Mr. Vernon Smith
rose to call the attention of the House, pursuant to notice, to the recent Order in Council respecting the emigration of Hill Coolies, and to move for a copy of the instructions given by the India Board to Lord Ellen-borough on that subject. The hon. Member, after stating that he considered that the course which the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies was pursuing upon this question was calculated to retard the progress of the improvement now taking place in the West India Islands, shortly stated the position in which the subject was with reference to the supply of labour imported into those islands to compete with the emancipated negroes. In 1837 an importation of Hill Coolies from 1322 the East Indies into the West India Islands bad taken place, others having been previously introduced into the Mauritius in 1835 Owing to some mismanagement which had occurred upon the same subject in British Guiana, Lord Brougham, in the year 1838, had made an able and eloquent speech relative to the introduction of Hill Coolies into that colony, which had the effect of putting a stop to it, and which led to the determination of the people of this country, that nothing short of a prohibition on the part of the Governor-general of India against any further exportation of Hill Coolies would be satisfactory to them. His noble Friend (Lord John Russell) afterwards introduced a bill called the Colonial Passengers' Act, showing his intention to be to take some steps with respect to Hill Coolies in the Mauritius; and at the time, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that it would be better that he should issue an Order in Council upon the subject. But his noble Friend, not deeming that the proper way to raise the discussion, had not adopted that course. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) proposed that a bill should be introduced for raising the question; but his (Mr. V. Smith's) noble Friend thought it better to raise it by proposing the introduction of clauses in the Colonial Passenger's Bill, and that course was approved of by the House. A discussion then took place, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the late Member for the Tower Hamlets actively opposed the proposition of the Government, but on a division, the bill was allowed to proceed. In the meantime, however, the whole machinery of the anti-slavery party was brought to bear against the measure; and after the third reading on the question that the bill should pass, it was thrown out, and mainly by the agency of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester, who came down with one of his "heavy pounding" speeches, and destroyed their chance of passing the bill for that time, declaring that "he would not be called upon to legislate without having any defined plan laid before him by the noble Lord." The right hon. Baronet was assisted on that occasion by an hon. Friend, who was a director of the East India Company, who presented a petition from that body against the measure, and said, that before they passed such a measure they ought to wait the result of information from India. This was the position of the matter at the close 1323 of the last Session; and what he contended for was, that by throwing out that bill, they gave Parliamentary sanction to the prohibition against the exportation of Hill Coolies from India to the Mauritius. He must say, then, that he thought it somewhat strange that the present Government should so soon violate the pledges which they had extracted from their predecessors, and it was because he thought the step taken by the noble Lord the present Secretary for the Colonies, unjustified either by the opinions of parties acquainted with the subject, or the weight of evidence, that he felt it incumbent on him to bring the matter under the consideration of the House. At all events, before he adopted the course which he had thought fit to take, the noble Lord should have invited discussion in Parliament; but this he had not done, although the question was one of immense importance, not only to the interests of proprietors in both the West Indies and the Mauritius, but to the happiness of hundreds of thousands of the unfortunate Hill Coolies. What did the report presented to that House contain? That report was drawn up by six gentlemen, appointed by the Governor-general of India, one of whom, however, had returned to this country before it was signed, but his opinions having been published in a pamphlet, were well known before the Colonial Passengers' Bill was thrown out. Three of the remaining five only signed the report, but still it was the report of the majority; and although somewhat long like Indian reports, it was in many respects an able report. The conclusion to be drawn from this report was that, on the whole, emigration of Hill Coolies to the Mauritius was unadvisable, in this opinion Mr. Dowton did not concur; but it could, not be expected that he would have been unfavourable to a trade in which he was largely engaged. He now came to the report of Mr. J. P. Grant, and he admitted that it was an able report. Mr. J. P. Grant seemed favourable to the importation of Hill Coolies to the Mauritius; but there were parts of his statements which would seem to lead to an opposite conclusion, because he admitted the existence of abuses and divided them into three heads. 1. There were abuses in India, the police who were the only persons for the execution of the law, bang suspected of assisting crimps. 2. There were abuses at sea; there was a considerable want of fresh water, and upon 1324 every passage some of those unfortunate persons threw themselves overboard, for the purpose, as Mr. Grant conjectured, of being picked up again. In the third place there were abuses at the Mauritius, and the slave owners were not to be trusted with the management of the Hill Coolies. Yet, in spite of these opinions, this gentleman was highly favourable to their exportation. He was anxious only to prevent a great cause from being endangered by a premature or false step. The next paper he should advert to was the minute of Lord Auckland. There were four other minutes, but he would only refer to the minute of Lord Auckland, because he was sure no one in that House could doubt either the sterling good sense or humanity of his noble Friend, the late Governor-general of India. The question was, did the minute of Lord Auckland justify the course which the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary for the Colonies, had taken, or did it contain any opinion that such a course would be beneficial either to India or the Mauritius. He charged the noble Lord opposite (the Secretary for the Colonies) with precipitation, and, therefore, in justification of the noble Lord, he would read the strongest parts of the minute of Lord Auckland, in order that the House might be able fairly to judge of the matter. What did Lord Auckland say? Why, after alluding to the opinion of Mr. Dewson, who maintained opposite views, he said:—The attention which I have been able to give to the subject, has led me to no very satisfactory general conclusion upon it, embracing, as it does, the difficult question of opening emigration to many distant and even foreign colonies…It was upon no understood practice, and only by the busy intervention of an active agency, that the first emigrants were induced to seek their fortunes in the Mauritius; and whether the many who have since done so have done it to their own good or evil, is a proposition which is yet to be solved, on which there have not been time and experience sufficient to determine.Again,—I greatly fear that, though the amendment and caution would no doubt come with time, no strictness of regulation, no vigilance on the part of the authorities, would immediately prevent the frequent infliction of grievous oppressions and deceits upon large numbers of persons, helpless from their poverty, and from their utter ignorance and inexperience.Speaking of the police, he said,—It is, however, but too true that this branch 1325 of our service is most defective and ineffective, and the different experiments which have been tried for its reform have greatly ended in disappointment.Lord Auckland also said,—It will be for her Majesty's Government to decide whether distinctions as to the supply of labour can be admitted between the several Crown settlements. As respects the interests for which we are more especially responsible, I would say that my objections are assuredly the strongest to dealings of this description with the colonies and settlements which are most distant. The sea passage to them is, from its very length, liable to suffering and to hazard. We could not follow the emigrant with our care and protection; and we do not know to what laws or usages he might be consigned. With the Mauritius, however, the case is different; it is a British settlement, easily accessible from India, and open to our observation; and if the question were that of opening emigration to that island alone, I would willingly attempt to meet the difficulties which might be opposed to us, and I should hope shortly and gradually, in a very great measure, to overcome them by a plan such as had been suggested by Mr. Grant.Lord Auckland further observed,We must remember, however, that in permitting emigration to the Mauritius, it would be necessary to guard against the possibility of labourers shipped nominally for that island being carried