Mr. Dewson had himself been extensively engaged in the trade, and whatever might be his opinion as to the expediency of continuing it, he (Mr. Hogg) thought the evidence given by that Gentleman, when examined before the committee, was the very strongest in support of their report. Mr. Dawson, when examined, stated, that being desirous to crush the system of crimps or & drawlers he had sent a respectable agent, Mr. Carapet, to the district which 654 supplies the Coolies, with orders to explain to them fully the nature of their engagement, and that they were to leave their country for five years. Mr. Carapet, to aid him in his mission, was furnished with letters of introduction to the Governor-general's agent, and other influential persons; and what was the result? Mr. Carapet did not succeed in obtaining a single Cooly; while at the same time, and in the same districts, the duffadars, under the old system of fraud and misrepresentation, were obtaining them by hundreds. He believed he had adverted to this evidence on a former night, but he thought it right to mention it again, when the dissect of Mr. Dewson was relied upon. His hon. Friend the Member for Guilfdord had laid great stress on the minute of Mr. Grant, and he (Mr. Hogg) was ready to admit the ability of that gentleman, and the attention to which his opinions were entitled. But Mr. Grant, though differing from the conclusion of the committee, does not differ from them in their opinion as to the evils and abuses that existed. He says, when adverting to themߞIn these particulars, so far from objecting to the opinions of the majority, if I had agreed in the great conclusion of their report, and so been competent to sign it, I should have felt it my duty to move for a more pointed expression of opinion in certain respects.It seemed admitted then by all, that evils and abuses of a frightful character existed in India, and that legislative enactments had failed in preventing them. Lord Auckland states in his minute, that he has no faith in the validity of regulations, and declares the inutility of what he designates the cumbrous machinery of inspectors and protectors. He adds his opinion, that if the law should be relaxed, not more than ten or twenty Coolies, according to the size of the vessel, ought to be permitted to embark together. Much importance had been attached to the examinations of the Coolies who had returned and to the proportion of deaths that occurred at the Mauritius. He confessed he did not attach much weight to these examinations. Many of those examined had obviously been sent back for the express purpose of decoying more. Others were under the apprehension that they would incur the displeasure of the authorities if they expressed any dissatisfaction at the treatment which they had received; and the number of those examined (being he believed under 200) was insufficient to 655 justify the forming of any opinion. Why had not more been examined? Where, he would ask, were the statements of the thousands referred to by Lord Auckland, whose contracts were to expire in the course of last year? But now supposing that a great number of the Coolies did declare themselves reconciled, or at least habituated, to their wretched lot, did that alter the character of the fraud and violence that bad been first practised upon them? As to the number of deaths, there was no statistical information that could be relied upon. The report of the chief commissioner of police at the Mauritius states the number of Indian labourers introduced into that colony from August 1834 up to the end of 1838 to be under 13,000; while Mr. Anderson, who came to this country as the agent of the Mauritius planters, states, that up to the beginning of 1829 about 25,000 labourers had been introduced from India, which number had been reduced by deaths and expiration of service to less than 18,000. What, he asked, had become of those 7,000? If they had returned to India, where were their examinations and the report of their return? If they had died at the Mauritius, how frightful must have been the mortality! Mr. Anderson, while advocating emigration, admits with great candour the evils that existed, both in India and at the Mauritius. He states that the emigrants were deceived and misled by the duffadars and robbed of their advances in India; that at the Mauritius they were prevented by fear from complaining of the bad usage they received; that no attention was paid to their comforts, and no consideration shown for their prejudices; so that under the name of transfers, daily sales were made of their services. With such facts and opinions before the House, he would ask if they were prepared to sanction the renewal of the trade? He admitted, that the provisions of the noble Lord went far to prevent the abuses which had occurred on the passage, and at the Mauritius, and to secure to the Indian labourers comfort during their voyage to the Mauritius, and good treatment and fair wages after their arrival there. He thought, that with some