§ On Clause 3 (giving "power to Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to declare the sugars of other countries to be admissible as not being the produce of slave-labour"),
§ Mr. Labouchere
was anxious for an explanation of the Clause. The Bill drew a distinction between different classes of foreign sugar, namely, between foreign sugar the produce of free-labour, and foreign sugar the produce of slave-labour, and he wished before they proceeded with the Clause to know what it was, that the Government exactly intended in this respect. There had been some diversity in the statements as to the views of the Government with respect to the operation of the Bill, and he was accordingly desirous to know whether it was to foreign sugar the produce of slave-labour, or foreign sugar produced by countries which carried on the Slave Trade, the Bill was directed. To explain his question, he would suppose that Cuba or Brazil entered into engagements perfectly satisfactory to this country, with a view to the suppression of the Slave Trade, and subsequently showed by their conduct a desire to carry that object into effect. In the event of that engagement, would the Government think it right that the produce of Brazil and Cuba ought to be placed on the same footing with the produce of the United States, or would they think that a distinction 1114 ought, notwithstanding such a treaty, to be made between Cuba and Brazil and the United States?
said, the question of the right hon. Gentleman referred to a contingency, apparently with a view of more perfectly illustrating the intention of the Bill as regarded the question of slavery, and to the question he should return a frank and fair answer. The right hon. Gentleman asked if the Bill applied to those countries in which sugar was raised by slave-labour, or whether it referred mainly to those countries where the Slave Trade was carried on. There was some distinction between the form and the reason of the enactment; it did not apply necessarily to all countries in which any modification of slavery existed; for example, where it existed in a domestic and limited form, and the remains of an institution fast decaying, as in Java, and where it had no bearing upon the production of sugar. On the other hand, the Bill would undoubtedly apply, and he believed it was intended to apply, to all countries where sugar was raised by slave-labour. But having declared what he believed would be the effect of that enactment, he was bound to state that the reasoning of the enactment was founded, in a great degree, on the fact that in the sugar-growing countries that produce was raised, not merely by slavery, but by slavery fed by the Slave Trade. Brazil and Cuba were the only two countries where slavery, properly speaking, could be said to exist in an unmitigated form, which exported sugar largely, and where that slavery was fed by the Slave Trade. There was, indeed, another country which had some surplus of sugar to export, namely, Denmark. He had great satisfaction in stating his belief that the Danish Government were sincerely set upon the extinction of slavery in the island of St. Croix, and that their efforts in that direction would be speedily successful. The law was framed so as to be applicable to slave-labour employed in the cultivation of sugar, because that was the only form in which to make it intelligible, but the main reason of this law was, that in those countries which this Bill would affect slavery was fed by the Slave Trade.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, this was a very important point, because he apprehended if the Bill were passed in its present shape the Government would not be enabled to carry out the views which they professed 1115 to entertain. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman, they did not wish to preclude themselves from the power—if the Brazils should in future raise sugar by slave-labour in the same manner as it was raised in the United States, but at the same time put an effectual stop to the external Slave Trade with Brazil, as the Slave Trade to the United States was stopped — they did not wish to debar themselves of the right to admit the sugar of Brazil on the same footing as that of the United States; but he apprehended that the Bill was stringent on that point, and that the Government would be precluded from admitting sugar, the produce of any country not having a treaty to enforce its admission, and that they would not be able to put Brazil and the United States on the same footing as regards sugar and slavery. He thought we ought to deal equally and fairly by foreign nations, and he apprehended that from the accident of some countries in which sugar was produced by slave-labour having already treaties with us, we should be unable, however willing the Government might be to do so, to allow the sugar of Brazil, if she should effectually put a stop to the Slave Trade, though retaining slavery and the cultivation of sugar by slaves, to come upon the same footing as that of the United States. He was quite aware that there was this distinction between those two countries, that Brazil exports extensively, while the United States do not; but he thought it very likely that the United States would find it for their interest to take sugar from Cuba and send us the home-grown sugar of the United States, but at all events he thought we ought not to put one country upon a different footing from another having the same regulations.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that without entering into the argument he would answer the right hon. Gentleman's question. The Bill dealt with countries in which there was no such condition of slavery as that which existed in Cuba and Brazil, and in which no Slave Trade is carried on. It also dealt with countries not carrying on a Slave Trade with which there are existing arrangements. Nothing could be more inconvenient than to raise discussions upon what should be done upon a hypothetical case of which we were not in possession of all the circumstances. His answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question was, that as the duration of the Bill was only to be 1116 for one year, and it must be renewed next year, no practical inconvenience could arise, as it was impossible that such extensive alterations as were referred to could take place in Brazil and Cuba within one year.
Mr. Vernon Smith
said, it was very important that the House should possess some more information than had been imparted relative to the principle of the Bill. The right hon. Baronet said that the principle of the Bill was only to admit sugar from countries where there was not the same condition of slavery as in Cuba and Brazil. Now, was that condition of slavery to be the test of exclusion of sugar from other countries? The President of the Board of Trade said, he would not deal with domestic slavery, but from all he (Mr. Smith) could learn on that subject, he believed that domestic slavery was sure to lead to slavery of other descriptions, because it was clear that where there was domestic slavery there was no regard for the condition of a freeman. He would venture to refer to one country to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, namely, China. That was one of the countries to be affected by the Bill, and he thought it right that the House should know what it was about when it was proposed to admit sugar from China in preference to that of Cuba. The condition of slavery in China was described by one who had investigated the subject as being marked by all that aggravates the enormities of that practice; every offence was heightened or mitigated, as it was committed by a slave or a master. To kill a master was an offence punished with a lingering death, as petit treason; while the converse of that case was held to be a venial offence; again for slight infractions of the law whole families were sometimes condemned to perpetual servitude. That was the state of slavery in China. His hon. Friend, the Member for Renfrewshire, had described what it was in Java. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he knew little of the laws of Java—that he had not been able to procure a copy of them, he believed he had said—and, therefore, could not give the House any information respecting them. [Mr. Gladstone: Not so.] Well, then, if the right hon. Gentleman possessed any means of information, he really-wished he would communicate it to the House, because he feared they possessed but little information as to the laws of any one of these countries; and yet the House 1117 was called upon to diminish the supplies of sugar, because they were told it was right to discourage the Slave Trade. At first the right hon. Gentleman had said he would not admit the sugar of Siam, although in his speech he betrayed a great longing for it. Now, he should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the state of slavery in Siam. He believed it was worse even than in China. From what he had read in voyages and books of travels, it appeared that the Mandarins were flogged with split rattans, and not only were the gentlemen so treated, but the ladies also, and they were in the habit of parading the streets to exhibit the honours they had received from the Emperor, in being flogged with split rattans in the presence of his court. This might appear a very trivial matter to the right hon. Gentleman, but it had a direct bearing upon the question how the Government were to carry out the principle of this most absurd and hypocritical Bill. Although he was prepared to go the whole length of admitting sugar from slave-growing countries as well as free-grown sugar, yet if he was appealed to on the ground of humanity and philanthropy to admit no sugar which was not free-grown, he must at least ask what the right hon. Gentleman understood by free-grown sugar? It was not produced by labour that could be justly called free in any of the countries from which the Government proposed its admission.
said, that with regard to the charge of hypocrisy, he really did not think it worthy of notice; but with respect to that practical question put by the right hon. Gentleman, he would give it the best answer he could. As regarded Siam, the right hon. Gentleman had, he supposed, unconsciously vindicated the Government, because Siam was not introduced in the Bill, but remained for further investigation and information. He believed the right hon. Gentleman did not know what was the correct interpretation of the term Mandarin. He seemed to think that it necessarily implied one of the superior class, but he believed that an officer of the grade of a policeman in Siam would be a mandarin. [Mr. V. Smith, "No."] Well, he bowed to the superior knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, but with regard to Java, he had endeavoured to procure all the information he could, both from private persons and from persons connected with the anti-slavery cause, and notwithstanding what had been stated by 1118 the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, he bad every reason to believe that there was nothing resembling slavery in its substantial form, as applied to the cultivation of sugar in that country. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of forced labour, and undoubtedly there was forced labour in Java, as there was in Scotland, where land was held subject to certain returns of produce or labour. Those who thought it worth while to raise difficulties upon legal definitions of slavery and freedom might; but he thought the British people and the British Parliament sufficiently understood the distinction. In the case of the West-India emancipation, the House had not been troubled for a definition of slavery; nor did he recollect that the right hon. Gentleman had required an explanation. The descriptions of slavery against which the provisions of this Bill were directed was of the same nature as that which had existed in the West Indies, always preserving the distinction between voluntary labour and coercive labour, not dependent upon the will of those from whom it was exacted, and from which there was no means of escaping. Now, in Java, he had received assurances, that it was within the discretion of the persons employed in the cultivation of the land to withdraw from it if they pleased, and he believed there was no case whatever of permanent attachment to the land independently of the will of the individual, although such attachment to the land did not, in many cases, partake at all of the nature of slavery. It was said, that where domestic slavery existed it would be applied to other forms of coercion; but he thought that was a very false inference, for there were places where domestic slavery prevailed, and still predial slavery was never dreamt of. But in Java even domestic slavery was not, according to the information he had received, a stationary institution. The intelligence he had received was, that there is no replenishment of the slavery which exists—that it is the mere relic of a Slave Trade which had formerly prevailed, and that the slaves were employed for domestic purposes only, and not for the cultivation of the land; that the importation bad ceased for a long period, and that there was a constantly decreasing number of the persons who were still in that condition. He said, there-fore, that he had every reason to believe that even the slavery which existed in Java would, at no distant period, cease to exist.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that whether that particular expression which had been used with respect to the Bill was justly applicable to it or not, must be left to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because as it imputed a motive, it was for the Government to justify their own motives; but he must say, that the course adopted by the Government was a most devious, intricate, and tortuous one—and like all devious, intricate, and tortuous courses, the further they proceeded in it, the more difficult did they find it to extricate themselves. This was exemplified by what the President of the Board of Trade had stated this evening. Only mark the different gradations of the ground taken by the Government. In the first instance, the principle relied upon in vindication of the Bill was, that they did not wish to encourage slavery—it was the condition of slavery which was to be entirely and in toto discouraged. Then they shifted their position,—said their wish was to discourage the Slave Trade—they did not care about slavery. The right hon. Gentleman told the House boldly that he did not mind the existence of slavery, provided it was domestic slavery. That he was prepared to admit sugar from countries where domestic slavery prevailed, provided that the Government were satisfied—for it was the Government alone who were to be consulted—that there was no agricultural slavery. But here at once they gave up every one of the positions upon which they had taken their stand. Would any man tell him that domestic slavery was not fed by the Slave Trade? What the right hon. Gentleman said might be true of one place or another, but he maintained boldly, and he defied contradiction, that where domestic slavery existed there would be a supply of slaves, and that supply must be produced by a Slave Trade of some kind or other. Look at the Ottoman dominions, where none but domestic slavery existed, and where it was fed by a very extensive Slave Trade. [Mr. Gladstone: That is not the case in Java.] The right hon. Gentleman wished to confine him to Java, but he begged to decline such circumscription, and when he was told that domestic slavery did not encourage the Slave Trade, he said that neither in principle nor in practice could such a position be maintained. Well, here the Government were beaten out of one of the grand principles upon which they had taken their stand in reference to this measure. He said that the mere fact of opening the 1120 British market to sugar, which, in the opinion of the Government, or in reality, might be the production of free-labour, did virtually give as great encouragement to the Slave Trade as if you admitted slave-grown sugar. He would not call the professions of the Government hypocrisy, because hypocrisy implied some pretence to deceive those to whom it was addressed, but he said that a more palpable and barefaced fallacy was never propounded to Parliament. It was clear as the sun at noonday; it was obvious to the meanest capacity, that if by withdrawing free-labour sugar from the market of Europe, the supply be diminished, and the price of the rest increased, a direct and positive encouragement was thus given to the growth of sugar raised by slaves. That was, in a few words, his insuperable objection to the principle of this most inconsistent and hollow Bill. On this clause it appeared to him a grave constitutional objection might be founded. The Government took to themselves the power of opening the market at their will, according to their construction of the laws, habits, and usages of other countries, and on that ground alone to give admission into our market to the sugar of any other country. Why, when they proposed to make rules of that kind, the rules should be seen in the Bill. Some clear and definite principle should be established, and if a discretionary power was to be given to the Government, that power should be guided by some clear and intelligible principles, in order that the Government might be enabled hereafter to take their course without an apprehension that what they did would incur the disapprobation of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House of the infinite gradations of the condition of slavery, the nice distinctions by which it graduates from the arbitrary and cruel slavery of Cuba and Brazil, to the more mitigated condition of serfage in other countries, and by this Bill the public were to have the power of judging of the internal institutions of those different Colonies and countries. Under pretence of maintaining the West-India produce, they were to open the British market to the produce of any country the institutions of which they conceived to be sufficiently tinged with freedom to entitle it to that distinction. He held that to be a most objectionable principle. He could understand it, according to the principles of the Government, if they said, "We will open the market to the sugar of any country 1121 which does not carry on the Slave Trade." There would be an intelligible principle. He might differ from them, or think that they would not be able to effect their object. He might think it was open to the same objection as the present plan, on the ground that whether you admitted slave-grown or free-labour sugar in the European market, you did, by taking away the sugar now in the market, give encouragement to the Slave Trade, but, at all events, it would be a clear and distinct proposition, and when the Government decided upon its application to any particular country, Parliament would be enabled to ascertain whether there was ground for that application; but this proposition was objectionable upon every principle on which it had been argued, and he was not disposed to support it.