elsewhere, or their being inveigled while on the island into contracts of service in other settlements where we could have no security for their treatment. The interests of the masters in the colony would be a powerful check against the latter evil, and I should not despair of our being able to provide duly for both of these objects again.But after we shall have been satisfied of the safety of emigration to the Mauritius itself, we shall still have to consider that such emigration could scarcely be allowed without its leading also to a renewed emigration of labourers, chiefly British subjects, from Pondicherry, or other European settlements in India, to foreign colonies. The government of Pondicherry has co-operated with us in a manner for which all our gratitude is due, in prohibiting exportation from its territory, while the prohibition was strictly in force on our own coasts; but we cannot expect that we shall be permitted to stock Mauritius with labourers without immediate facilities being again given by the French authorities for emigration to Bourbon. From papers which were before me in 1837, it is my impression that great care is taken by the Bourbon government to insure the proper treatment of imported labourers; but this is a fact not to be assumed upon any imperfect evidence, and the importance of the consideration affecting this part of the sub- 1326 ject will be duly estimated by the Government in England in framing final instructions for our guidance. The home authorities alone will be able to determine how far the cordial co-operation of foreign governments is to be relied on in the steady enforcement of measures of effectual precaution and protection within the limits of these settlements. If we cannot depend on that co-operation, I fear that we should not be justified in opening emigration even to the Mauritius.Now, here were the opinions of Lord Auckland; but was it not clear that the noble Lord opposite had not followed these opinions. In none of the papers on the Table did it appear that the noble Lord opposite had done anything to ensure this "cordial co-operation" on the part of foreign governments; and it could not be doubted that some foreign Governments were not likely to consent to an arrangement which would tend to promote the prosperous cultivation of the colonies of this country. Lord Auckland, in concluding his minute, said:—If, therefore, all plans for an extended emigration should be for the present rejected by the home authorities, and if the expediency of some relaxation of the existing law should nevertheless be admitted, I should be disposed to regulate but little, to have for such a restricted purpose no cumbrous machinery of inspectors and protectors, and examiners, but simply to declare that no ship shall take more than ten or twenty such passengers; perhaps not more than one for every twenty-five tons of each vessel. A provision of this kind would be open to none of the objections by which the adoption of a larger measure may be impeded, and it would take off the character of excessive and impolitic, if not of unjust restraint from the enactment as it at present stands.Now, he contended, that the minute of Lord Auckland was not only exceedingly doubtful, but did not warrant the noble Lord opposite in taking any step in the matter without first obtaining the sanction of Parliament. He would not trouble the House with the minutes of Mr. Bird, Mr. Prinsep, and Mr. Amos, neither would he refer to the ill-treatment of the Coolies by other parties besides crimps and serangs. An examination of some Hill Coolies took place at Calcutta, an account of which was published in the British Friend of India Magazine. The result of that examination established, that these poor men had been much disappointed in their expectations. Many stated, that they only saved one rupee a month, and that they had left their wives 1327 and families in India to be supported by their friends. Five of the Hill Coolies who were examined stated, that they would not be induced to return to the Mauritius, if they were offered sixteen rupees per month. There were only two who expressed a willingness to return. From this examination he would infer, that very few of these Hill Coolies were desirous of going back to the Mauritius, notwithstanding that they were represented to have been so comfortably situated in that island. At the same time he thought, that under proper regulations the case would be different. What he asserted, however, was, that up to October 1841, there was no evidence which could justify the departure of the present Government from the course adopted by their predecessors, and that instead of stating his intention, as he ought to have done, the noble Lord opposite had allowed his Order in Council to slip out through a corner of the Gazette. He would direct the attention of the House to the line of policy pursued by the noble Lord since his appointment to the office which he now filled. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, introduced to the notice of Parliament at the commencement of the present Session two bills, one entitled the Passengers' Act, and the second was the Colonial Lands Administration Act, both of which the noble Lord might have found already prepared for him at the Colonial-office by his predecessor in office. It was to the first bill that he would direct his observations. Before that bill was introduced, the Order in Council with reference to the Hill Coolies appeared in the Gazette, and he would say, that a more feeble, worthless, inefficient document he had never met with in the course of his parliamentary career. The preamble was ridiculous, foolish, and feeble in the extreme. If such an order had been issued by the late Government, he would have been the first to denounce it as being a rash and reckless act of a Whig Administration. He wished the noble Lord to inform him whether the Order in Council was published with the knowledge and approbation of the East India Company. It was essentially necessary that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies should know whether the East India Company intended to co-operate with him in carrying his scheme into operation before he attempted to do so upon his own responsibility. He thought that if the Hill Coolies could obtain sufficient sustenance 1328 and employment in India, perhaps in cultivating sugar with which the India servants were connected, there existed no necessity for them to emigrate. He had no objection to their taking advantage of a free market, provided they were protected against want and fraud. If there was no correspondence between the noble Lord who had recently left this country for the East Indies and the Board of Commissioners, he thought that the East India Company had not, been treated with proper respect by the noble Lord. The public had a right to be made acquainted with the opinion of the noble Lord on the subject. He would ask why did not the noble Lord wait for the meeting of Parliament before lie issued his Order in Council? Was the noble Lord afraid of exciting the opposition and clamour of the anti-slavery party, which he had, when out of office, directed against the late Whig Government? What was the difference between the present circumstances and those which existed two years ago? If the prosperity of either the Mauritius or the Hill Coolies had been prejudiced, all he could say was, that the noble Lord opposite was responsible for it, in consequence of the obstacles he threw in the way of the measure of 1840. It was quite clear, although the noble Lord had not stated it, that the bill he had introduced related to the Hill Coolies, for it contained a clause, giving—Power to the Governor-general of India in Council to adopt this act, with certain exceptions, in India.The noble Lord should have stated this fact; but his not having done so shows why he had issued his Orders in Council two days before Parliament had met. This, however, was substituting Crown-made law for law made by Parliament. Now, he wished the noble Lord to answer the question he should put; in the first place he wished to know the nature of the communications received from the East India Company, and the instructions given to the present Governor-general of India. That noble Lord could not have gone out without definite instructions on this subject. It was well known that in 1838 the present Governor-general of India opposed the emigration of Hill Coolies, whom he described as being more like monkeys than men, and yet he was ready to sanction and facilitate their exportation. This was a most inconsistent position in which to place 1329 that noble Lord. But what had occurred to justify the change of opinion in the hon. Members opposite? He was anxious to see both the West Indies and the Mauritius properly cultivated, and that the natives of India should be at liberty to dispose of their labour to the best advantage, and it was for these reasons that he now called for the production of the correspondence with the East India Company, and the instructions given to Lord Ellen-borough. He should also like to be informed what steps the noble Lord had taken to ensure the "cordial co-operation" of foreign powers. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for a copy of the instructions given by the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India to Lord Ellenborough on the subject of the recent Order in Council respecting the emigration of Hill Coolies.