modifications which he would venture to suggest before he sat down, the provisions regarding the Mauritius, were all that could be desired. But where were the provisions for India? And he begged the House to bear in mind, that total prohibition had not been resorted to until after 656 local legislation had failed. Nothing could be more meagre and unsatisfactory than the despatch from the Court of Directors to the Governor-general. Why was it that the proceedings of Parliament and the Court of Directors had been suspended until the report of the committee and the opinions of the Members of Council should be received? He presumed it was for the purpose of considering these documents, and passing some enactment, or offering some suggestions on the subject. But now, after the required report and opinions had been received, the whole is bundled back to the local Government, with instructions containing some vague generalities, but nothing intelligible or practical. The despatch of the Court of Directors might have been sufficient when the subject was first mooted, but it was not such a despatch as ought to have been written, after the exposure of the atrocities of the system, and the failure of all the remedies that had been tried. He (Mr. Hogg) would' not object to the cautious and partial relaxation suggested by Lord Auckland, but he felt fully satisfied, that voluntary emigration could never supply the wants of the Mauritius, the reality of which he admitted and lamented. If the system proposed by the noble Lord was adopted, the expence entailed upon the Mauritius would be so great, that the colony would sustain a grievous loss, and would have just reason to complain, if not supplied with a sufficient number of Coolies. There would be a kind of obligation to supply labour commensurate to the expense, and emigration, instead of being voluntary, would inevitably be coerced to the extent of the funds advanced by the island. How could it suit the purpose of the Mauritius to pay hosts of inspectors both in India and in the colony, unless there was some organised plan that insured to them the number of Coolies they required? To any such organised trade in Coolies, he (Mr. Hogg) bad insuperable objections. To free and voluntary emigration he had none. He had already admitted, that as regards the voyage and treatment at the Mauritius, the provisions introduced by the noble Lord were most considerate, and tended to remove many of the existing evils. There were some suggestions which he would venture to submit for the noble Lord's consideration. It was provided, that the Cooly need not enter into any contract for forty-eight hours, after his arrival, and that during 657 that period, he shall be maintained. Thus, after the expiration of forty-eight hours, the Cooly would be absolutely destitute, and compelled to accept any offer that might be made to him. It could not be expected, that a Cooly, arriving in a strange country, could inform himself in so short a time, as to the rate of wages and the character of the: planters who might wish to engage him. He (Mr. Hogg) thought, that instead of forty-eight hours, a period of five or six days should be allowed to the Cooly after his arrival, and that during that time he should be supported, unless he earlier entered into service. Again, the lodgings assigned to the Indian labourers were of the most wretched description. Mr. Anderson states, that he had rarely seen anything but the bare floor provided for them, and that they were crowded together in a manner that seemed to render respiration almost impossible. He also thought, that there ought to be some arrangement for district hospitals, and that the Coolies ought not to be dependent on the accomodation provided for the sick at the private establishments, which Mr. Anderson states was more calculated to increase disease, than to alleviate its sufferings. There was no provision for the accurate report of any deaths, or to secure for the relatives of the deceased any arrears of wages that might be due. It was stated in the despatch of the court of directors, that it was provided, that the emigrant should have the means of returning whenever he was desirous of doing so, He begged to say, that there was no such provision or suggestion in any of the documents before the House. The only provision for the return of the Cooly was after the expiration of five years, when he was entitled to demand payment of his passage back to India. He felt there could be little use in offering any suggestion several months after the instructions had been forwarded to India, but still he considered it his duty to mention what occurred to him. He would now proceed to state the suggestions which he would have wished to have been embodied in the despatch to the Governor-general, and which he had already urged unsuccessfully in his place in the court of directors. He would, in the first place, strike at the root of the evil, by adopting measures to prevent the duffadars or native crimps, who now infested the interior