§ Sir. J. Hanmer
begged to ask his right non. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, whether any negotiations had been entered into with Holland relative to our intercourse with Java. He wished at the same time to call the attention of his right hon. Friend to the fact that a considerable proportion of the trade between the Phillip-pine Islands and Manilla was carried on in Spanish bottoms. He trusted that this matter would not escape the attention of Her Majesty's Government. He also wished to know why the island of Porto Rico should not be enumerated among the places from which free-labour sugar was to be introduced? Out of a population of 500,000 there were only 40,000 blacks in that island, and therefore there could not be much slavery.
said, there was a very considerable proportion of free-labour in Porto Rico, but at the same time there was a great deal of slave-labour employed in that island, and it was impracticable to draw the proper distinction. The matter alluded to by the hon. Gentleman was one of much importance. It was true that differential duties were still in existence in Java, and no treaty had been entered into with Holland relating to the intercourse with Java. With respect to Manilla and the Philippine Islands, the voyages were not performed by Spanish vessels, but chiefly by British; and with regard to the export duties levied at Manilla, the difference was so slight as to be scarcely worthy of consideration.
§ Mr. Hume
said, it was the object of Parliament, in legislating on these mat- 1122 ters, to lay down certain principles in a Bill, and then lay down such rules as should prevent any deviation from it. They now began to find out the difficulties which encompassed the plan of Her Majesty's Government. He wanted to know if Government could and would define what slavery was. If they could not define it now could they hope to define it hereafter? The fact was, the only conclusion the House could come to was that the Government itself did not know what the Clause meant. Was Egyptian sugar admissible under this Bill? They would not tell him, and if they would not tell, how could foreign Governments know in what way to advise their people to regulate their trade with this country? He had never seen the right hon. Baronet so anxious to get rid of a question as of this, and really he was not surprised at it. Supposing another Government were to come in—which was not so improbable as some might imagine, for, from a sentence which had fallen from the leader of the present Government, it appeared that he was more inclined to run away than his followers were to quit him—how was the succeeding Government to carry out the principle of this Bill? Still he should be sorry to see the right hon. Baronet go out at the present moment. He could not, however conceive, after the speech of the right hon. Baronet, that he would have remained in office had the majority been against him. But this was no matter. It was possible that this Bill would have to be carried out by another Government, and they ought to lay down certain principles which could be understood by the general interpretation of the words. How would they deal with the sugar of Louisiana? [Lord Stanley: That is under treaty.] . But suppose the Treaty should cease? Acts of Parliament ought to be intelligible to Ministers of State as well as to men of ordinary understanding. They ought to lay down a distinction between slave-grown sugar and free-labour sugar, and after the new intepretation that had been given by the right hon. Gentleman, he thought the House ought to have another opportunity of expressing its opinion. He had turned over the Bill in order to see where he could take a division, since the new interpretation put upon it by the President of the Board of Trade, which increased the difficulty. His view was to establish the principle that no distinction should be 1123 made between slave-grown sugar and the produce of free-labour. He should be much obliged to any Gentleman who would point out to him where he could take a division. He hoped the right hon. Baronet, who was always so clear, would supply the deficiency of explanation which characterised the observations of the President of the Board of Trade. He did not wish to throw any difficulties in the way; but he thought that what was impossible to be carried out, ought not to be attempted. He should move that the consideration of the Clause be postponed.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, the opportunity desired by the hon. Gentleman, had been suggested to him from his own Parliamentary knowledge in the Motion he had just made, and he hoped the House would express their opinion upon it. The noble Lord had proposed that the discriminating duty of 10s. should be applied to sugar the produce of slave-labour, equally with sugar the produce of free-labour. The House had decided against the noble Lord's proposition; and if he were not satisfied with their decision, he would have an opportunity of again raising the question on the bringing up of the Report. He did not think the hon. Gentleman opposite had a right to call upon the Government to answer a variety of hypothetical cases, such, for instance, as what was to be done respecting the sugar of Louisiana, supposing that the United States should conclude a treaty with the Zollevein, which they had not yet done, and give in notice of the determination of the Treaty with England. It was scarcely fair to call for our answer as to what would be done upon this double hypothesis, but as a year must expire from the time when such notice should be given before the treaty was terminated, and as this Bill was to be of the duration only of one year, it was unnecessary to discuss such a contingency.
§ Mr. Labouchere
believed that it could be shown distinctly that the Government, in attempting to draw a distinction between sugar the produce of slaves and sugar the produce of free-labour, were attempting to lay down a position that was utterly untenable. He was not without hope that when they had gone through the Clauses of the Bill, it would be so clear that the people of this country were called upon to make all those sacrifices for no practical benefit—that they were betraying themselves in the eyes of the 1124 world as people who were unable to carry their own principles into effect—that they were introducing a system of extensive fraud in the commercial world—that the House upon the Report must be induced to reverse the decision as was now by no means unusual with that House. It had done so before, and he hoped it would do so with this Bill again. The more they discussed the question, the more evident it would be that it was not advisable to attempt to draw a distinction between the two classes of foreign sugar; and it would be shown upon the Clauses relating to the certificates how impossible it would be to do so.
the right hon. Gentleman had set a bad example—one that he had himself deprecated—that of discussing the general question upon the consideration of a particular Clause. He did not mean to imitate the example, notwithstanding the specious arguments that had been used against the Bill. He could not avoid saying, however, that the Government had shown no disposition to flinch from any statement they had made, nor to vary any statement, and in answer to the noble Lord, he begged to say, that they had been perfectly consistent on this question from the beginning to the end. The noble Lord had spoken of their shifting their ground, and abandoning one ground, and then taking another. He met these assertions with a broad and fearless denial; and he expressed his perfect readiness to meet the noble Lord point by point, whenever, according to the convenience of Parliamentary discussion, the noble Lord thought fit to raise them; but he was not to be taken out of his course by an incidental discussion. He wished to do that which had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, to go through the Bill clause by clause. The hon. Member for Montrose had said that he had complained of being pressed by questions. It was his lively imagination, one that had led him more astray than any other Member, that suggested the notion to the hon. Member. The hon. Member had asked him as to Egypt. It was like to a whole mass of countries that produced sugar in a limited quantity, and the hon. Member might as well have asked him as to the sugar of France, or Austria, or the northern parts of Germany, producing sugar for their own consumption. He fairly owned that such coun- 1125 tries had not entered into his contemplation, nor did he see how they were to be dealt with, unless in a special case of necessity, or that there were peculiar treaties with those countries, as there was with the United States. He had not thought it necessary to say what was to be done in cases that were extremely improbable. They had no such Treaty with Egypt as with the United States. Egypt was regulated by the stipulations of the Treaty with Turkey, and they were not by that bound to admit any of its produce on special terms.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
observed, that the more this Clause was discussed, and he meant chiefly to confine himself to it, the more difficult it would be found to carry it into execution. An entire discretion was to be left to the Government under this Clause. Did not this Clause give to the Government the power, by an Order in Council, to admit any sugar which it was satisfied was the produce of free labour? They asked, then, of the Government which required these enormous powers, they asked of the Government this practical question: "Will you be so good as to explain what it is you do mean by the produce of free labour? We are called upon to give you extraordinary power, and we ask of you to be kind enough to give us some explanation as to how you are likely to exercise that power?" The right hon. Gentleman had said that he could give no definition whatever, and the construction of the matter was to be left to the Government hereafter. No doubt the House of Commons was well disposed enough to leave much to the discretion of the Government; it had left lately a great deal to the discretion of the Government; it had given way very much indeed to the discretion of the Government. But then this was not the way to treat a House of Commons. It had a right to ask what was the principle upon which the Government proposed to act. It had a right, and it ought to require a definition to be given to it as to the exercise of that extraordinary power which the Government asked from it. The Government stated that in Java and China there was free-labour sugar. Then, he said, would the Government tell them distinctly what was the state of the population of Java? Would the Members of the Government also be good enough to tell them something pre- 1126 cisely with respect to the condition of the population of China? Siam, the Government was of opinion, was discovered now not to be in a state that they could not take sugar from it. He understood, from the opening statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that they might have sugar from Siam. [Mr. Gladstone: No.] Well, then, he was wrong; but he thought he had heard Siam mentioned as one of those places from which free-grown sugar might be procured. He now, then, asked a simple question, and if the Members of the Government had considered the effect of their own Bill, they ought to be able to answer it. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned Java, but then he could give them no distinct information as to Java. With regard to Egypt, there was no answer. Now, they ought to be able to give the House, when they took large discretionary powers, some means of ascertaining how they intended to exercise it—how they were to admit what they called free-grown sugar, and how they were to exclude slave-grown sugar. He believed, that the only effects of their present definition would be this—taking sugar from Java and from China, it was clear that slavery existed in both countries. He was only stating that which was admitted on both sides; and now he said, as the Government had doubtless looked maturely into this subject, they would put the House in possession of that information which they had procured.