Sir, I beg the indulgence of the House while I endeavour to meet the various attacks which the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made on me and the Government for that which he calls the rash and precipitate course which we have adopted—while I endeavour to show that neither is our conduct now inconsistent with that which we pursued in 1840, nor have we been negligent with regard to the various parties whose interests we had to consider, nor have the measures which we have taken been adopted without due consideration. The right hon. Gentleman made one charge against us which has surprised me, and that is, that two days before the meeting of Parliament, we thought fit not to promulgate an Order in Council but to allow it to sneak out through a corner of the Gazette. The right hon. Gentleman is not so ignorant of official business as not to know that the usual mode in which Orders in Council are promulgated is through the Gazette, and yet this is what he calls sneaking out. But he says it is to him most surprising that the Order in Council to which he referred should appear just two days before the meeting of Parliament. Sir, he is quite right in saying, that, for the purpose of formally issuing that Order in Council, a meeting of the Cabinet was held, and I presume his official experience will necessarily acquaint him that it is not unusual for a Cabinet Council to meet within two or three days of the assembling of Parliament, so that this ominous issuing of the Order 1330 in Council' does not arise from any very extraordinary cause. The right hon. Gentleman very singularly assumes that, because the order was issued two days before the meeting of Parliament, and because it appeared in the Government Gazette on the day on which Parliament assembled, it was intended to keep that order from the attention of Parliament. Now, Sir, I must say, that, if there can be any obvious means of issuing the order in such a way as that it might not escape the attention of the Parliament, it is issuing it two days before, and publishing it in the Gazette on the very day on which Parliament meets for the purpose of resuming its duties. But the right hon. Gentleman says that we have no authority for the course which we have thought fit to adopt, that it is not the course which his noble Friend, the noble Lord who was at the head of the Colonies, in the late Government, proposed to adopt in 1840, and that he would take a different course now. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that, immediately after the sitting of Parliament, when he asked me if it was my intention to lay that order on the Table of the House, I stated that not only was it my intention to lay it on the Table of the House, but that it was also my intention to accompany it with such documents as I conceived would be necessary for the elucidation of that order. As if the right hon. Gentleman did not feel satisfied with that expression of my intentions with respect to the production of that Order in Council, and of those documents, he gave notice that it was his intention to move for a copy of any Order in Council, authorising the emigration of labourers to the Mauritius. The motion was, however, not made according to the notice; it was postponed more than once, and this morning notice was given me, although the Order in Council was laid on the Table ten days ago. This morning only did I learn it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to go at length into the whole question of Indian emigration to the Mauritius. For the satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman—if any satisfaction it be to him—I can state to him that no such course as he attributed has been adopted with reference to the East India Company, and that I laid on the Table of the House, with the Order in Council, the despatch of the Governor of the Mauritius and the despatch of the President of the 1331 Board of Control, with reference to the subject., The right hon. Gentleman has expressed himself greatly surprised at the course which has been taken in issuing the Order in Council without consulting the Parliament. Now, Sir, I hope that, whether as a Member of her Majesty's Government, or in any other capacity in which I may act, I shall never be guilty of anything which should appear wanting in respect to the House, and I beg to state that it was because we thought it consistent with that which was right and proper, that we acted upon our own responsibility as Ministers of the Crown, without previously bringing the subject before the Parliament, But the right hon. Gentleman says that the course which we adopt is not consistent with the course which we thought fit to take in 1840, when the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, brought forward the subject. Now, what has been the case as regards the consistency of the course we adopt now, as compared with that which we pursued in 1840? In 1840 the noble Lord stated that it was not his intention to consult Parliament as to the course which he intended to adopt; that he would act upon his own responsibility, and that a change had taken place in his views and opinions of the subject. The noble Lord said that, in consequence of that change which had taken place in his opinions, he would not consult Parliament as to the step he felt it proper to take. But the right hon. Gentleman says that Parliament would not allow the noble Lord to adopt that course which he stated his intention of taking. Now, I may venture to say to the right hon. Gentleman, that the refusal of Parliament to permit the noble Lord to act as he intended, was rather a significant hint that the Parliament had no great confidence in the Executive, and I have no doubt that if my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) should feel it necessary to answer the right hon. Gentleman, he will tell the right hon. Gentleman that he had no great confidence in the Executive at that period. What was the case in 1840? Lu that year the noble Lord stated that he had altered his views on a subject on which the House had expressed previously a very strong opinion, and we protested against his introducing such a change as he had indicated, without possessing farther information. But the right hon. 1332 Gentleman tells us that the course which we adopt now, in reference to the same subject, is inconsistent with the course which we adopted in 1840. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that the circumstances connected with the Mauritius are different from what they were in 1840. We have got more information. The proposal which is made with reference to the emigration of labourers is different from that which was proposed in 1840, and is not therefore liable to the same objections on the part of the Parliament and of the country; and if hon. Gentlemen will indulge me with a patient hearing, I will show to the House the gross abuses which formerly existed in connection with the emigration and employment of labourers, and I will also show to the House the means by which we propose to meet those evils. There were three stages in which gross abuses existed under the former system, namely, in the Mauritius, on the passage from India to the Mauritius, and in India. I do not mean, Sir, to deny that, under the system which formerly prevailed, great abuses existed in the Mauritius with regard to Indian emigrants. I will not deny that many of those people suffered great hardships, and that there had been some cases of cruelty; but I must also say that there have been great exaggerations in many statements, not only as regards the sufferings to which they were exposed in the Mauritius, but also as to the mortality which prevailed amongst them under that system. I have heard it stated, that the mortality in the Mauritius amongst Indian labourers, was worse than it had ever been amongst a similar number of labourers during the days of slavery, and I hold now in my hand a return, from which it will appear to the House that the mortality was not by any means so great amongst them as it had been represented. Taking a period of five years, namely, from the year 1834 to the year 1839, the whole amount of mortality amongst 17,028 Indian labourers in the Mauritius had been 999, making a proportion of one in seventeen, or one and one-seventeenth per cent. for five years. Is it possible, then, I ask, if there were not gross exaggerations in the statements which had been made as to the sufferings and mortality amongst those labourers in the Mauritius, that the mortality could not have been greater than an amount of one in seventeen for an 1333 average of five years, or an annual average of one in eighty-five of those 17,000 labourers imported for the whole period of five years. That appears by the return to be the state of mortality amongst those people, to whom I shall not apply the term Hill Coolies. They are Indian labourers. I objected to the injustice of the system under which those Indian labourers were formerly brought from India, to be employed in the Mauritius. The system which then prevailed was this:—A planter himself, or several planters combined, paid an agent in India, whose business it was to seek out labourers in India, who entered into agreements to emigrate to the Mauritius, and work for five years with those planters, at a rate of remuneration which was fixed in India. This agreement was made on the part of private individuals for their private interest, and the consequence of this unjust and fraudulent mode of proceeding was, that the labourer was often a virtual slave in the Mauritius during the five years for which he had contracted. The labourer found that he had no opportunity of increasing his amount of wages until the five years which he had contracted for had expired, and he found that, in consequence of advances of clothes and money in India, instead of receiving wages, he was often indebted to the planter for