of India, deceiving and defrauding the natives, from any longer pursuing their vocation. He would not 658 permit one of them to enter any district for the purpose of procuring Coolies. If Coolies were required for the Mauritius, from any district, he would direct the magistrate and collector to give every possible publicity to any notification on the subject, and to desire the attendance before them of such persons as might wish to avail themselves of the offer. But not a single Indian ought to be withdrawn from his home, until he had appeared before the European authority of the district, and in his presence, had stated his willingness to emigrate, having had fully explained to him the nature of the employment, the terms of the contract he would be required to enter into, and above all, that he must leave his country, and proceed over the sea. It was a mockery to talk of examining him in Calcutta, after he had abandoned his family and his home, and felt irrevocably committed to the wretch who had inveigled him from his native bills. Was he likely to seek redress when thus flung for the first time into a mighty metropolis, and bewildered by all that surrounded him? The protection to be of any avail, must be afforded before he left his home. With regard to the disparity in the sexes, he was aware, that if the natives of India were prevented from emigrating, unless accompanied by their wives and families, such a regulation would be equivalent to an absolute prohibition of all emigration; and he would not sanction any proceeding that was indirect. The objection of the natives in India, and indeed throughout the East, to remove their families from their home, particularly over the sea, was almost insuperable. Throughout the Eastern Archipelago, where the natives of China abounded, scarcely a Chinese woman was to be met with, and the laws of that empire equally prohibited the emigration of men and women. He was further aware, that if such a provision prevailed, the natives who might wish to emigrate would leave their wives at home, and would provide themselves in Calcutta with abandoned women to accompany them. He, therefore, would not render it imperative on the Indian labourers to take their families with them, but would afford them every facility and inducement to do so. He also thought that arrangements ought to be made to secure to them the means of easy and frequent communication with their families, and of having paid to them, during their absence, a part of their wages. Indeed, 659 considering the misery and destitution that prevailed among the families of those who had hitherto emigrated, he thought it ought to be imperative on the emigrant to make an adequate provision for his family. The time for leaving India ought also to be regulated. It ought to be limited to the Monsoon, when a passage could be made in a few weeks, while at other periods of the year it would occupy several months. To prevent the clandestine ship, ping of Coolies, which had taken place to a great extent, there ought to be an examination of the vessel at the last place of anchorage as well as at the port of embarkation. The last suggestion he would venture to offer, and by far the most important in its principle, was the necessity for some arrangement with the foreign European powers who had possessions in India. Lord Auckland was of opinion that such arrangements could only be made by the authorities at home. and he distinctly, arrangements we should not be justified in re-opening emigration, even to the Mauritius. He was sorry to observe the manner in which this all-important subject had been slurred over in the dispatch. Already were our motives subjected to undue suspicion by those states who were unwilling to co-operate with us in the great and good work, in which we had so long been engaged, and for which we had made such sacrifices. Our acts were jealously watched, and contrasted with the principles we professed and inculcated; and he earnestly entreated the House, not from any pressure of expediency, to incur the risk of having it imputed to us, that we permitted in India that which was too similar to what we deprecated in Africa. He begged pardon of the House for having occupied 80 much of their time, but he felt the deepest interest in the subject, and feared It would hereafter appear that it had not received from Parliament the attention which its importance demanded. If the proposed measure should receive the sanction of Parliament and become the law of the land, he most earnestly hoped that it would realise all the benefits that had been anticipated, and in every situation in which he might be placed, he would afford it his best and most anxious support. But, if on the contrary, he should have occasion to lament its failure, and the recurrence of those evils which all must deplore, it would be a Consolation to him to reflect, that however feeble his voice and ineffec- 660 tual his efforts, he had throughout afforded it a sincere, an hones, and a conscientious opposition.