remarked that it was stated by the right hon. Gentleman that slavery existed both in China and Java, and that such only appeared in both countries in connection with the produce of sugar. If such were the result of the right hon. Gentleman's examination, he must have been very unfortunate in the mode of making it. He must say, too, that the right hon. Gentleman left him in doubt whether he had read the Clause with attention, for the right hon. Gentleman had said that it was entirely in the discretion of the Government to admit sugar which it allowed to be the produce of free labour. He had already said distinctly, that when sugar was not the produce of slave labour—that if the Government learned that slave labour was not applied to sugar, though there might be slavery in that country in another form, and applied to other purposes, that sugar, not being the produce of slave labour, might be 1127 fully admitted. The right hon. Gentleman overlooked that distinction, and took the Government to task, because it did not supply him with a definition that should apply to every case, as to whether sugar was the produce of free labour or the produce of slave labour. There might be cases rising up from simple servitude to strict and absolute slavery, and yet no practical difficulty in the working out of the Bill. The Government did not attempt to establish nice metaphysical distinctions, but to give effect to a plain practical law. As to Java there was no difficulty whatever. There was no fairness in the allegations that sugar was grown by slave-labour in Java. He knew that it was a vulgar tradition, of which his hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire had picked up the relics, that slave-labour was used in the production of sugar in Java. He knew he could trust thus far to the candour of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that he would not expect from him such a description of the tenure of the land in Java as could alone be given by an experienced lawyer. He had stated the other night the different ways in which land was held in Java, and when the right hon. Gentleman had said that it was plain that there was slavery in Java, he had not paid attention to the terms he had used. He said again, that in Java there was not slavery—there was no attachment to the soil, there was no permanent vassalage. He hoped, then, after this statement, that the right hon. Gentleman would not reiterate the statement that there was slavery.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
spoke from the very last and best authority with respect to Java, and on that authority he affirmed that every portion of exported produce from Java was the produce of forced labour. The labourers, too, were transferred with the soil, and only escaped work by the payment of a fine. In 1836 the old system of slavery was restored. Whilst it was under the French flag, and afterwards under the British, that system was put an end to. It had been restored, which it ought not to have been, under the Treaty of Vienna; and upon the Dutch Governor restoring slavery, there was an insurrection and a massacre, and from eight to ten thousand persons had been killed. [Mr. Gladstone: Persons had the power of quitting the land in Java.] Yes, on payment of money. Labourers could not 1128 quit the soil, nor could they quit labour, except upon payment of a ransom. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was not aware of these facts, or he would look at Java with other eyes. It was of great importance to consider this, for it was from Java that they expected to receive more than one-half of the whole amount of sugar contemplated to be introduced under this Bill. And then to show how the Bill would work. About a fortnight since, when these regulations were first heard of, a cargo of Brazilian sugar was sent out to Bombay. Instead of importing sugar from Java or Manilla, it was thought better to take Brazilian sugar out of bond and send it to Bombay to relieve the market. He was, indeed, told by an hon. Gentleman opposite that the cargo was not going to Bombay, but to Australia. The confusion arose from the ship itself being called the "Australia." But in order that there might be no mistake about the matter, he could state that the sugar was imported from Brazil in a vessel, the "Mary," and it was shipped on board the Australia for Bombay; so that in Calcutta they would be consuming the slave-grown sugar, instead of using that from Manilla, which they left to the use of the people of England. This was an illustration of the working of the proposed system.
Sir W. James
had voted against the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), when he proposed a Motion on this subject of which he did not approve; but with regard to the principle now before the House, without committing himself on the present occasion, he said that he entertained the greatest doubt. His object in rising was to put this question to the right hon. Baronet, whether he was to consider this Bill in the light of an experiment, or whether they were to look to the distinction between free-labour and slave-grown sugar in the light of a permanent principle of legislation, which they were determined to adhere to. From the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he had inferred that this was to be permanent legislation, at all hazards; but, according to the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to the Member for Montrose, he had said that this was only an annual Bill, and therefore he could not but regard it as an experiment. Now, he could not reconcile it to his conscience to vote against the Government, as he did not know what they intended to do. He said that what- 1129 ever vote he had given was a conscientious vote. He was but a young Member of that House, and he might very well hesitate and doubt as to what course he ought to take, when he considered the information that must be in possession of the Cabinet. He might very well place, if he chose, confidence in every body or any body, but he said this, that every one who did vote had a right to information, and they had a right to look for that information to those who had it, that was, the Members of the Government. That was only just and reasonable. Now, not pledging himself to vote, he asked whether they were to consider this as a permanent system of legislation, or to look at it in the light of an experiment?
§ Sir R. Peel
had already stated very fully the views of Her Majesty's Government, and what was their present position with respect to the Sugar Duties. He had stated, on Monday last, that Her Majesty's Government having an opportunity of making an arrangement with respect to the admission of free-labour sugar on the 10th of November next, on account of the expiring Treaty with Brazil, had determined that sugar the produce of free-labour should be permitted to enter into competition with colonial sugar at that time. He thought he had stated that, there being a tendency to increase in the price of sugar, Her Majesty's Government had determined upon the permitting the importation of foreign sugar, provided they were assured it was the produce of free-labour. He had stated distinctly that Her Majesty's Government did not think it consistent with the course this country had taken with respect to the abolition of slavery, and with the measures adopted for the prevention of the Slave Trade, and with the knowledge of the condition of Brazil and Cuba as to slavery and the Slave Trade, Her Majesty's Government could not reconcile it to their sense of duty, to permit a competition between British colonial sugar, and sugar the produce of Cuba and Brazil. He had also stated that the present Bill was an annual Bill, in answer to a question that had been addressed to him in the present debate. He had said this in answer to one hon. Gentleman, who had said, supposing Cuba and Brazil determine to prevent the Slave Trade, though slavery might be considered, what course, then, would this 1130 Government take. That was one hypothesis as to the Slave Trade being discontinued by these countries. Another said, supposing the American Government were to conclude a treaty with the Zollverein, what course would be then taken? To both questions he had answered, that the present Bill was one of limited duration—that it was for one year, and the cases they had supposed could not arise in a year. His hon. Friend had then asked him whether the system now proposed was to be permanent. He could not state more than this—that Her Majesty's Government, with the knowledge of facts now before them with respect to Cuba and Brazil, decidedly objected to allowing the produce of Cuba and Brazil to enter into competition with the produce of our own Colonies. He did not think that the hon. Gentleman could ask him for a more precise answer than this, that the same circumstances continuing, he did not anticipate any change in the system.
§ Viscount Howick
observed that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in not pledging himself to make this a permanent principle; because so far from its being permanent, he doubted very much if hon. Gentlemen opposite would be able to satisfy the House and the country that the Bill ought even to be passed. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hull had referred to the great means of information possessed by the Government. Now, he must say, that if they had any information, they were exceedingly stingy with it. They kept this information, like a cabinet secret, most carefully. It certainly would be a benefit to the House to have more information, because he thought the further they went the clearer it would appear that this Bill ought not to pass. They found in the first Clause Java, China, and Manilla, introduced without any reference to slave labour. They did not dare to assert that slave labour did not exist; and now the House had heard the statement of the hon. Member for Renfrew as to Java, so that if they were to have sugar from Java it could not be said that it was not slave-grown sugar. Then as to Porto Rico; from the statement that had been made respecting it, it was improperly excluded from the Bill. As to Siam, it was stated by the right hon. Gentleman that they did not know enough of it to introduce 1131 Siam into the Bill, but they did know more of Java. He had no doubt but Siam was in a very barbarous state; that the population, as in most of the barbarous countries of the East, was in a wretched condition; but if the welfare of the people, and not their own consistency, were the object, they would trade with Siam, that the people there might feel the civilizing influences of British commerce. They could, he believed, do nothing more calculated to increase that civilization than to allow it to export its produce to England, and confer upon it the advantages of British commerce.
said, that the hon. Member for Renfrew had accused him of being behind him with his information. He had been in communication with a Gentleman who had lived twenty years in Java, and only returned last week. The hon. Member had stated, that the labourers were transferred with the land. He denied it. It was quite true that the labourers might go with the land, as in England the peasantry remained on the land, when estates were transferred from one proprietor to the other; but then it was free there, as here, for the labourer to leave the land. It was said that he could not leave it without payment. And what was that? About ten or eleven shillings, about half the value of a sovereign, and that was what the hon. Member would describe as the value of a slave. Did not the hon. Gentleman's own statement show that the labourer in Java was free? The very statement overthrew the assertion that there was slavery. Why, the paltry payment did not represent the one-fiftieth part of the value of a slave in any country where slavery was known.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
replied, that confidently as he was opposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he again repeated that the labourers were transferred with the soil in Java. They must remain located on the land, and deliver a certain amount of produce to the Government, until by a ransom in money they liberated themselves.
would confine himself strictly to the details of the third Clause. By that Clause it was sought to confer extraordinary powers on the Government; such powers as, he was sure, no Act of Parliament ever before conferred. After what had passed that evening in the Committee, after hearing allegations with re- 1132 spect to Java contradicted by allegations of a different tenour by the President of the Board of Trade, he appealed to the sincerity and the candour of that right hon. Gentleman, and asked him what was that sufficient evidence to be produced before Her Majesty in Council in order to authorize this step to be taken under the third Clause? He asked him what was that sufficient evidence which would satisfy the Government, the House of Commons, and the country? They had determined rightly that the sugars they admitted were not the produce of slave-labour. Now, as regarded Egypt, the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring) three or four nights ago denied the assertion that was made by an hon. Friend near him as to the existence of slavery in that country. His hon. Friend had said there was no such thing as slavery among the Fellahs of Egypt. He asked the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Board of Trade, what was really meant by slave-labour, and he put this case,— suppose the sugar was not produced by slaves, but suppose the boat's crew who brought the sugar down from the interior of the country where it was grown were the slaves of the proprietor, and he understood that was often the case in Manilla, would the right hon. Gentleman admit that sugar as free-labour sugar? Again, there were many instances of domestic slaves being employed to drive the waggons laden with sugar from a distant part of the island to the sea-coast to be embarked. He brought forward those instances to show the difficulty of limiting the cases, not merely to the prevalence of domestic slavery, but of agricultural and field slavery. He had heard a great deal said about Java, but they should all recollect the jealousy with which the Dutch viewed any interference with their privileges or any inquiries as to their colonies, so that there was the greatest difficulty in obtaining any accurate information as to the internal condition of the Dutch colonial possessions. The right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill was only an annual Bill; but it proposed to give the Government most extraordinary powers— powers which involved a strong consolidated principle, and one which he (Mr. Bernal) looked upon with the greatest suspicion. They were to send Commissioners to Siam or to Java, and the reports of those Commissioners were to be adopt- 1133 ed; but, he asked, if the contingency should arise, how could these Commissioners be sent, and their reports be communicated, between the 10th of next November and the end of June in the succeeding year, the period during which this Bill was to be in operation?