those advances. After having been deluded and smuggled from India, he found that he had no alternative; for he had been brought over for the private interests of the planter—for the private advantage of those who brought him over—he found, in fine, that he had been brought over under private arrangements, and to satisfy the private ends of those who induced him to go. It was under the injustice of that system that the labourer formerly suffered; and I ask how far do those objections apply to the system which we propose? The right hon. Gentleman opposite has said that he felt quite confident that Lord Ellenborough, who has now gone out to India, would be the last person in that country to assist in giving effect to the proposal which we intend to make. In reference to that statement allow me to say, that I should have greatly neglected my duty, if, long before the noble Lord bad left this country, and whilst he was President of the Board of Control, I had not entered into the subject in all its details, and in every bearing 1334 which it was capable of, in repeated personal conferences with Lord Ellen-borough. Before the departure of the noble Lord, all the main provisions of the proposal had been discussed with him and approved of, and he is now prepared to submit to the Council in India the measure which we propose, which is a measure that has obtained his full concurrence, and which is calculated, as far as possible, to prevent those abuses which formerly existed. There was one supposition thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman against the East India Company, which was so so unworthy of the character of that body, that I imagined there would be found some hon. Member ready upon their part to refute it. Before I allude further to the grounds upon which that supposition is founded, I will remark, with reference to the charge of rashness, that even though the Order in Council should be agreed to, and that it should be adopted by the colony of the Mauritius, yet it could not take effect, it could not be carried into operation in India, unless the Governor-general in Council, with the full concurrence of the East India Company, passed such a measure there as would remove all ground of complaint. But now let me call attention to the supposition which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed with respect to the East India Company. He says that the East India Company are connected with persons who are engaged in the growing of sugar, and he infers that in such a thinly-peopled country as India, where employment is so easily to be obtained, and so well remunerated, it is the interest of those who are engaged in the growing of sugar to retain those labourers in that country where labour is so scarce, and not to allow them to emigrate to the Mauritius; but I cannot believe that the East India Company would be actuated by such feelings, or so forgetful, not only of their character but their own interest, as to throw any obstacle in the way of free emigration of Indian labourers to a country where there is full employment for the people, and that they would rather keep them in India, where there is a superabundant and starving population, and where, in consequence of that, the rate of wages for those who are in employment is 1½d a day The right hon. Gentleman, however, asks what has happened since 1840? and evidently wishes to know why the proposal 1335 should be brought forward to introduce this system which we propose in 1842. My right hon. Friend, who sits near me, is charged with opposing the step which was taken by the Government in 1840; but in 1840 his right hon. Friend said he was not prepared to give his sanction to the change of opinion which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had stated to have taken place, nor did he think the sanction of the House ought to be given to it, until they heard from the Governor-general of India, and from the Governor of the Mauritius, as, till then, it would not be possible to ascertain how far it was likely to be carried beneficially into effect. Now, since 1840, we have heard from the Governor-General of India, and from the Governor of the Mauritius. And, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's having read the minute of the Governor-general of India, I am prepared to show, that not only the present Governor-general of India but the former Governor, general, have expressed themselves satisfied as to the fact, that emigration from India to the Mauritius under a proper system, and with proper restrictions, might be safely conducted. Before I read any extracts from the minutes of either the Governor of the Mauritius or the Governor-general of India, let me ask who is the Governor of the Mauritius? Sir Lionel Smith. If, ever, Sir, there was a man on earth who distinguished himself under different Governments as the friend and supporter of the negroes, and by his hostility to anything like oppression on the part of the planters, it is Sir Lionel Smith. Now, I have a minute of Sir Lionel Smith in reference to the subject of the emigration and employment of Indian labourers, dated in December, 1840, and what does it say? In December, 1840, he wrote thus to the Secretary for the Colonies:—I was two months in the Government before I received a single complaint from Indian labourers. Circumstances over which I had no control shortly afterwards brought whole gangs to Government-house principally on experimental complaints. Several cases having occurred in which one or two of the best stipendiary magistrates deemed it their duty to cancel the engagement of labourers with their masters, according as the law provided, and to leave them perfectly free either to go back to India, or to re-engage in labour on new contracts here. They agreed to remain, and obtained other masters, at increased rates of wages from five rupees to five 1336 dollars a month, and in some instances more. Thus the Indians became suddenly acquainted how much they had been undervalued by their labour engagements contracted in India.These are the men who were starving on 1½d. a day in India, and in the Mauritius, besides food and clothing, these men were earning in hard money from five rupees to five dollars a month.At the same time (Sir Lionel Smith continued) that it became pretty generally known that the free importation of labour was to be permitted, and that an association of planters to encourage emigration had failed, these Indians became suddenly acquainted how much they had been undervalued by their labour engagements contracted in India; and every artifice which combination and violence could suggest were immediately resorted to.For what purpose? To get back to India? No.In the hopes of being released from their present contract and engagements, to serve under contracts infinitely below the rate of wages.No wonder that when this deception was practised, no wonder that complaints were made, and that every attempt was made to rescind the contract. Sir Lionel Smith went on,—I am constantly accused of having no sympathies in common with the sugar planters. Perhaps I have seen too much of the sacrifice of human life and happiness in the production of sugar to enable me to confide in a class of men allied so recently to such a system; but I should be glad to disabuse the public mind in England that every labourer who finds employment here has been treated with cruelty. I will not close my letter by promising that no injustice or oppression can occur; but I will say, they are infinitely better off here than in our own overstocked country, and their mercenary habits are gratified to the ultimate advantage of England.This was the statement of Sir Lionel Smith as to the abuses in the Mauritius, The noble Lord read the following extract from another despatch:—His Excellency will inform the General that, having minutely inquired into the treatment of Indian labourers, he has been enabled to report to the Secretary of State that they have, by no means, been harshly dealt with or neglected, and his Excellency is quite satisfied that the interests of the planters themselves, and the intelligence of the Indians, will equally guarantee to them the justice and good treatment of their employers in this island. His Excellency observes that no man could have entered into these inquiries with stronger 1337 suspicions than he did, from an intimate knowledge of the tricks of the planters against the new-born freemen in the West Indies; but he is satisfied with the Government that even those who are most ill-disposed may be controlled in the exercise of arbitrary or unjust conduct.We have, since that period, other testimony from the Governor of the Mauritius, which shows that there is in that colony means of abundant protection for the Indian labourers against any injustice, fraud, or oppression. In 1838, the report of a committee for the purpose of inquiring into the possibility of remedying the evils which then existed, in connection with the emigration and employment of Indian labourers, was published, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite referred to that committee, stating that three members of it drew up a report unfavourable to the system, and that two others were favourably inclined towards it. Yes; but it ought to be recollected that the committee to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded was a committee to inquire into, and, if possible, to suggest a mode in which the abuses might be remedied, but remedied under the system which then prevailed for the regulation of the emigration and employment of the Indian labourers who went to the Mauritius under the articles obliging them to serve for five years, and with agreements made by private individuals and for private interests. Let me now call the attention of the House to the change which is proposed, in contrast with what formerly prevailed, and the means that are proposed, in order to