thought it was desirable, that the House should fully understand the state of the case on which they were now about to legislate. Soon after the passing of the Slave Emancipation Act, in 1835, some merchants of the Mauritius finding that a great diminution of labour took place, partly in consequence of the unwillingness of the negroes to work, contemplated, and carried into effect, a plan for enlisting in their employment, by means of private agents, a number of, the natives of India. He did not hesitate to express his belief, that in many instances, these Indians were led by fraudulent pretences and promises to go to the Mauritius, where they were induced to enter into agreements to serve certain masters for a period of live years. This system gave extensive abuses; and in 1837, it was found necessary by the Indian government to adopt measures for regulating the deportation of these labourers. In 1838, it was deemed requisite absolutely to prohibit the departure of labourers from India to the Mauritius, or the West-Indian colonies; and it was this law which the hon. Gentleman was desirous of perpetuating, while the object of the present bill was to permit the emigration of labourers under certain restrictions. In 1838, the year in which the law to which he had just referred was adopted, a commission was appointed by the Governor-general of India in council to inquire into the abuses alleged to exist with respect to the exportation of Hill Coolies and labourers from Bengal to the Mauritius. In 1840, the noble Lord, the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, called Upon the House to rescind the prohibitory law, and to permit the exportation of Indian labourers to the Mauritius. He gave his vote silently, though reluctantly, against that proposal. A right hon. Friend of his, who also voted against the proposal, stated that the grounds on which he rested his opposition were these. That a commission had been appointed to inquire into the Subject, and that before that House was called upon to legislate, the report of this commission ought to be placed in their hands, and he also suggested, that the Government should communicate with the Governor-general, and consider during the recess the adoption of 661 measures which might remedy the grievances complained of. These were the grounds, also, on which he had given his vote on the occasion to which he alluded. Now, however, the House was in possession of ample information on the subject, and a plan maturely considered, was submitted into the judgment of Parliament. The Government had proceeded to legislate, by Order in Council, which had been sent out to India, to regulate the passage of the Hill Coolies to the Mauritius, and now they came to that House to regulate the trade between India and the Mauritius. He wished to take up this case not for the benefit of the Mauritius alone. He knew, that without the importation of Hill Coolies their sugar-growing would fall off, and there would be much distress; but, with all the advantage of this importation of labour to the Mauritius, he would not bring forward this bill if he were not satisfied, that the importation of Hill Coolies would not only be beneficial to the Mauritius, but that it would be also for the permanent advantage of India itself. He celled on the House, then, not from a species of indolent humanity to say, " There are abuses in the system of exportation of labour from India which we have not time to see into, and the Indians shall, therefore, not improve their circumstances, nor shall that country relieve itself of its starving population." If he proved that remedies had been applied to these abuses, he trusted that the House would not continue longer a bill which violated all the principles of sound policy and legislation. The alleged grievances of the exportation of Hill Coolies might be comprised under the following heads. Firsts that the Coolies were deceived, and entered into engagements of which they knew nothing. Next, that they were kidnapped at Calcutta; that there were great frauds by advancing money to them, and getting them into debt, and into the power of those who supported them; that the contracts they entered into were disadvantageous to them; and that their families were left unprovided for. This system arose from individual merchants having paid agents, to whom they gave so much per bead for inducing the Coolies to enter into these contracts. The committee appointed to inquire into this subject, re-rimed on the operation of the bill to prevent the exportation of Hill CooliesߞThat this law, not content with getting rid 662 of the whole of the abuses complained of, imposes strange and servile restrictions on the liberty and means of livelihood of many of the Indian people.The only abuse of moment related to the people getting under contracts to serve for a term; but this law prohibits all persons going of their own accord unfettered by any contract to other portions of the empire where their labour may be advantageous. That to justify such a law, a case of necessity must be made out, there needs no argument.Mr. Grant statedߞNo such case of necessity can be made out, I have never heard it seriously argued, that any evil could arise from the spontaneous emigration of labourers from India unfettered by any contract. The kidnapping arose from individuals paying so much a-head for labourers, and getting them to work under contracts.But that system had already been done away with. The present system gave no benefit to any individual by the introduction of any exclusive labour. No individual planter was empowered to send out to collect labourers, but the colony was empowered to vote a sum of money to pay the expenses of the emigration of the labourers, and when those emigrants arrived, they were free to choose masters and go where they pleased; but they had the advantage of having their passage paid free, and they might then compete for wages with the freest men there. The whole system was altered, from the very root, the moment they substituted a public grant individual speculation. The temptation for kidnapping ceased at once. What was the language of the committee on the system of money advances to the Coolies, and getting them into debt?The system of nominal allowances to the Coolies was one of fraudulent gain, and it is certain, if advances were prohibited the main stay of the Hill Cooly trade, as carried on heretofore, would certainly be at once removed.All advances were positively prohibited by the system now brought into operation, and in the most certain manner fat there was now no means of recovering a debt so lent. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hogg) said the Coolies were kith napped—they were cooped up in houses, false passports were given them, they were placed under the control of the police, there was no security against their being changed and shipped off for the benefit of the exporting merchant. All this was 663 altered. There were now placed under a Government agent, whose duty it was to muster them and deliver them their passports and keep a descriptive catalogue of each person, and no one was permitted to emigrate till the Government agent had explained to him the condition into which he was going, and the life he was to lead. It was again said that as the vessel dropped down the river, other persons were taken on board, and there was protection against this. The protection taken was this: the shipper was paid for the safe import of so many persons, checked by the Government agent at the Mauritius; and if he brought one more than his complement, he was fined 5l.; and if in any particular he had altered, changed, or increased the number beyond this, he forfeited the whole of his freight. It was then said that the contracts were unfavourable. He knew they were. Under the contract system, the net wages of the Hill Cooly at 8s. a month amounted to 4l.16s. per annum, whilst the wages of the free negro at half a dollar a day, amounted to 361. 10s. The hon. Member for Beverly said this system had been unaltered; but that was not the case. The Hill Cooly was now capable of earning 361. 10s. per annum, that being a sum some hundred times as much as he could ever by possibility earn by his labour in his own country. The only difficulty the Hill Cooly would have would be to choose amongst his employers, and how he should most advantageously sell his services. Many of them under, the late contract system had returned to India with considerable Rums of money. The hon. Member said they were but decoy ducks, but at any rate, they had earned money under all the disadvantages of the contract system. They, must not talk of the Cooly being unable to take care of himself. The chief inconveniences of the old system arose from the Coolies perpetually making frivolous complaints in order to break their contracts, because they saw free men earning double and treble their wages. No doubt, in some cases under the former system, they had been treated as slaves, but under the present system the labourer, being bound by no tie or contract, would leave the master who ill-used him, and find a hundred others ready to take him. Nay, more, by a short-sighted policy some of the masters were constantly endeavouring, by offering higher wages, to induce the 664 labourers to break through their engagements and go over to them. In the event of the Hill Cooly becoming dissatisfied, there was nothing to interfere with his return, for by common industry he might, in the course of a year, earn fifty rupees, a sum amply sufficient to enable him to return to his native country. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Northampton, he believed, on a former night, when this bill was under discussion, objected to the protection of the Hill Coolies being left to the superintendence of the special magistrates; but what said Sir Lionel Smith—no mean authority—on that subject? Sir Lionel Smith, in the Mauritius, said,Let the Governor-general of India make such protective regulations that the labourers may emigrate, and I will undertake to provide for their full and efficient protection here.Now, he had no wish to speak in disparagement of the late Sir Lionel Smith, but he would say, there was no man in whom more implicit reliance could be placed than in Sir W. Gomm, the present governor of the Mauritius. Upon his high and honourable feeling the House and the country might safely rely for a vigorous and impartial administration of justice. But again, other objections which had been urged were met by the provisions which this bill contained for the services of medical attendants, and to enable the emigrant Hill Coolies to remit to their wives and families such portions of their earnings as they could spare, and if any emigrant desired to take his wife and family with him, the ship owner or his agent was bound to take them, and the colony was bound to pay for their passage out. On the whole, this measure in all its details had received, notwithstanding the opposition of the hon. and learned Member for Beverley, the sanction of the Court of Directors of the East India Company; and that decision had been affirmed by the Court of Proprietors, on a division, he believed, of fifty-four to twenty-two. Thus the sanction of the popular body had been added to that of the governing body. The refusal to assent to the particular clause which had been referred to would indicate on the part of the House a disapprobation of this measure, which he should deeply regret, and though he could not anticipate the House would sanction the permanent continuance of so injurious a law against the opinions of the Court of 665 Directors, of the Court of Proprietors, and of the Governor-general of India, he bad now boldly had plainly stated the whole case, and he confidently left it in the hands of the House.