§ Mr. Hume
complained that no satisfactory reply had been given to the objections and inquiries which he had made. The right hon. Gentleman, it seemed, could not answer a plain question, but had gone into a wide disquisition, which had no meaning at all as applied to the point in discussion. There were some people who thought themselves too clever to deal with simple questions; but it often happened, in this House as elsewhere, that those who fancied themselves the most clever were the greatest dolts, and that was his (Mr. Hume's) consolation. What he wished to be informed of by the right hon. Gentleman was this: upon what principles the Government intended to act in signifying that sugar coming from such and such places was not the produce of slave-labour? What was the principle upon which he would act in reference to Cochin China and Siam, for instance? In the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, did slavery exist in Cochin China or not? He hoped to have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman.
had no objection to answer the question. Cochin China was like Siam, for in respect of both those countries there was at this moment no evidence in the possession of the Government such as would enable them to ask Parliament to affirm that the sugar of those countries was not raised by slave-labour. It was possible it might answer that condition; but, as yet, it was not sufficiently established by evidence to their satisfaction. Was the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sheil) aware that in both those countries the inquiries of strangers were very contracted? He admitted the case of Cochin China was different from that of Siam, for Siam exported a great quantity of sugar, but the produce of Cochin China went chiefly to China.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, the objections which had been made had not been answered by the 1134 right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The issue between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Renfrewshire was with respect to Java, and the House did not appear to be satisfied with the assertions made on either side; but with reference to Cochin China, where it appeared sugar was grown for the supply of China, he thought the House should pause before it left, not to the Legislature, but to the President of the Board of Trade, to decide whether there was slavery existing in Cochin China, and also to decide on the sufficiency of the evidence to establish that fact. They were leaving to the Government, whatever Government that might be, a discretion which might be justly, but, on the other hand, might be capriciously and imprudently exercised: and the right hon. Gentleman would forgive him for saying that, when he wished to propose a legislative measure on a subject like this, he should have ascertained whether the sugar of Cochin China was produced by slave-labour or not—it was a fact of cardinal importance—it was a point of statistics on which the Bill rested. It was marvellous to see how ignorant the Government were on Java and China! The Chancellor of the Exchequer had confessed that he had not given five minutes' thought to the subject, and the President of the Board of Trade had made a minute, but unsuccessful investigation as to the state of Java, and was unprepared to inform them whether the sugar of Cochin China was the produce of slave-labour or not.
§ The Clause agreed to.
On the 4th Clause,
Sugar not to be admissible to entry for home consumption at a Duty of 1l. 14s. the hundred weight, unless the master of the ship importing the same shall have delivered to the collector at the port of importation such certificate as hereinafter mentioned, and subscribe a declaration that such certificate was received by him at the place where such Sugar was taken on board, and that the Sugar is the same as is mentioned therein.
§ Mr. Labouchere
proceeded to call the attention of the House to the system of certificates by which the Government sought to prevent slave-grown sugar being surreptitiously introduced into this country as free-labour sugar. It appeared by this Clause, that the power of preventing this rested on the validity of the certificates under which it was proposed that 1135 sugar should be admitted into this country. The system was quite novel here; it had never yet been attempted to inquire what was the origin of the produce imported into this country. Shipping; documents had been required, in order to give information as to the port of shipment, and there had been no difficulty in obtaining it; but, as far as he was aware, it had never been attempted by means of certificates of origin, which depended for their validity upon the signatures of foreigners, to ascertain the origin of any foreign produce imported into this country; and he submitted to the Committee whether the system provided by the Government accomplished its object, for, if it did not, the whole of the Government scheme fell to the ground, as all depended upon the degree of confidence which they gave these certificates of origin. Who were to furnish these certificates of origin? Every one knew that, even with respect to our own Colonies, where we had an entire control over the Custom-house establishments, certificates of origin were not of any great value when strong interests intervened. What reason was there, then, to place confidence in certificates of origin, if they were to be signed by foreigners? It might be argued that there would be no great inducement to forge these certificates of origin in order to send to this country slave-labour sugar instead of free-labour sugar; but he could not concur in this argument, admitting even that it might hold good in certain states of the market. It was proposed to admit sugar from the ports of China with Chinese certificates; but sugar was not to be imported from the ports of Cochin China. Now, it was notorious that there was a great export of sugar from Cochin China to China, and what was to prevent the Cochin China sugar, being of the same description as China sugar, and placed in the same warehouses, from coming through this medium to England? On whom were they to depend to prevent it? On the British Consul? What means would he have of ascertaining the fact? Java sugar was also to be admitted to this country. What could be easier than to send Siam sugar to Java, and to bring it thence to this country? With respect to sugar of the United States, too, how would it be possible to prevent fraud? Cuba was close to the United States, and there was a great import of sugar from Cuba to the United States, Taking it for granted that 1136 the American merchant had an interest to deceive, it would be very easy to procure false certificates of growth and false affidavits. Custom-house morality did not stand very high. Men who, in other respects, bore a very good character, had very little scruple in taking Custom-house oaths falsely to serve a commercial purpose, and one of his objections against the present Bill was, that it would go a good way to lower commercial honour and integrity. He objected to the British Consul being the party to whom they should look for the correctness of these certificates. The British Consul had other important duties to perform. It was desirable that he should live on good terms with those abouthim, and therefore it was not advisable to make him a spy on his neighbours. To assign this new additional duty to the British Consul would be to place him in a most invidious position, and to interfere with the proper discharge of his other important duties, connected with the general protection of English commerce in the port where he happened to be placed. Take the case of the British Consul in New Orleans or Florida. The American came and swore that the sugar was grown on his own property, and the shipper also swore that he saw the same sugar placed in his ship. Was it to be expected that the British Consul should say to these men, "I cannot believe you on your oaths?" Why, the British Consul would take care how he expressed any doubt on the subject, if he wished to lead a quiet life, or any life at all. He believed that this attempt on the part of the Government would entirely fail after a time, though vigilance might be exercised at first; and there would be no difficulty in getting false certificates and affidavits, and slave-labour, whenever the state of the market tempted, would be surreptitiously introduced into this country. He hoped some explanation would be given on this point, on which indeed the whole discussion rested. If the Bill was unsound in this respect, all the sacrifices they were called on to make, and all the dangers they were called on to incur, in provoking the commercial enmity of some of their commercial allies, such as Brazil, would be made and incurred for nothing. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet opposite express his astonishment the other night that the hon. Members for Bristol and Invernessshire should have intimated the same 1137 incredulity as he had done, as to the possibility of excluding; slave-labour sugar from this country, when once free-labour sugar the produce of foreign countries should be introduced. Why, there was scarcely any difference of opinion in the commercial world on this point:—that the certificates of origin were not worth a straw, and that slave-labour sugar could be encouraged under this system in like manner as if it were introduced directly.
§ Mr. Hampden
It was said that America had an absolute right to send her own sugar to this country without any of these conditions being required of her—that the grant was absolute which allowed her to send her sugars into this country at the same rate of duty as other countries. He confessed it struck him that this Bill did no more than confer on the trade of America the same commercial advantages which it did in every other country, and in the same terms, and therefore America could not claim a right to enjoy these advantages, unless she submitted to the terms upon which they were afforded. There appeared, however, to be some ambiguity upon this point, as it was said that America would claim exemption from being obliged to produce those certificates of origin. In the Treaty there was no mention made of any such conditions; the right appeared to be absolute which entitled America to bring her produce here at a low duty. It was said, that these Treaties should be construed literally, and, therefore, there was no condition of this kind mentioned to which she was bound to conform, and that she might deny their power to exact from her their certificates of origin. That, however, appeared to be contrary to common sense. This point, he thought, ought to be cleared up by a distinct declaration on the part of the Government; or if any such ambiguity really did exist, it was most important that it should be removed by the introduction of a few simple words into the Act of Parliament. He hoped that the House would extend somewhat greater indulgence to him now than it was disposed to do on a former occasion. He was told that, on the last night he had the honour of addressing the House upon this subject, he ought to have bowed to the impatience that was then manifested, by resuming his seat at an earlier hour. When, however, a man finds himself in a situation of great embarrassment and sur- 1138 prise, for which he is not prepared, all he can well do is to follow the impulses of his nature. He must frankly acknowledge that he felt himself placed in this kind of situation on the night in question, and he followed those impulses which were natural to it. Believing that the scale of duties proposed by Her Majesty's Government was calculated to inflict material injury on the West-India interests, and being very anxious to avert the calamities that must ensue, he confessed that he heartily joined in the efforts that were made to defeat this scale, but he could, with equal truth, declare that he as heartily concurred in the determination to discontinue all opposition to the Bill after the first decision; and he thought that the determination expressed by the hon. Member for Bristol, to withdraw from the contest on the first hostile decision, ought to be sufficient evidence that the opposition to the Government was not of a factious character. He only sincerely hoped that this measure might be very different indeed from what he anticipated. He was confident that it would be enforced by those Gentlemen who were now in power with strict regard to justice to all parties.
felt perfectly convinced that there was no Gentleman who usually acted with the Government to whom a charge of factious conduct could be attributed. Of the West-India body generally, though they had been unfortunate for many years past, and had many difficulties to struggle with, he believed that a more honourable body of men did not exist. Now, with regard to the certificates of origin, to which the hon. Gentleman opposite objected he admitted to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) that this was a most important part of the Bill, and if it could be shown that there was the great risk of fraud being committed under it as the right hon. Gentleman supposed, it would no doubt be a practical objection to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said the power of preventing the fraud rested entirely with the certificate of origin. That was not the case. Whenever the mercantile law required the production of certificates of origin, it did not exclude the power of demanding other evidence. It was no new principle that proof of origin should be required; in point of fact, under the commercial law of this country now, it frequently happened that you required to ascertain the 1139 origin of foreign articles imported into this country. Take an example under the present navigation laws. The produce of Asia, Africa, and America could not be admitted from the ports of Europe without proof of origin; and when any vessel brought hides, tallow, wool, and other articles, which were produced both in Europe and tropical countries, from any European ports, it was the duty of Custom-house officers here to ascertain the origin of those goods. This proof of origin was, as the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, one of the most important principles of our navigation laws. Therefore, he contended this was no new principle, it was no novelty or untried experiment, now to be brought into operation for the first time, but one that was already in existence, and had been long acted upon; neither was it any new duty imposed upon the revenue officers, but one that they were already called upon to discharge; and how was that duty now discharged? Not by instituting judicial investigations in every case, because no necessity for any such inquiry arose in every case. But when there was any reason to suspect a fraud, then an examination took place, but when there were no grounds for suspecting that a fraud was intended then the examination of the ship's papers was sufficient. And in all the frauds committed in the Customs department, they had never heard, except in a single instance, of any fraud under the navigation laws. Therefore, they were not to suppose that the efficiency of the Bill depended altogether on the certificate of origin. The right hon. Gentleman had said further, that no certificate of origin, depending upon the signature and veracity of foreigners, had been required in any case. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant by foreigners, foreigners holding official positions, or those engaged in mercantile transactions. If the right hon. Gentleman meant foreigners holding official positions, his answer was, that no such certificate would be now required. And with regard to foreigners carrying on mercantile businesses, the requiring of certificates from them was no novel feature. Certificates, the right hon. Gentleman said, were of no value where there was an inducement to deceive. He, however, demurred to that proposition. Of course the stronger the 1140 motive to deceive the weaker was the check. But the right hon. Gentleman himself had been called upon in 1839, when Vice-President of the Board of Trade, to defend a provision in a new law introduced by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Spring Rice), when the interest to deceive was tenfold greater than any that could arise under the present Bill. He alluded to the alteration introduced by the late Government in the duties on coffee. Previous to that time, the duty charged on West-India coffee was 6d. a pound; on coffee the produce of British possessions within the limit of the East-India Company's Charter, 9d. a pound, and on coffee produced in foreign possessions within the same limits 1s. a pound. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed by that measure to equalize the duty on East and West India coffee, the produce of British possessions. It was, however, objected that this would be to hold out an inducement to those states in India which did not form parts of the British possessions there to take their coffee into the British territory, and so get it in at the low duty. That objection, however, did not succeed; and he (Mr. Gladstone) had never heard that any fraud, such as was anticipated, had resulted from that measure; or that fraud had ever been attempted; and the certificate of origin had in that case been effectual in promoting the introduction of foreign coffee though the premium held out in the scale of duties thus established was not less than 6d. a pound, or, taking the expense of trans-shipment into account 50s. a cwt. Then, as to the danger of slave-grown sugar being imported from Cuba into America, and from thence into this country as American produce—he contended that the expense and difficulty attending the operation would far more than counterbalance any profit that might be expected to be derived from it. The fraudulent operation could never be conducted at as small an expense as the legitimate trade, and in this case there would be the expense of trans-shipment, the double voyage, first to America, and from thence to England, which, upon an average might be taken at 4s. a cwt. There would be no interest, no inducement, therefore to commit fraud, and even if there were no certificates of origin at all required, he should say that there was no fear that any extensive fraud would result. Then, said the right hon. Gentleman, how can you 1141 tell that sugar from Cochin China would not find its way into China, and so into this country under the new duty; and that the sugar we should receive from Java would not really be the produce of Siam, and the sugar from the United States not that of Cuba? And then the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the objection to mixing up our Consuls at foreign ports with investigations involving the veracity of individuals. He (Mr. Gladstone) contended that this was by no means a difficult or an onerous duty—not by any means so onerous as you now impose upon them in the case of the bonds required in the export of ships' provisions. Now, as to the difficulty of preventing the growth of Cochin China finding its way into this country through China, and so on in respect to other slave-grown sugar coming in through free-labour sugar growing states, he apprehended that in every country in which there was a British commercial community, the articles of export and import were well known: and it would be at once known when sugar was imported from any particular port or exported to any particular port, whether the transaction was legal or not, and that the commercial community, there, and the British Consul, would at once know whether the import or export was intended for the purposes of fraud or not. It was no difficult investigation for the Consul; but a matter which he would be able to determine by the exercise of a little of that which the hon. Member for Montrose(Mr. Hume) appreciated, and justly appreciated so highly—a little common sense. And he might here take the opportunity of saying, in answer to an observation of that hon. Member's that he was entirely mistaken in supposing that he (Mr. Gladstone) had applied to him the epithet "stupid." If he had done so, he should take the earliest opportunity of apologising; but he assured the hon. Gentleman that he was altogether mistaken. If they were here dealing with silk, or lace or any light article that might be packed in a small compass and easily disposed of, the case would be different. In articles of that kind, it was true, importations might take place, and great difficulty be experienced in proving their origin or their re-export; but here they were dealing with an article so heavy and so bulky, and in which the demand and the trade was so regular, that he had never before heard it suggested that 1142 any such fraud as the right hon. Gentleman anticipated could be perpetrated. It was hardly possible to conceive, where there were so many disadvantages attending the process, the parties would attempt any deviation from the ordinary and legitimate course of trade. Facilities for smuggling always depended upon the bulk of the article in proportion to its value. It was easy to make regulations to prevent smuggling in bulky articles, the great difficulty was in light articles. But there was another circumstance in the case which would operate as a practical check against fraud. In no two countries was sugar packed in the same way. In Java it was packed in baskets, in Manilla and the East Indies in bags, in the Havannah in boxes, and in our own Colonies and Louisiana, in casks. [An hon. Member: It might be re-packed.] Yes, but that would require labour and expense, and must be done—if to any extent—openly and in the face of day, and any attempt to commit fraud in that way, even were it attempted, would inevitably lead to detection. They were not to expect that parties would attempt to introduce foreign sugar into New Orleans, or lower down towards the mouth of the Mississippi, and in that case incur the expense of carriage to the port, and repack it, in order to introduce it as American sugar here. Cuba sugar now entered largely into consumption in America, where it was subject to a duty of 18s. 8d., to collect which there was a sufficient force of revenue officers kept up: and it was not likely that the whole course of trade would be altered for the purpose of committing a fraud. Upon this point he had received a letter from a gentleman of free-trade opinions, well acquainted with New Orleans, who said that nothing could be more visionary than to suppose that American sugar would, under ordinary circumstances find its way into this country, and still more so to suppose that Cuba sugar would come in through America. The expense would be so great that no profit would attend the transaction There was also another important difficulty. There were no warehouses in the port of New Orleans: the duty, there-fore, must be paid on the goods entering, and to obtain the drawback on their re-export, they must be in the same packages in which they came in. These facts, he thought, sufficiently removed the objections of the right hon. Gentleman. The 1143 right hon. Gentlemen had said that the certificates would not operate in excluding slave-grown sugar, and that that was the opinion generally entertained in the commercial world. He denied the proposition; on the contrary, the effectual exclusion of slave-grown sugar was the most important feature of the present scheme. Before he sat down he wished to refer to a statement made on a former evening by the hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. Bernal) that the charge for freight was as great from New Orleans to New York, as from New Orleans to Liverpool, to prove which, the hon. Member read a Return, showing that the average cost of freight to Liverpool was 9–16ths of 1d. and to New York, 11–16ths of 1d. He had been informed that there was this error in reading that Return—it should have been the cost of freight to Liverpool 9–16ths of 1d., and to New York, 11–16ths not of a penny, but a cent.
§ Mr. B. Hawes
said, that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman had failed to produce that conviction on his mind which was necessary to induce him to give his assent to the clause. The only answer which the right hon. Gentleman had given to the objection urged by his hon. Friend, that the sugars of slave states would be substituted for those of free-labour countries, and thus under a false certificate of origin evade the operation of the clause, was, that the expense of this process would necessarily be so great as to nullify all the benefit to be expected from it, and therefore that such a circumstance would never occur. The right hon. Gentleman had estimated that expense at 4s. a cwt., or at all events at not less than that sum; but if that part of his argument held good, and if the extra cost which must inevitably occur in the shipment and trans-shipment of sugars would operate as a preventive to any such transaction, why, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, did he clog his measure with so unnecessary a clause as the present one requiring a certificate of origin? Then again the duty imposed by the clause upon the British Consul was of a novel and objectionable nature. The Consul was not only to receive the foreign declaration as to the origin of the sugars about to be shipped for consumption in England, but he was to make a declaration upon that declaration—that he believed it to be true. Now, this was not a duty which 1144 ought to be imposed on a British Consul; it was a totally new, and an unprecedentedly onerous duty, and, moreover, it would, he apprehended, give rise to much fraud, or at all events create a vast temptation to persons to lend their sanction to fraudulent shipments of sugar. There was another anomaly which he observed in the Bill, and which merited a passing comment, namely, that, in general, Acts of Parliament provided for the punishment of those who offended against their enactments, by ordaining that some penalty should be inflicted for such breach of the law, whereas the Bill in question contained no such provision; nor was there any penalty or other punishment set forth as liable to be enforced on those who contravened or disregarded its clauses. The right hon. Gentleman had urged as a convincing reason why the slave-grown sugar from Cuba could not be trans-shipped under a false certificate of origin from New Orleans, the circumstance that those sugars were subjected to a very heavy duty on their being imported into the state of Louisiana, which not being recoverable by way of drawback on the re-shipment of the sugars under a certificate of origin, inasmuch as the form of the packages would be changed, would totally prevent such a transaction from being profitable to the person who should have recourse to this method of evasion. But let him suppose that the state of Louisiana, foreseeing the advantages which would arise to its commerce and capital from such a traffic, were to change its present laws, and to establish a system of warehousing in bond, similar to that practised here. In that case, the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments fell to the ground, and, indeed, as the sugar grown in America would in no wise be affected by such a commerce, it was clear that the interests of the State would be consulted by promoting it, and that the system of bonding in warehouses would be adopted there. Whenever a new and important branch of commerce in an article of consumption of primary necessity suddenly arose, all incidents relating to it modified themselves to suit the circumstances which rendered such changes necessary, and the trifling obstacles referred to, of shapes and sizes of packages and similar minutiae, would be altered to suit the conveniences of the place or port to which such commerce should be trans- 1145 ferred, and this, the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, would completely nullify the provisions of the Bill, which contemplated the permanence of the present state of commerce in the foreign countries where it was intended to have an effective operation.
§ Viscount Palmerston
observed, that the right hon. Gentleman's speech in defence of the clause did not go very far to cut away the ground upon which the objections which had been urged against it rested. The right hon. Gentleman had asserted, that no temptation to fraudulent shipment of slave-grown sugars would exist under the Bill in its present form, because the advantage to be derived from such a proceeding would only be to the extent of 4s. a cwt. On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman had asserted that one of the strongest motives which he could urge to the House for the adoption of this measure was the encouragement which it would hold out to the Brazilian and other slave-sugar-growing states to abolish slavery, and to qualify their sugars for admission to the British market. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had placed himself in this dilemma—namely, either that the advantage to be derived from shipping slave-grown sugar under false certificates of origin was greater than what he had estimated it at, or else that the motives which he urged on behalf of the Bill were quite groundless, seeing that for so trifling an advantage as 4s. a cwt. the Brazilian and other slave States would never consent to forego their present cheap mode of producing the article. But the real question at issue before the Committee was the validity of the guards by which the right hon. Gentleman had surrounded the proposed alteration in the present law. For himself, he thought they would be no security whatever. The certificates of origin required by the Clause would always be obtainable at a very small price, and the imposition of such a restriction was only throwing an additional temptation in the way of those whose duty it would become to watch over the shipments of sugar, to give false certificates of origin. Moreover, the Bill provided for the exercise of functions partaking of an inquisitorial nature in countries where the Government, its framers, had not the slightest authority. The declaration of the person offering the certificate of origin for corroboration by the British Consul was a mere affirmation, 1146 not secured by oath. That declaration the British Consul was to certify according to his belief to be true. Now, on behalf of the whole body of British Consuls, he protested against the imposition of such a duty upon them. It was an office quite distinct from the ordinary routine of their duties, which were confined to the protection of British commerce and other analogous matters. But to establish the British Consul as a judge of the veracity of the foreigners amongst whom he resided, more particularly in matters of trade or commerce, was placing him in a most invidious and a most painful position. He would be constantly creating enemies, and his utility would be entirely destroyed. The great policy of a British Consul was to live harmoniously and to avoid, if possible, too great a mixing up in private life with the natives of the place where he was stationed. He had known difficulties to arise from a British Consul having formed private connexions with the families residing in the place where he was stationed. But by the Bill before the Committee those difficulties were created wholesale, and in a manner to destroy all the utility of that office. On those grounds he regretted very much that the right hon. Gentleman had thought the interference of the British Consul necessary, and indeed he thought the certificates of origin might be given up without any inconvenience, as the arguments urged in their defence manifested; or at all events it would be a wise modification of the Clause if the right hon. Gentleman were to depend on the foreign shippers' certificate alone, and to refrain from saddling the British Consul with so onerous and so invidious a duty.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thought that the argument of his noble Friend was imperfect. His noble Friend had urged that the Government was inconsistent, because they stated on the one hand that there was no temptation for the grower of slave-sugar to attempt fraudulently to enter it at our ports, while, on the other hand, they held out the right of entry as a boon to be enjoyed under certain conditions by the foreign grower. Now, his noble Friend did not draw the proper distinction between the cases. What his right hon. Friend near him had stated was, that the introduction of sugar direct from Cuba, for example, would allow it to come into successful competition with 1147 other sugars in our market; but that if it could only be introduced by a circuitous route, and by means of a distant port, the expenses and the risk would be so great as to render the adventure too unprofitable to be undertaken. With respect to what had been urged by his noble Friend, as to the unfitness of Consuls to undertake the proposed duty of granting certificates, it would be recollected that a similar duty was already discharged by Consuls in the cases of British subjects in foreign parts drawing money from home. He believed that that duty was always honestly and well performed. The Consuls were honourable men, and would at once state their objections to a document presented for their signature, had they any reason to believe it untrue. Why was a Consul to be more sensitive than other British commercial authorities? Was there anything in his office or position to render him obnoxious to the people among whom he resided which did not equally apply to collectors residing in British Colonies? He contended that there was nothing objectionable in the duties to be entrusted to the Consuls, and that there was nothing in the situation of these latter to prevent their honest and adequate discharge.