prevent similar abuses being practised, and I only regret that the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward the subject so fully to-night had not shaped his motion so as to permit me to obtain the opinion of the House with regard to it. Under the former system the planter appointed an agent in India, who engaged and shipped off the labourers under a contract to work for the planter for five years, and therefore the interest of those agents was to secure the labourers as numerously and cheaply as possible. Now, under the system which we propose, that will be completely put a stop to. The system which we pursue is this—and I ask the House if there is anything contained in it in the slightest degree indicating the most remote approach to slavery or forced labour—it is proposed that the colony of 1338 the Mauritius shall be entitled to pass a vote permitting the payment, at the expense of the colony, for the free emigration of labourers, but that emigration is to take place only from whatever part in India the Governor-General may approve of, and there is to be at each such port in India an agent, appointed by the Governor-general, and paid by the colony, of the Mauritius, who is to see every emigrant in person, and to ascertain whether such emigrant is about to leave the country of his own accord, and whether he is perfectly aware of the conditions under which he is to go. He is also to ascertain if the emigrant has been deluded by false expectations as to the amount of wages, and to inform the emigrant that any contract he may make in India will not be binding on him in the Mauritius, but that when he shall arrive there, he may go where he pleases. The agent is also to see that the ships are properly supplied with provisions, and to see that an interpreter goes out with every body of emigrants before he allows the ship to sail. There is also a list to be furnished of the emigrants to be taken, with their names, and a description of each individual, and no ship is to be cleared out of any port in India with emigrants, unless the agent sees on the spot that all those provisions are complied with. Is that all that is to be done? No; for when the labourers arrive in the Mauritius, they are not to be let loose, exposed to fraud or imposition—no; at Port Louis, which is the only port in the Mauritius at which such ships will be allowed to enter there again, a Government agent will be appointed by the Governor-general of India to reside, and it will be his duty to compare the lists which the ships shall bring, with the lists that shall have been taken in India; for one great evil formerly arose from the ships dropping down the river, and allowing an opportunity for smuggling emigrants on board. The agent is also to inquire of each emigrant whether he has any complaint to make of the treatment he received, and he is to be again informed that no contract which he made in India is valid or binding on him in the Mauritius, and that he is perfectly free to go where he pleases, and that for forty-eight hours he is to make no contract, and that he is to make no contract for a longer period than a single year. These are the measures adopted by Government for the protection of the la- 1339 bourer, and I ask whether it be possible to adopt a more precautionary system? In India, a labourer is very well satisfied if he can earn 1½d. a-day, out of which he has to provide himself with food. In the Mauritius, the ordinary rate of wages is from 5 rupees to 10 rupees per month, in addition to food and clothing. If, therefore, a labourer be dissatisfied with his condition in the Mauritius, he may, in a short time, by the exercise of ordinary industry, realize a sufficient sum of money to pay his passage back to India; for if he be disposed to return, he is not, as formerly, bound by any contract he might have entered into to continue in the colony for five years. At the expiration of five years' service in the colony, if the labourer wish to return to India, he is not only at perfect liberty to do so, but he is to have the right to claim a free passage at the expense of the colony of the Mauritius. It is, therefore, the interest of the colony to import only such persons as are likely to remain; for, as the colony bears the expense of their passage, it would—if the emigrants were dissatisfied, and returned to India—have to suffer the loss of the money which had been paid for their importation. The temptation tinder the former scheme was to wring from the emigrants as great an amount of labour at as love a rate of remuneration ad possible, and thus they were rendered dissatisfied and discontented. The tendency of the present plan is, I consider, to render them contented and comfortable. I cannot refrain from citing a few passages from the minute of the Governor-general, to which reference has been made by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this subject. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he thought it appeared evident from this document, that the Governor-general entertained a very doubtful opinion as to the policy of allowing persons to emigrate to the Mauritius. Under the present plan many labourers had returned to India from the Mauritius, and had deposited in the hands of their families considerable stuns of money, the produce of their industry; and, although they were now anxious to return to the Mauritius, they were prevented from doing so by the present prohibitory law, which precluded persons who had reunified to India from the Mauritius from again proceeding to the colony. But I ask whether, upon any principle of reason, we can legislate to prevent the sub- 1340 jects of her Majesty, who are perfectly aware of the consequences of the step they are taking, from proceeding from one part of her Majesty's dominions to another, in order to dispose of their labour to the best advantage? What is the opinion of the Governor-general? The Governor-general has arrived at no such conclusion as that assumed by the right hon. Gentleman. The Governor-general said—The attention which I have been able to give to the subject has led me to no very satisfactory general conclusion upon it, embracing as it does the difficult question of opening emigration to many distant and even foreign colonies.
[Mr. V. Smith
I read that passage.] But the right hon. Gentleman did not read what follows. The Governor-general proceeds—I am clearly of opinion that the present law, which to a great degree restricts the freedom of labour and of movement to the whole Indian population, is most objectionable in principle; that it will presently become injurious and vexatious in operation; that it should not be regarded as permanent, and that no safe opportunity should be omitted of relaxing it.Those words the right hon. Gentleman did not read to the House. The right hon. Gentleman had also selected this passage from the minute—I cannot indulge the hope that we should yet be able successfully to enforce safeguards for the due protection and superintendence of an unlimited number of common emigrant labourers.But he did not read these passages—The impression to he taken from the evidence of the Coolies who have returned, is. I think, upon the whole, most favourable; and it may be assumed, in regard to the Mauritius, that where there have been prudence and good conduct, and an average Share of good fortune, a Cooly may return, after a few years of labour in that colony, enriched and improved, and for the most part bearing with him the recollection of no great hardship. Could this system fairly be carried out? Could a number of voluntary and industrious adventurers annually leave India for countries where labour is more highly paid than it is here, and could nearly the same number annually return, each with an average of capital of from 100 to 200 rupees, with some acquirements in cultivation and manufacture, and with his wits sharpened by experience, I think that such a course would have an excellent effect upon the country, and be a source of general advantage, and, in the end, many of the abuses which have been 1341 found to exist would work their own cure, and men would teach each other the manner in which fraud, and exaction, and violence, are to be guarded against. In this view, and under ordinary circumstances, and if the slave-trade and slavery had never been, we might, perhaps, approach the question of an open emigration with some hope of devising checks which might be relied on as generally effectual against abuse.The right hon. Gentleman quoted this passage referring to the difficulty of an open emigration, but he did not state the exception of the Governor-general—It will be for her Majesty's Government to decide whether distinctions as to the supply of labour can be admitted between the several Crown settlements. As respects the interests for which we are more specially responsible, I would say that my objections are assuredly the strongest to dealings of this description with the colonies and settlements which are most distant. The sea passage to them is, from its very length, liable to suffering and to hazard; we could not follow the emigrant with our care and protection, and we do not know to what laws or usages he might be consigned. At the Mauritius, however, the case is different. It is a British settlement, easily accessible from India, and open to our observation; and if the question were that of opening emigration to that island alone, I would willingly attempt to meet the difficulties which might be opposed to us, and I should hope speedily and gradually, in a very great measure, to overcome them by a plan similar to that suggested by Mr. Grant.The Governor-general was prepared to approach the question of open emigration, but if a distinction were drawn with regard to the Mauritius, he had no hesitation in saying that he was prepared to grapple with those difficulties. What did the Governor-general propose to do?By