§ Mr. Hastie
inquired whether the bill contained any provision for the maintenance of the wife and family of the Hill Cooly. during his absence in the Mauritius?
replied that, as he had already stated, the Governor-general would have power to compel the shipowners, or their agents, to take out the wives and families of such emigrants as desired to accompany the husbands. He, by this bill, did not profess to make any provision for the wives and families that remained in India, more than already existed, with regard to the families of Hill Coolies who came from the country, and engaged for three or four years with a master in Calcutta.
§ Mr. Hastie
observed, that, when a man engaged as a servant in Calcutta, he had means of transmitting his savings for the support of his wife and family; but, if he were transported to the Mauritius, a considerable time must elapse before he could remit anything to those he had left in his native country. With regard to the provision to enable the wife to accompany the husband, he thought it would be useless, for it was well known that, sooner than go to the Mauritius, or anywhere else, the women would rather drown themselves in the Ganges, and think they were going to Heaven; while, if they went to sea, they would be of opinion they were going in a contrary direction.
§ Sir R. Inglis
could not but regard with suspicion the export of labour which he could not consider to be free. On this question, therefore, he could not give that support to the Government which he usually afforded.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the principle of the bill was one which the House were, every day, allowing to be carried out, with reference not only to the colonies, but to this country, and therefore he did not see why an exception should be made in the case of the Mauritius. He supported the bill on the general principle of free-trade in labour, and he thought that the objections to it equally applied to the system of emigration which had been so long acted on in this country.
|List of theAYES|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Hodgson, R.|
|Acland, T. D.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Allix, J.P.||Hornby, J.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Hume, J.|
|Astell, W.||Hussey, T.|
|Baird, W.||Hutt, W.|
|Baldwin, B.||Jermyn, Earl.|
|Bankes, G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Barclay, D.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Baring, hon. W. B,||Jones, Capt.|
|Bateson, R.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Beresford, Major||Knight, H. G.|
|Blackburne, J. 1.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Boldero, H. G.||Litton, E.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Lockhart, W.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Lyall, G.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Campbell, A.||Martin, C. W.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Masterman, J.|
|Clerk, Sir 0.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Clive, hon. It. H.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Neville, R.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Newry, Visct.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Nicholl, right hon. J.|
|Cripps, W.||Northland, Visct.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Palmer, G.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Philips, M.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Eliot, Lord||Praed, W. T.|
|Escott, B.||Pringle, A.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Fielden, W.||Sanderson, R.|
|Fitzroy, Capt.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Scott, R.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Smith, rt. hn. R. V.|
|Forbes, W.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Stanley, Lord|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Stewart, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Stuart, H.|
|Gladstone, T.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Taylor, J. A.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Goulburn, rt hon. H.||Tollemache, J.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Trotter, J.|
|Greene, T,||Vivian, J. E.|
|Grimston, Visct.||Wall, C. B.|
|Grogan, E.||Wilshere, W.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Young, J.|
|Henley, J. W.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Baring, H.|
|List of the AYES|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Kemble, H.|
|Ashley, Lord||O'Brien, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Connell, D.|
|Broadley, H.||O'Conor Don|
|Brotherton, J.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Duncan, G.||Thorneley, T.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Ewart, W.||Williams, W.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Wood, B.|
|Lord M.||Hawes, B.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Hogg, J. W.|
§ Bill passed.