§ Dr. Bowring
saw no strength in the argument of the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, that the Navigation Act gave practical evidence of the facility of ascertaining the origin of imported produce. It was true that the Navigation Act prohibited the importation, from the ports of Europe, of Articles not of European produce; but it should be recollected that articles of ultra-European produce differed so little from those produced in Europe that in nineteen cases out of twenty their origin could not be ascertained. A certificate of origin could be of no use, because there was not a port in Europe where there would not be a manufacturer of certificates of origin, not even excepting this metropolis. The dishonest merchant would avail himself of those fraudulent certificates, and make them instruments in defeating their declared object. It was perfectly impossible that the Consul could attend the loading and unloading of vessels, or make himself acquainted with all those minutiae which were requisite in order to his giving those certificates. The right hon. Gentleman was putting upon the Consul a most onerous, difficult, he would say, impos- 1148 sible duty. In his opinion, there was no solution to this most intricate, embarrassed, and entangled question, but by recognising what the noble Lord had put forward. "If you are to have a differential duty, do not embarrass yourselves by endeavouring to trace the origin of the article." His experience enabled him to say, that there was not a Government in Europe that had not found the inutility of such certificates.
§ Viscount Sandon
said there were only two ways in which sugar could come from America; either by paying the duty in America and then coining here, in which case the duty would be a sufficient protection; or by getting a fraudulent certificate of origin from the British Consul. But he must have his eyes closed if the goods could be taken out of bonding warehouses without his knowledge, and imposed on him. Even without certificates of origin, he thought there was little likelihood of this trade being carried on, for there were only moments when it would be valuable. In the event of any change in the warehousing system, he thought those certificates would afford no trifling protection. He was aware that in America documents of this description were sometimes forged, but they belonged to a class of cases of a very distinct character. In this case the goods were in bonded warehouses, and this circumstance, together with their bulk, threw great difficulties in the way of successful fraud.
§ Mr. Hume
said, the situation in which it was proposed to place the Consul, was a very awkward one for them. The temptation to smuggling would entirely depend upon prices here, and if they were remunerating, he would not like to be the Consul in a good many ports he could mention, who would refuse a certificate when he was asked for it, he considered that the whole affair was a humbug.
§ Mr. Labouchere
entreated the Government not to encumber the Bill with those certificates of origin. They would do no good, but would be productive of great mischief. He could not help thinking that, under certain circumstances, there might be considerable inducement to evade this Bill. He did not now refer to Orleans, or Florida only, but to the whole line of the United States of America, to whom we were bound by Treaty. We were bound to admit sugar equally from New York and those ports where there were no 1149 Consuls, as well as from those where Consuls were located. We were bound to admit sugar from St. Bartholomew, and from the Mexican ports, Tampico and Vera Cruz. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that our trade with the United States could be got rid of by giving a year's warning. He (Mr. Labouchere) thought there would be no end to the sacrifices we would have to make by adopting such a remedy. He believed we could not admit free-labour foreign sugar without giving a corresponding encouragement to foreign sugar, the produce of slave-labour. He said "a corresponding encouragement," for he always attached great importance to this other branch of the subject, namely, the encouragement given to slave-labour produce, by withdrawing free-labour sugar from other markets, leaving the vacuum to be filled up, as it must be, by slave-grown sugar. He always attached more importance to the encouragement thus afforded to slave-grown sugar than to the admission of slave-grown sugar into this country. No one could confidently predict what would be the consequences of the proposed measure. Suppose foreign slave-grown sugar and Louisianian sugar met together at New York, and that a change in the markets having taken place, it became more profitable to send sugar to London than elsewhere, could any man doubt that some of the slave-grown sugar would find its way into this country, notwithstanding any vigilance that the British Consul might exercise? He was satisfied that the present course of legislation, while it would produce most unfortunate results with regard to some of the most important countries in the world, and cause us to make great sacrifices, would not discourage slave-labour in foreign countries.
relied with considerable confidence on the continuance of the present duties in America. It was the prevalent opinion in America, that if protective duties were removed the cultivation of sugar in Louisiana would be much contracted. Unless some very great change took place be thought those duties would not be altered.
§ Dr. Bowring
enquired what was to be done in cases where sugar was to be exported from ports where there were no British Consuls?
replied, that be did not 1150 think that there was any sugar-exporting port of any consequence in America, where there was not a Consul who would certify sugar. Consuls would be appointed to Manilla; and as to Java, although the Dutch Government objected to admitting a consular officer, properly so called, yet there was nothing to prevent the admission of a person competent to discharge the duty of certifying sugars. The Bill would be amended in this respect.
§ Mr. A. Chapman
was of opinion that to demand certificates at ports from whence only free produce was exported, was hampering trade with unnecessary restrictions. He believed that they need be under no apprehension of slave-grown produce coming from the east of the Cape of Good Hope, and that they should therefore require no certificates with sugars exported from that part of the world. Certificates should be dispensed with as much as possible, as hampering and restricting trade.
§ Mr. Thornely
wished to know whether it was intended to admit sugar from China, Java, or Manilla imported before the 10th of November, at the low duty, without a certificate of origin.
said, if they consented to admit sugar without a certificate of its origin, they would lay themselves open to just animadversion. It was not intended to admit stock now in bond, or which might be in bond by the 10th November, unless accompanied by a satisfactory certificate of origin.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, with the view of taking the sense of the House on the propriety of requiring certificates in general, he would divide on this Clause.
§ The Committee divided on the question that the Clause as amended stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 114; Noes 60: Majority 54.
|List of the AYES.|
|Ackers, J.||Bowles, Adm.|
|Acton, Col.||Broadley, H.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Brooke, Sir A. B.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Bruce, Lord E.|
|Arkwright, G.||Buckley, E.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Campbell, Sir H.|
|Baring, T.||Campbell, J. H.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Cardwell, E.|
|Bateson, T.||Chapman, A.|
|Beckett, W.||Chute, W. L. W.|
|Blakemore, R.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Clive, hon. R. H.|
|Borthwick, P.||Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Botfield, B.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Darner, hon. Col.||Lockhart, W.|
|Darby, G.||Long, W.|
|Denison, E. B.||Lopes, Sir R.|
|Dodd, G.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||McGeachy, F. A.|
|Douglas, Sir G. E.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||McNeill, D.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Masterman, J.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Eliot, Lord||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Escott, B.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Palmer, G.|
|Forman, T. S.||Patten, J. W.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes.||Peel, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Pusey, P.|
|Godson, R.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Sheppard, T.|
|Grogan, E.||Smith, A.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Smollett, A.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Hardy, J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Tollemache, J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Hope, G. W.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Hornby, J.||Trotter, J.|
|Hussey, T.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Irton, S.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Irving, J.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Wodehouse, E.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G.H.||Wortley, hn. J. S.|
|Kemble, H.||Wortley, hn. J. S.|
|Ker, D. S.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E||TELLERS.|
|Lawson, A.||Young, J.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Lennox, Lord A.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Hawes, B.|
|Bannerman, A.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Howard, hon. C.W.G.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Howick, Visct.|
|Bernal, Capt.||Hume, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||James, W.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Brotherton, J.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Langston, J. H.|
|Buller, E.||McTaggart, Sir J.|
|Busfeild, W.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Chapman, B.||Marsland, H.|
|Clive, E. B.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Morris, D.|
|Collett, J.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Collins, W.||Ord, W.|
|Duncan, G.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Fielden, J.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Forster, M.||Philips, M.|
|Plumridge, Capt.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Power, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Protheroe, E.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Pulsford, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Rice, E. R.||Walker, R.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Wawn, J. T,|
|Scholefield J.||Wood, C.|
|Seale, Sir J. H.||Wyse, T.|
|Stanton, W. H.|
|Stewart, P. M.||TELLERS.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Smith, V.|
|Talbot, C. R. M.||Hill, Lord M.|
§ On Clause seven, giving power to Her Majesty by Order in Council to declare the sugars of countries with which Her Majesty has treaties of reciprocity as to duties, to be admissible at 34s. per cwt., and 5 per cent. additional.
§ Mr. Baring
wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman opposite on the subject of Danish sugar, and the bearing of the treaties we had concluded with Denmark. The amount produced in the Danish colonies had been stated at 13,000 tons: it was, however, not a question as to the amount, but as to the good faith of the country, and the engagements into which we had entered. When the budget was under discussion, he had stated that he considered the sugars of Denmark were entitled to come into the country, if the sugars of any other country were introduced. The right hon. Gentleman opposite contradicted him, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in subsequently enumerating the countries whose produce we should be bound to admit at a lower rate of duty, omitted Denmark. Now, he was anxious to have an explanation of the grounds on which the right hon. Gentleman was of opinion that Denmark was not entitled to that admission. The commercial relations between Great Britain and Denmark were regulated by the Treatries of 1661 and 1670, and in more modern times by that of 1824. The eighth article of the Treaty of 1670, after stating the obligations of Denmark towards England, went on to stipulate thatThe subjects of the King of Denmark should have, in all respects, the same, privileges as the subjects of the King of England; that subjects of Denmark trading in the ports of Great Britain should not pay any more or greater customs, tributes, tolls, or other dues, in any other manner than the people of the United Netherlands, or any other countries trading hither shall pay.In the 40th section this stipulation was even extended, for it was said, 1153That if greater privileges or exceptions were granted to the subjects of any other countries than were now enjoyed by them, the same and like privileges should be granted to the subjects of the King of Denmark also, in the most full and effectual manner.On consulting with persons in that House, whose names would be of weight within its walls, they concurred with him in opinion, that according to the words of this Treaty they could not understand how Government could place on it a construction which should refuse to the sugars of Denmark the same privileges which were granted to the Hollanders, or the natives of any other country placed on a favoured footing. The words he had referred to were rather different from those of the "favoured nations" Clause in modern treaties; but according to the legislation of that lime the Clause was quite effectual for conferring on Denmark the advantages of the most favoured nation. The Danes might justly consider it as a grievance of the most serious kind, if we admitted the sugar of Holland at 34s., and charged that of Denmark at 63s. It might be said, that we did not make this difference from any wish to show preference to Holland as a nation, but because the sugar of the Dutch colonies was free grown, and we might set up some distinction which would not bear examination to support this. But what did we propose with regard to the sugar of America and Sweden? To admit them at a lower rate of duty, whether they were free labour or not. With what reason or justice could we grant to America or Sweden a privilege which we denied to the Danes? How was it possible to reconcile this conduct with the Treaty into which we had entered with Denmark? If the Bill was founded on the consideration of discouraging slavery rather than of promoting commerce, Denmark had peculiar claims on this ground. Denmark was the country which first abolished the Slave Trade, the ordinance for which was issued in 1792. If Ministers were really anxious to discountenance slavery, he did not think there was any country which had so great a claim on this account as Denmark. Although that country had not yet abolished slavery, it had made arrangements for ultimate abolition in its colonies. The right hon. Baronet had declared that if the Brazilian Government were prepared to modify the state of sla- 1154 very with a view to its ultimate abolition, he would be ready to enter into a negotiation with that power, with the view of admitting Brazilian sugar. Now Denmark had clearly done that which the light hon. Baronet had required Brazil to do, what he had made a sine qua non with that country, but in a manner more satisfactory and secure to us, because it had done it of its own will; it had not been compelled, nor had it acted in the hope of a bargain. We might be perfectly satisfied, therefore, that it was honest, and that having made ameliorations in the condition of slavery, it would perform what it had undertaken, by the entire abolition.