the appointment of a distinct 'protector' of emigrants, by the inspection and limitation of contracts, by the prohibition of money advances, and by the regulation of shipping, and the other rules proposed, we might, I think, do much in the few ports from which emigration to the Mauritius might be limited, and for some stated number of emigrants, towards the entire suppression of those abuses of which three or four years ago there was too much reason to complain; we could at the same time satisfy ourselves that the measures adopted in the Mauritius for the protection of the labourers when on the island are operative and sufficient.The right hon. Gentleman drew attention to what the Governor-general concluded, and this was another instance, perhaps, of an unintentional omission, but 1342 it was a singular one. "Look," said the right hon. Gentleman, "at the conclusion to which the Governor-general came:—'If you can send out a few skilled labourers I can see no objection to that.'Was that the conclusion to which the Governor-general came? After stating that he had no doubt on the question as to the Mauritius, but that he had some as to all the colonies, the Governor-general concluded thus:—I have known, since I have been in India, contracts for buildings in the Mauritius sent to Calcutta, and carpenters, smiths, and painters, go out, at high salaries, for their execution. It cannot he intended that such transactions should be perpetually closed; and, apart from the important question of free emigration and of colonial labour, and yet as not unconnected with them, I should be glad if steps could be devised for the gradual modification of this most anomalous law. If, therefore, all plans for an extended emigration should be for the present rejected by the home authorities, and if the expediency of some relaxation of the existing law should, nevertheless, be admitted, I should be disposed to regulate but little as to this skilled labour.But," said the Governor-general, "that was the conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman came." The Governor-general said no such thing. What the Governor-general said was this:—If the Home Government are opposed to more extended emigration, then, at all events, I will press on them to repeal this most anomalous law with regard to emigration to the Mauritius.I will appeal to the House, whether the right hon. Gentleman, in quoting from those papers, has quoted them in such a way as to give their effect fairly to the House? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the opinions of Mr. Bird, Mr. Princeps, and Mr. Amos. One of those gentlemen certainly admitted, that he objected to the relaxations of the present law, but not on the grounds of the hardship that it inflicted, but on the ground that there was no superfluity of labour in India: and that the people there were anxious to obtain a greater supply of labour than they were able to procure. The two other gentlemen, Mr. Amos and Mr. Princeps, expressed themselves favourable to emigration. I certainly thought that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken in terms of the report of these gentlemen which he saw no reason for. The right 1343 hon. Gentleman said, that those two gentlemen had acted in concert; but I see nothing in the documents referred to, to warrant that supposition. On the contrary, though those gentlemen differed on other points, they concurred in thinking that this law ought to be relaxed, though upon the amount of relaxation they were not agreed. The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of having acted hastily in this matter, because, having the authority of the Governor-general of India, and of the Governor of the Mauritius, for believing that with proper precautions the law might be safely relaxed, I have, with the concurrence of the Governor-general of India, and with the concurrence of the Board of Control, devised safe and efficient means for the remedy of the evils complained of. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that he must know well that no person was more anxious for the speedy relaxation of this law than the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies. In the last despatch written by the directions of the noble Lord on this subject, and dated the 30th of August, 1841, it is stated that the noble LordEntertained a strong opinion in favour of the removal of his restrictions, and the modification of this law, provided that proper precautions were taken to secure the health and good treatment of those individuals during their passage, and their return to their own country.Her Majesty's Government have taken those precautions. They have taken the same precautions exactly, with some additions, as the late Secretary for the Colonies took with respect to the emigration of labourers from the coast of Africa to the West Indies. These regulations were framed for the prevention of abuse, and since they have been adopted there has not been a word of complaint against them from any individual. The case which I have now presented to the House is the case on which I hope the House will be of opinion that the conduct pursued by her Majesty's Government on this subject is perfectly consistent with the course which they felt it to be their duty to take in 1840 —and that they cannot be charged with having rashly or harshly dealt with this great question. They have taken every precaution for the security and advantage of the labourer. They have given the Governor-general of India the best advice which practical experience enables 1344 them to offer as to the precautions to be taken there for the same purpose—and they have made a further provision that unless those recommendations were carried into effect, the system of emigration now proposed was not to take place. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the Passengers Act, and said that he had been taken by surprise. Surely the right hon. Gentleman could not be more taken by surprise than I am by the right hon. Gentleman's motion. On bringing forward my motion for leave to introduce the bill to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, I stated that my object was, to secure the adoption of additional precautions with respect to emigration from the United Kingdom to the colonies. The right hon. Gentleman said, that my object, in the course I have taken respecting emigration from India, is to evade the notice of Parliament. Now, on the contrary, I have inserted clauses in the Passengers Act specially applying to this particular emigration; and these clauses were introduced for this reason:—Supposing that there may be certain penalties provided for the violation of the regulations with respect to the emigration of labourers from India, the Governor-general, though he had the power to punish the infractions of these regulations in India, would not have the power to do so in the Mauritius. These clauses, therefore, have been inserted for the purpose of authorising these regulations, in order that, if they should chance to be violated, that would be an offence against a British act of Parliament, and would be liable to be punished accordingly. These, then, are the clauses on which the right hon. Gentleman has founded his accusation that I intended to evade the notice of Parliament. I only regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not so shaped his motion as to afford me the opportunity of taking the sense of the House on the course which has been taken by her Majesty's Government. Whenever the right hon. Gentleman may think fit to bring forward a vote of condemnation with respect to that conduct, I shall be ready to meet him, even at the risk of again wearying the House with this subject. As the right hon. Gentleman has moved for documents which are not in existence, it is of little consequence whether I consent to his motion or not. However, 1 will pursue the course of giving the right hon. Gen- 1345 tleman an opportunity of taking the sense of the House by giving a negative to his ridiculous motion.
§ Mr. Hawes
did not intend to discuss this question; but whenever those clauses that had been referred to should be in committee, he would endeavour to show the noble Lord that they did not provide those precautions which he had stated. He undertook to say that when all the papers should be fairly considered they would lead to a different conclusion from that which had been stated by the noble Lord. He was willing to concur in the eulogium which the noble Lord had expressed respecting the character of Sir Lionel Smith. But when he came to refer to those despatches of Sir L. Smith, on which the noble Lord called them to rely, they found that he spoke of the planters of the Mauritius as men who were still mourning over the loss of their slaves. Men of this description were not those to whom they should be inclined to entrust the carrying out of regulations of this kind. The noble Lord might possibly be able to carry into effect his proposed regulations with respect to India, and the passage by sea, but wish respect to his success in the Mauritius, he entertained a different opinion. He, when the noble Lord's bill should be in committee, meant to move that those clauses of the bill to which he objected should be expunged. He did not mean to do this in condemnation of the Government, for he believed that the noble Lord had no other object in those regulations but the good of those individuals. But he did not think that those clauses would answer that purpose. He hoped the noble Lord would shortly be able to have the bill in committee.
was anxious to forward the bill at as early a period as possible. He hoped the hon. Member would not object to proceed with the clauses up to the 41st clause (postponing those to which he objected). With respect to those clauses to which he objected, the hon. Member gave ample notice of the time when they would be considered in committee.