said, the right hon. Gentleman had stated very strongly, and with considerable truth as well as force, the claim which Denmark ought to have on the favourable consideration of the British Parliament in measures which have relation to a disposition to discourage slavery, and consequently to favour those nations which show satisfactory intentions in that respect. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in much that he had said, and he was very glad to take an opportunity of acknowledging his belief that the Government of Denmark was honest in their intentions of abolishing slavery in the island of St. Croix. With respect to the dry question of right, the first thing he had to observe was this, that so far as the Treaty was concerned, if it should appear on a more solemn and formal consideration of it by the most competent persons, that Denmark was entitled to have its sugar admitted at a low duty, the Bill empowered Her Majesty to give effect to the obligations of the Treaty. No decision ought to be pronounced till it had been referred to the highest legal authorities; and the right hon. Gentleman would therefore excuse him if he did not speak with entire confidence. He confessed it was quite new to him when the right hon. Gentleman opposite stated the right of Denmark on this subject. He believed that the impression of both Governments was—and he remembered that the Danish ministers had held this language to himself, without any reserve or doubt not very long ago—that their obligations to one another, for the concession of particular privileges were deter- mined, not by that ancient Treaty to which the right hon. Gentleman had re- 1155 ferred, but by the Treaty concluded by Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson in 1824. That Treaty was one of commerce as well as of navigation, and it provided that all goods and merchandise from Denmark, coming into our ports, should be admitted at the same rate of duty whether in one class of vessels or the other. He was not prepared to say that the word subjects in the former Treaty could be construed as extending to Colonies. According to the Treaty of 1824, it was not incumbent on either party to extend, unconditionally, concessions to each other, which might have been made to subjects of other countries.
§ Lord Palmerston
said, he believed that if the Treaties of 1670 and of 1824 were looked into, it would be found that the view which his right hon. Friend took of the subject was perfectly correct. The Treaty of 1824 was unquestionably a reciprocity Treaty which gave to the vessels of Denmark and of Great Britain equal privileges and immunities—placing them in all respects upon the same footing. In the Treaty of 1824 there was nothing which went to regulate the matters which formed the subject of the eighth clause of the Treaty of 1670. From this Treaty nothing could be more clear than that Danish subjects trading to this country did not pay more than other strangers; and let it be remembered that the whole of this Treaty was confirmed by the Treaty of Kiel. With respect to the conversation which the right hon. Gentleman had with the Danish minister on the subject of these Treaties, when it was understood that the representative of Denmark had intimated to the right hon. Gentleman that his understanding of the Treaties was the same as that of Her Majesty's Government, he could only say that the Danish Minister might entertain such an opinion, and he might incidentally express it; but even if he had done so deliberately and advisedly, Denmark might, nevertheless, revive that claim which under these Treaties she undoubtedly possessed, and he thought, therefore, that this country could not refuse to Denmark the concessions to which his right hon. Friend had referred.
§ Mr. C. Wood
contended, that the Treaties of 1661 and .1670 were maintained in force by the more recent Treaties. Under those Treaties the subjects of Denmark were entitled to import the produce of Denmark into Great Britain at the lowest 1156 duties. It was clear that the stipulations of those Treaties applied to Danish subjects importing Danish produce into Great Britain, and that they had a right to import that produce at the lowest possible duty to which the subjects of any other nation were liable. The question was, whether the words in the clause were sufficiently large to allow the Government to grant this advantage, if, on consideration, they should be convinced that the subjects of Denmark were entitled to that privilege.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, there was one point struck him with respect to the practice that prevailed at the time that those Treaties were adopted— namely, that higher rates of duty were imposed on a certain class of foreign merchants than were imposed on English merchants at the time. He apprehended that the construction of those Treaties was, that the Danes should not be subject to those alien duties from which Holland had been previously exempted.
§ Mr. Labouchere
observed, that under the present Bill it would be practicable to admit Brazil sugar.
said, the point should be reserved, and he would, on bringing up the Report, again call attention himself to the subject.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 10, on the question that this be the preamble of the Bill,
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
said, looking at this preamble, Sir, it strikes me that one portion of it is not true, and I therefore intend to move that certain words should be omitted; but I do not intend to propose that any other words should be inserted instead of them. I find it stated in the Preamble that we have freely and voluntarily resolved," &c. Now, what I propose to move is, that these words "freely and voluntarily" be omitted. As I said before, I do not propose to insert any other words though I do think nothing would be easier than to find other words much more appropriate. It will be in the recollection of the House that on Friday last we freely and voluntarily resolved against the Ministerial proposition, the 34s. duty— the numbers being on a division 241 and 220, leaving a majority of 21 against Ministers. On Monday evening the right hon. Baronet came down to the House and said it was impossible that he could acquiesce in any such deci- 1157 sion. He said it must be altered, and he insisted upon our adopting the original words, threatening that if we did not accede to his demand, he would resign, and hand over the reins of Government to the noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen near me. ["No, no."] Then, if not to Gentlemen on this side of the House, he was to hand over to the Government hon. Gentlemen who sat below the right hon. Baronet. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet did not very particularly specify to whom he would hand over the Government; and I may be wrong in thinking that any threat was held out; but if the right hon. Baronet were to resign, I presume that the noble Lord near me would be the individual called on to supply his place; and, though I am not to call it a threat, I beg the House to remember the words which the right hon. Baronet used. He said to his followers, that he knew they differed from him—that they differed from his policy— that they differed from his measures; but differ as they might, he should continue in the course which he had resolved to pursue, and they were at liberty to follow him or not, as they thought proper. Such was the language which the right hon. Baronet held, and what were the consequences? Some hon. Members changed their votes altogether. I believe four or five voted diametrically the contrary of what they had previously voted; others absented themselves; and the right hon. Baronet was astonished at the success of his own manœuvre, for, on Monday, instead of being in a minority of 21, he found himself in a majority of 20. Now, Sir, I don't blame the right hon. Baronet at all for the course which he took—I don't blame him at all for the language which he used to his supporters behind him—I think he treated them exactly in the manner that they deserved to be treated. I think, after the experience he had of them upon a former evening during the Factory Bill, when they were so kicked, cuffed, and insulted that they are quite capable of standing a little more, and kicked again no doubt they will be. I must say there never were a set of Gentlemen—there never were a set of spaniels so well broken in, and so submissive to their master as they were upon that occasion. Then, I ask this House, what do you suppose the people out of doors will think of this transaction? Do you suppose that of all the Parliaments that ever 1158 existed in this country there ever was a Parliament or a House of Commons on which was bestowed so much of the contempt of the people of England as there is upon this House? I tell you there never was a House of Commons that was so intensely haled, distrusted, and despised, as is the present House of Commons. Her Majesty's Government certainly are the ridicule of the country, they are the laughing-stock of everybody in England; and the contempt of all Ireland. Why the House of Commons is to be so dragged through the mire at the will and pleasure of such Ministers I am totally at a loss to conceive. I really do think that those hon. Gentlemen opposite have found that they are in worse hands as far as free-trade measures are concerned than they would be if they were in the hands of right hon. Gentlemen near me. Sir, I want to know whether the right hon. Baronet considers the last vote of this House upon this question as a vote of the confidence of this House. After all, who was he saved by? Why, thirteen Gentlemen on this side of the House, some five or six of whom call themselves the leaders of the free-trade party in this country—they came to his rescue. The West-Indian interest came to this House and asked this House only for a 20s. protective duty. ["No, no."] Yes, 20s. protective duty, the difference being 10s.; but these free-trade Gentlemen, so anxious are they for the safety of Her Majesty's Ministers, that they must come and say, "Oh! but you don't know your own interests; we'll give you 14s. protective duty; you shall have 4s. more than you asked for yourselves." The public, I am quite satisfied, are not to be mystified by any misrepresentations that may be sought to be crammed down their throats upon this point. The public must see that the sole object of those free-trade Gentlemen was to retain Her Majesty's present Government in office, and such has been the result of this vote. Now, I say, upon free-trade principles, if we had had the good fortune to see them out of office the following morning, that the Sugar Duties propounded by the noble Lord were more favourable to the consumers than those secured by the present Bill. I say so upon free-trade principles, and on those principles, therefore, I can't understand why the free-traders thought proper to keep in office Her Majesty's present Ministers. At public meetings where the 1159 Corn Laws have been discussed we have heard of a good deal of difference of opinion, and we have heard the working classes called Tory-tools, because they don't always agree with the League, and sometimes saying, "We won't vote to abolish your monopoly unless you do away with all monopoly of the franchise." Then they are called Tory-tools." I want to know who'll be called "Tory-tools" now? Not the working classes, depend upon it, after this. No; but what I want to guard against is the delusion going forth to the country, when this Preamble is agreed to, that we "voluntarily and freely" gave this money to Her Majesty. I say, upon the face of the Preamble of this Bill, there is a falsehood—it's a positive falsehood; and upon that ground I must most respectfully ask of the right hon. Baronet that he may think it proper, at all events, not to add insult and injury to the degradation and humiliation which he has brought upon this House.