§ Mr. Hogg
did not think that the conclusions of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, were borne out by the documents to which he had referred, nor did he think that the House had been 1346 correctly apprised how the matter stood in India, and in this country. In Calcutta a most influential public meeting had been convened, and all present were loud in their execration of the deception and cruelty which had been practised almost universally on the helpless natives who had been withdrawn from their homes. In consequence of that public meeting, a committee was appointed by the local government, and to the report of that committee, he would presently have occasion to refer. In this country the subject had been taken up by both Houses of Parliament. In the Lords, legislation on the subject had been attempted by Lord Ellenborough, aided by no mean coadjutor, the Duke of Wellington, but the difficulties that presented themselves were so great, that the bill was abandoned. In that House the subject had been repeatedly discussed, and he believed that his right hon. Friend who introduced the subject, had stated pretty accurately its course. He remembered well that when the noble Lord, the late Secretary for the Colonies, intimated his intention to relax the Order in Council, up got his right hon. Friend, the present Secretary for the Home Department, and cautioned the Government to beware how they proceeded in a matter of such delicacy and difficulty; suggesting that no change should be made in the prohibitory law, except by bill, and painted the enormities which existed in such glowing colours, that the noble Lord, who was not the least adventurous of politicians, shrunk from the task he had undertaken. A few evenings afterwards the noble Lord stated, that after what had occurred, he did not think it would be respectful to Parliament to make any alteration in the law until their opinion had been taken. Thus the matter stood, with respect to that House: an assurance had been given by the late government that no alteration in the law should be made, without taking the opinion of Parliament, and he (Mr. Hogg) thought that the present Government ought to have regarded that pledge as binding upon them. The Court of Directors had repeatedly written out to the local government, stating that they could not sanction any change in the existing law, while the matter was pending before Parliament, thus showing a deference to that House, which he admitted had not been evinced by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire. The Court of Directors had stated that they would not stir in the matter until Parliament had 1347 pronounced its opinion, and desired that in the interim the existing law should neither be annulled nor relaxed. Thus the matter then stood, and wherein, he asked, was it now altered? The only alteration was the receipt of the report of the committee, which more than confirmed all the statements which caused the prohibitory enactments. When the question was last under discussion, his right hon. Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, dwelt strongly on the absence of information, and said, "Wait till the report of the committee has been received." He (Mr. Hogg) did the same, and stated his belief that the report would be very shortly received. Indeed, he had been taunted by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liskeard, with venturing to state the very day on which it might be looked for. True it was, he had rashly ventured on the perilous sea of prophecy, but the winds and the waves had proved favourable, and the report did arrive the very day he had predicted "sic me servavit Apollo." He would not weary the House by referring to the report or the voluminous evidence on which it was founded, but he would state without fear of contradiction, that the noble Lord could not refer to that report, as a justification for the proceeding he had adopted. Sir Lionel Smith, in adverting to the subject, spoke of the strong terms of the report, said it was highly coloured, and added, that it deserved no further notice. Now that was not a fit or becoming way to speak of a report, which had been made, under the order of the Governor-general, by six gentlemen selected by him. [An hon. Member: Only three signed it.] Even so, one of the six had left India, and three of the remaining five had signed it, and a report so made, and so signed, ought not to have been described by Sir Lionel Smith, as deserving of no notice. But suppose that report to have been less unfavourable to the view of the noble Lord, and that he had been able to refer to it as justifying his intended measures, what, he asked, was the course that ought to have been pursued. He (Mr. Hogg) was not well versed in parliamentary forms; but after what had already taken place in that House, he should have thought that the noble Lord would have deemed it fit and proper to have submitted to the Board of Control his proposed measures respecting the Mauritius, (which is under his own management,) saying to the President of 1348 the Board, "If you will induce the Home Government of India, to authorise the modification of the existing law, here are the protections and the safeguard which I offer you." These protections and safeguards ought then to have been submitted to the Court of Directors, who ought to have considered them, viewed the whole case, and pronounced their opinion at length in instructions to the local government; such instructions, with the Order in Council of the noble Lord, ought to have been laid on the Table of the House, and it would then have been for the House to have said aye or no, whether the contemplated alterations should take place. The noble Lord, however, had deemed it right to dispense with all this caution and consideration, and he must add, that although he was a member of the Court of Directors, he had never heard of the contemplated modification of the law, until he read the Order in Council in the Gazette. With respect to the Mauritius, he admitted the value and importance of the regulations proposed by the noble Lord, which would go far to do away the abuses there. The great and paramount evils existed in India, in the organised system of kidnapping and trepanning the natives, and he wished to know, and the House had a right to know, what provisions and regulations were proposed to prevent the recurrence of such evils. Indeed, he was not sure, after what had passed, that the House ought not to require the proposed local enactment to be sent home, placed on the Table of the House, and examined by the Legislature, before it was allowed to have the force of law. The abuses in India were admitted, and the sole question was, whether it would be practicable to prevent them, if the present law were annulled or relaxed. The noble Lord talked a great deal about protectors and inspectors, but what said Lord Auckland to all this cumbrous machinery? Why, he said it was utterly useless; and he said so with good reason, because every one of these arrangements existed at Calcutta at the time the abuses complained of took place. The temptation to fraud and abuse was so great, that he (Mr. Hogg) feared it was vain to attempt to legislate for its prevention. Without entering into details, he would show the House how absolutely certain it was that the great proportion of those who proceeded to the Mauritius must have been induced to go on ship-board by the grossest misrepresentation, fraud, and 1349 deceit; and for that purpose he would read an extract from the examination of Mr. Dowson, who was himself engaged in exporting Indian labourers to the Mauritius. The question asked him was—Are you aware whether the Coolies are informed that they are to go by sea to a distant place, and to be absent from India for five years?His answer is—I am nearly sure no representation of the kind is ever made to them; and, as a proof of this, I beg to state that, on my return from the Mauritius in November last, I was so desirous to crush the Duffadar system, which I consider most vicious, that at a considerable expense I engaged a highly respectable Armenian—a Mr. Carapiet, to proceed to Chutah Nagpore, the district where the Dhaugas live. He was the bearer of letters to Dr. Cheek, of Burdwou, and Capt. Wilkinson, Governor-general's agent of the district. My orders to Mr. Carapiet were, to engage no Coolie without first explaining to him the nature of the employment, and that he was to leave his country for a period of five years. It proved a fruitless mission, for Mr. Carapiet did not succeed in procuring a single Coolie, and that, too, at the very time that Duffadars sent by Mr. Hughes were engaging Coolies by hundreds in the immediate vicinity.He entreated the attention of the House to this evidence of Mr. Dowson, who admits that the firm of which he was a member, had exported 6000 Coolies to the Mauritius, and who was, therefore, eminently interested in the maintenance of the system. He shows you, that not a single Coolie can be induced to leave his native hills, when it is truly explained to him that he is to proceed to a distance and by sea, and be long absent from his home; while at the same time, and in the same locality, they are procured by hundreds by means of the fraud and misrepresentation resorted to by the unprincipled Duffadars or native agents. He would give the House a still stronger proof that the Hill Coolies, when left to themselves, and fully apprised of their destination, were not disposed to emigrate to places beyond the confines of India, even when not required to proceed by sea. The House was probably aware that a company, with a very large capital, had been established for the cultivation of the tea plantations in Assam, and he need not dwell on the importance of giving every possible aid and encouragement to that enterprise. The company applied to Government, stating that their plantations were going to decay from their 1350 inability to procure labour, and entreating the aid and influence of Government to induce the Hill Coolies to emigrate to Assam, stating their willingness to allow them never less than three rupees a month for their labour, with land to cultivate free of expense for five years, and to pay besides their travelling expenses. The Government accordingly authorized the public officers in the districts where the Coolies dwell to explain to them the advantages that were offered, and to induce them, by all fair means, to emigrate to Assam; but I hold in my hand extracts from letters from Capt. Wilkinson, Mr. Davidson, and Major Ouseley, Government agents in the different districts, stating that they could not induce a single Coolie to leave their homes. This was evidence beyond all contradiction or suspicion, to prove that the Coolies would not expatriate themselves, when their destination was fully explained to them. He admitted they were migratory, but their habit was to proceed to the plains for a few months, to assist in the manufacture of indigo and sugar, returning to their own homes so as to be able to attend to their own cultivation. If the Government would only introduce a measure which would satisfy him that they should be left entirely to their own inclinations, he (Mr. Hogg) would say at once, that he would not offer a word in objection to annulling the existing regulation; but he thought he had established that up to the present time, that inclination had not been consulted, and that in the absence of fraud, no labourer from among the Coolie race could be induced to emigrate. The noble Lord had concluded very triumphantly by referring to Lord Auckland's opinions on this subject, and he endeavoured to make the House believe, that that Nobleman was favourable to general and unlimited emigration; and that he only suggested a restriction in deference to prejudices existing in this country. He begged to tell the noble Lord, that he was not borne out in that statement by Lord Auckland's minute. Lord Auckland had not stated it as his opinion, that the measure should be repealed; he only said, he should be glad to see it relaxed, particularly with regard to artisans who are in the habit of contracting for building in the Mauritius and elsewhere, and who might be prevented by the existing measure from continuing that course. He must say, that unless this subject were most cautiously dealt with, and unless we had some assurance that 1351 satisfactory arrangements had been entered into with the European powers, who had settlements in India, and with the native independent powers, who had territory on the coast, we should be virtually renewing the Slave-trade, if we removed the existing restriction; and we should utterly destroy the moral influence that has hitherto attended our exertions and representations for the purpose of abolishing that odious traffic throughout the east. Such, too, was the opinion of Lord Auckland, who states, that if we could not depend on the cooperation of the European powers having possessions in India, we should not be justified in opening the emigration, even to the Mauritius. The evidence of the Coolies who had returned to India, had been much dwelt upon. Now, the Coolies who had been so examined, were only about twenty-five in number, out of upwards of 17,000 who had emigrated, and when so much was said of the wealth, the satisfaction and the happiness of those twenty-five, he could not refrain from expressing his apprehension, that they had probably returned with the intention of decoying others; and that their evidence could not be much relied upon. It might be thought that in what he had said, he had expressed strong opinions against emigration; he assured the House, however, that he had not said a word that was not dictated by an imperious sense of duty. He admitted fully that it was the right of every man to carry his labour to the best market, and he (Mr. Hogg) was not one who desired to contravene that principle. But the House would at the same time admit, that considerations, not only of humanity, but of policy, rendered it imperative on them to see that those were protected, who were unable to protect themselves. It was all very well to talk of protecting the few individuals of spirit and enterprize who might wish to emigrate from India, for the purpose of bettering their fortunes, but where, he asked, was the liberty, where the protection, and where the consideration, for the hundreds and thousands who by fraud and falsehood had been deluded to leave their homes. The Government, he thought, had a very clear course to pursue on this subject. They should lay on the Table of the House all the papers connected with it, without any exception; all the dispatches of the Court of Directors, and the Indian Government—all the communications from the Mauritius—all the orders in council, and above all, the measures and 1352 provisions intended to be introduced for the prevention of abuses in India, and of which there was not at present one title before the House. The House would then be in a condition to judge of the expediency of annulling or modifying the existing restrictions. The misfortune of the present discussion was, that it could only lead to an expression of opinion, and not to any practical result.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies had made no statement respecting females and children. An opinion was very generally entertained by the people of this country that the system of the emigration of Hill Coolies would lead to a sort of legalized slave-trade. How, indeed, could the House entertain a doubt that such would be the result, after the admirable and lucid speech of the hon. Member for Beverley? That hon. Gentleman had treated the question in a manner which reflected on his character and conduct the highest possible credit. It was curious to observe the contrast between the policy pursued on this question and on that of the Corn-laws. The landowners maintained the Corn-laws on the ground that their repeal would lead to the injury of the home grower from the competition of foreign agriculturists, while they permitted the importation of foreign labourers from India into a market already overstocked with cheap labour, which could have no other effect than to increase the existing distress. Nothing could be more unjust than the manner in which they proposed to deal with those unfortunate creatures, overpowering them with the cheaper labour of the East Indies. The information which this House had obtained tonight ought to induce them to pause before lending any countenance to a system fraught with so much danger, and which might end in so much suffering. When a bill of this kind was introduced by the Whig Government, be was delighted at the manner in which it was received by the present Government. The right hon. Baronet the present First Lord of the Treasury was doubtful of its propriety. The present Home Secretary called upon the House to pause as the measure was pregnant with danger, and all the additional information which had since been received only showed still more forcibly the necessity of caution. The right hon. Baronet could not have forgotten a depu- 1353 tation which had waited upon him shortly after he came into office on the subject of slavery. They had hoped that he would have introduced some measure relative to that subject before this time, for slavery existed to an enormous extent in our possessions in India. He mentioned the subject in the hope that the right hon. Baronet would be able before long to make some statement to the House on the subject of slavery generally, but with regard to the particular subject before the House, he hoped the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies would be induced to abandon the intention he had avowed, after what he had heard from the hon. Member for Beverley, that he would not persevere in that clause of the bill which would go to continue the exportation of Hill Coolies from India to the Mauritius. He might depend upon it that the permanence of that system would be fraught with calamities; for the cupidity of capitalists would overrule all the precautions that he could take. He hoped, also, that the noble Lord would present all the information in possession of the Colonial-office, in order that the House might be able to judge how far it would be fair and just to those who were subsisting upon some three or four rupees a month, to inundate their labour market in the Mauritius, to their serious detriment.
§ Mr. C. Buller
declared that his opinions on this question were unaltered; he held the same opinions now as he had held when on the other side of the House, and supported the Government scheme as in substance a good, wise, and necessary measure. He was glad the noble Lord had adopted, with some slight alterations in the details, the same bill as that proposed by the noble Lord the late Secretary for the Colonies. He could not but express his gratification that the removal of the members of the present Government from the one side of the House to the other had done away with obstacles which appeared formerly to exist in their minds in the way of sound legislation, and he also hailed it as a very wholesome repentance, and turning away from sin. As regarded the manner of this legislation, however, he thought the Government were chargeable with considerable neglect of proper precaution. He did not see why so important an Order in Council should have appeared only two days before the meeting of Parliament. As it had been so long 1354 deferred, it would have been better to have waited a little longer, so that Parliament might have expressed an opinion on the subject. Considering, too, that this Government had come in as a meditative Government, that their essential principle was to think, and take time, and consider the measures they were to propose, he could not but think it singular that they should not have concerted measures with the East India Company before this. Any attempt to settle this question without their interference must necessarily be nugatory. The only answer of the noble Lord was to ridicule his hon. Friend for moving for a paper that did not exist. Then were they to understand that the Government had entered on this measure without proper communications with the East India Company? He hoped the natural light of Lord Ellenborough's mind would be sufficient to guide him in the absence of any instructions. Under whatever circumstances, however, the measure had been brought forward, he should afford to it that cordial co-operation which was refused by hon. Gentlemen opposite, when it was proposed by that side of the House.
in explanation, said, that it was erroneous to suppose there had been no communication with the East India Company. He had had full, anxious, and repeated conversations with Lord Ellenborough on all the details of the subject. He had had those conversations with him when he was President of the Board of Control, and, since his departure, with the present President. All he could say was, that the motion was made for the production of papers over which he had no power. All communications with the East India Company were made through the Board of Control. No disrespect was meant to the East India Company. He had written through the medium of the Board of Control, stating his opinion as to what the legislative enactments should be, and at the same time he had sent all the correspondence and instruction in detail, which had been left by Lord John Russell, and on which he hoped the provisions would be framed. The East India Company thought it better to wait until they received further information. He had done all that he could do in the regular mode.
§ Mr. H. Lindsay
said, that, when in India, he saw the practices resorted to for the purpose of inducing the Hill Coolies 1355 to go abroad; it was a system of downright kidnapping, the men did not know where they were to be sent. It was just, then, that they should be protected from being dragged away to another country; but was it not to some extent inflicting slavery upon them, to say they should be prohibited by law from quitting their country and carrying their labour wherever they pleased. It should be recollected that the natives of India were freemen, and that they had common sense to guide them. He hoped that, in the contemplated measure, a clear provision would be inserted, that before quitting India the Hill Coolies should have explained to them what was the object of their going, what would be their employment in the Mauritius, and that they would have entire freedom there, and the protection of the British law.
§ Mr. Forbes
thought, that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies had conferred not only a service upon the Mauritius but upon this country also by his conduct in this business. He hoped the noble Lord would by his measures he enabled to effect such an improvement in the price of sugar as would give satisfaction to all parties.
Mr. V. Smith
said, that as there were no instructions to be produced upon this subject by the noble Lord, he begged leave to withdraw his motion.
§ Motion withdrawn.