§ Question put.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, considering the opportunities which the hon. Gentleman has had of maturely considering this question, and the very peremptory manner in which he has pronounced his judgment, not only upon those on whom perhaps he has a right to pronounce a judgment,—that is to say, upon the right hon. Gentlemen who sit immediately behind him,—but upon Gentlemen also upon this side of the House, I think he ought—assuming the judicial character—to have made himself better acquainted with the facts of the case. The hon. Gentleman says it was the proposal of Her Majesty's Government to give a protective duty of 20s. to British colonial sugar. Now, that was not the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. The proposal of Her Majesty's Government was to give a protective duty of 10s. But the Gentlemen opposite who supported me never proposed to give a protective duty of 14s.—that was not the proposal of the hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the hon. Member for Finsbury—that was the proposal of the hon. Member for Bristol; and if Her Majesty's Government had made that proposal the hon. Gentlemen who supported Her Majesty's Government would probably have concurred with the hon. Member in peremptorily rejecting that proposal. The hon. Gentleman, then, is manifestly incompetent to pass a judgment, 1160 and he is so because he has not thought it worth his while to make himself acquainted with the facts of the case, which I really thought, until I heard him speak, were not unknown to one single Member of this House, considering the lengthened debate we have had and the great importance of those facts; and I doubt whether the country will not be disposed to find fault a little with those who show such utter ignorance of the facts and yet venture to pronounce so peremptory a judgment as the hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman supposes it to be a degradation for the House of Commons in matters relating to commerce and finance, upon one night, after receiving a full explanation of the subject ["Hear" and laughter]—yes, after receiving a full explanation of the subject, to reverse its decision of a previous night. But I shall have the hon. Gentleman's vote to-morrow at any rate. [Mr. Duncombe: What about?] Well, now I am going to tell the hon. Gentleman why he is not aware of what has passed to-night. I forgive him his ignorance of what passed the other night, but he really ought to know what has occurred to-night. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade expressed this evening a strong opinion that he would be able to persuade the House to reverse a vote of three previous nights. He said, "No doubt I shall be able to show you that the principle of discrimination between free sugar and slave-labour sugar is altogether untenable, and that to-morrow night you will negative the principle altogether." But on Monday, the 3rd of June, it was resolved, upon discussing a Motion of the noble Lord the Member for London, to recognise the principle of discrimination. The noble Lord proposed, towards raising the necessary supplies for defraying Her Majesty's public expenses, that, instead of the present duty, 34s. a-cwt. should be charged upon all brown Muscovado or clayed sugar, from what country so ever it came, and that Motion was negatived by a majority of 197 to 128. The whole of the subsequent proceedings with regard to this subject have been founded upon the proposition that the decision which the House then came to in negativing that proposal was a just one. Yet the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for Montrose, perhaps on his recommendation, will propose to-morrow night to reverse all that it has been doing, 1161 and by so reversing its proceeding abolish all discrimination between sugar the produce of slave-labour and sugar the produce of free-labour, and place the two upon exactly the same footing. I can only say, if the hon. Member carries his proposal, that it will be a complete reversal of the whole of our proceedings; and if those proceedings have been wrong, it will be a very proper reversal. But can I give a greater proof that in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite there is no insult to this House in making a proposal to reverse a former decision, and no degradation in acquiescing in it, than that given by the right hon. Gentleman himself when he rises in his place and very distinctly declares that he shall to-morrow vote for a perfect reversal of all our proceedings, and that he has a very confident expectation that he shall succeed in his object? I stated the other night no doubt that this was not a mere question between 20s. and 24s.; but I said that a reversal of our proposal would materially interfere with our commercial and financial policy. I stated the reasons for the Government proposal, and distinctly said that we could not act up to our desires with regard to free and slave-grown sugar next year unless this year we gave some sign of what it was our intention to do. I stated that to the House upon Monday. It had not been stated before, and I stated it then to show that it was not a mere question between 24s. and 20s., but that it was in point of fact, a highly important question, having a considerable bearing upon our future proceedings; but it is quite new to me to hear that in matters of this nature it is a degradation to reverse our decisions. I recollect Lord Althorp, in a much more important matter than this—with regard to the Malt Tax—when the House had decided upon the repeal of half that tax, came down to this House and stated to the House that important financial questions were involved in the decision, and asked the House to reverse that decision to which it had come; and I recollect that the House did, at the request of Lord Althorp, so reverse its decision—and I cannot concede to you the use or necessity of the various stages through which every Bill must pass, unless we are at liberty in a subsequent stage to amend our proceedings in a previous stage. I must, however, grant that I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the fairness of the construction which he 1162 has put upon the words I used upon the occasion to which he referred. I have been represented as saying with respect to other Bills also, that Her Majesty's Government expect complete acquiescence in every proposal we may make. The hon. Gentleman put a right construction on what I did say. I never gave utterance to so arrogant a sentiment. With regard to the Welch bishoprics, I never stated that Her Majesty's Government expected acquiescence in their views; but I did say that it was with regret Her Majesty's Government found that their proposal was not approved of. With regard to the question of factory labour and the Dissenters Chapels Bill, I found with great pain that the course of the Government met with opposition on the part of many hon. Friends of mine, who had given generally a strenuous and generous support to the Government. I stated, I think, also that there were other measures which would be brought under the consideration of the House on which probably the same differences would prevail. I expressed my warmest acknowledgment for the generous support which the Government had received upon former occasions from them; in asking their support, however, upon that occasion I did say that the Government could not consent to purchase it by an abandonment of the great principles which they had avowed, and to which they were determined to adhere. I stated that with all deference and respect to them and to the House. I did, no doubt, mean to indicate with respect to this question that I did think it materially interfered with our financial and commercial arrangements, and I did probably intimate what might be the possible consequence of a withdrawal of support. I thought it fair to do so. I knew I should have been taunted if I had said nothing about it, and had concealed my real opinions, and therefore I asked for their support,—not because this was a question between 20s. and 24s., but because I thought it would amount to an indication that the House of Commons disapproved of our proposals with respect to the sugar duties. I doubted whether it would not be equivalent to a disproval of the principles upon which we were about to act—of discrimination between slave-grown sugar and free-labour sugar; and I thought it did amount to an indication of that want of confidence which ought to be followed beyond a 1163 doubt by such a result as want of confidence pointed to. Those were exactly the expressions which I used, and by which I must abide; but I totally disclaim the intention or the fact of having stated that with respect to every measure introduced by the Government we expected the votes of our general supporters, and insisted upon the complete adoption of all our measures. Those conclusions have been stated for the purpose of dissatisfying my hon. Friends behind me; but I do hope that my hon. Friends—[Laughter from the Opposition]—yes, I say hon. "Friends," for I must say that no man speaking of general measures ever received greater proofs of confidence than I have received, —I do hope that my hon. Friends will not be deceived by the circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman has referred for the purpose of promoting dissension not only upon this, but amongst Gentlemen upon his own side of the House. It is perfectly right for the hon. Gentleman to quarrel with his own side of the House, but I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not attempt to sow dissension amongst us, but that he will allow us to remain united as we are, and I have no doubt we shall remain so. All that the hon. Gentleman will have gained from the present proceeding will be—first, to prove that he has not made himself master of the facts of the case; and, secondly, the inutility of attempting to foment disunion amongst those who are opposed to him.
§ Mr. Labouchere
I should not have said anything upon this subject had I not been alluded to in so pointed a manner by the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down. He said that I had held out to the hon. Member for Montrose strong hopes that the House might be induced to reverse its former decision. On reflection, I must say, that I am open to the rebuke of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot undertake to encourage my hon. Friend to expect that the House will prove itself equally ductile upon that question which will be submitted to it tomorrow as it has lately been. My hon. Friend has not the arguments at his command that the right hon. Baronet has; and if, therefore, I did, in the heat of debate, hold out any hopes of too sanguine a nature to my hon. Friend, I beg to retract them, and to assure him that he will find this House as obdurate upon Monday as it has been tractable before. 1164 I must congratulate the right hon. Baronet upon the far more cheerful tone in which he has just addressed the House than that with which he spoke so lately —and which I must say is a very strong contrast to his language and demeanour altogether upon a recent occasion. If the right hon. Gentleman has in any degree modified the expressions which he then used, certainly I do not intend to rebuke him for having done so—on the contrary, I confess I am glad that he has done so— and I am sure that the House and the country must be rejoiced to hear from him expressions tending to indicate that upon mature consideration he feels that the language held by him upon a late occasion is not altogether that which it became a British Minister to address to a British House of Commons. I agree with him, and I said so at the time, that I think nothing would be harder on an Administration, nothing more unjust to Parliament itself, than that the Government should not have the power on grave occasions of asking the Legislature to reconsider, and it may be to reverse, a decision which it had already come to. What alarmed me on the late occasion was, I confess, the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used in support of the course he was taking. I certainly understood him to say,If this is a small matter,—if it is not after all of first-rate importance — whether the duties upon British colonial, and foreign sugar should be either 34s. and 24s., or 30s. and 20s., yet I think that the little importance of the question is an additional reason for insisting that the House of Commons must support me.There was another part of his language which I thought also open to condemnation. He appeared to blame Gentlemen upon his side of the House who give a general support to the Government, but who, upon this particular occasion, withdrew that support, and framed a Motion calculated to obtain the support of Gentlemen on this side of the House. What did that mean? Why it meant this,—I will allow you the license of opposing me on certain points, providing you carefully shape your Motion so as not to suit hon. Gentlemen opposite—provided you bring forward such Motions as those upon the Tariff, for example, just so as to enable you to say to your constituencies, 'We are fighting our battles against the Government to the best of our power;' but at the same time take 1165 you great care to frame your Motions so that you may be quite sure that the majority of the House will not support them. So far from deserving rebuke, I confess that I admire the straightforwardness of the hon. Member for Bristol, who, having undertaken to fight the battle of a great interest, did not shrink from fighting it fairly; and when he found that he could not carry his own views fully into effect, he did, as any honourable and sensible man would do, so modify his Motion that we could support it. I do not think that such conduct deserves the rebuke of the right hon. Gentleman. On the contrary, it was conduct which an independent Member of this House ought to pursue. I thought, therefore, that the language of the right hon. Gentleman was fatal to the character and independence of this House. I can only say now, however, that I heartily rejoice to hear what I cannot help calling the somewhat altered tone of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the Amendment of my hon. Friend—I think it has been very useful in producing this discussion; but at the same time, I can hardly say that I think the House ought to support it. I think, if we are to vote supplies to Her Majesty, that it would be as well not to omit those customary words which merely mark the readiness which the House always feels in supplying the necessary means for carrying on the Executive Government. Perhaps, therefore, my hon. Friend will be content not to press his Motion.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
—I will not give the House the trouble of dividing. I think, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has shown himself rather ungrateful to me for having given him an opportunity to explain himself, and to state how great is the unity which he now says exists among him and his hon. Friends. I think he ought to be thankful to me for affording him an opportunity to make such a nice sort of apology, and that instead of accusing me of being a fomenter of dissension in this House, he should have acknowledged that I have come forward as a peacemaker. Therefore, I shall not press my Motion, because I do not wish to create further division. But I still think that portion of the preamble to which I have objected quite untrue. With regard to the 20s. and 24s., the mistake I made was calling it a protecting duty; I should have left out the word "protecting." I say we were 1166 perfectly justified, as free trades, in preferring the 20s. duty to the 24s. duty.
§ Sir J. Hanmer
rose to explain his conduct, as an independent Member of the House, and to express the great satisfaction with which he had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He could assure that right hon. Gentleman that he did hear the speech the right hon. Gentleman had made on Monday evening with a great deal of pain, and for several reasons. The right hon. Gentleman entertained, he thought—perhaps he was wrong—a sort of feeling that there was—to speak in plain language—a kind of intrigue on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, between certain persons who professed generally to support the Government and some of those who held intentions of a very contrary kind. The right hon. Gentleman upon that occasion made several observations which bore upon other questions besides that which now—[Loud interruptions.]—The right hon. Gentleman spoke of that among others.—[Cries of "Order."] He wished to speak with all possible respect to the House. Among other questions, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of a question which materially affected his country—the principality of Wales. Upon that question a great feeling existed throughout the country. Now, it was perfectly true that the arrangements to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, took their rise from a Commission which was appointed some years ago; and he only begged leave to say, that whenever that question should come under the consideration of the House of Commons, it must not be concluded that he and his hon. Friends distrusted the right hon. Gentleman, disapproved of his Government, or had any lack of gratitude for the great services he had rendered his country, if they then expressed an opinion which might not altogether coincide with his. It had sometimes happened to him, in the difficult discharge of his duty, as an independent Member of Parliament, to differ from the right hon. Gentleman, but at the same time with the highest personal respect for him, and the greatest satisfaction and admiration of his general policy.
§ Mr. Ross
was understood to say, that the whole matter had been exceedingly well managed by the hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House. But however the right hon. Baronet might excuse himself for the threats he ad- 1167 dressed to his supporters under the irritation of the moment, he did not think they exhibited themselves in a very agreeable light. He could compare them only to dancing dogs, who, in going through their Conservative evolutions, did not always dance to time or set the figure correctly, when the right hon. Gentleman produced the little whip which he carried in his pocket, and made them turn round on their hind legs at command.
§ Mr. Borthwick
obtained a hearing with difficulty. His object, he said, was to explain his vote. Those who supported Her Majesty's Government had been called so many spaniels and dancing dogs. But the hon. Gentleman who threw out the latter taunt was a dancing dog himself. On the factory question the hon. Gentleman changed his views. And it should be remembered that it was not upon a question of 4s., nor of 7–16ths of 1d. but upon a question of public principle, which affected the rights and privileges of a large class of Her Majesty's subjects. He would not be tempted to enter into this question; but he had voted with Ministers upon the merits of the Bill believing them to be right. He could tell the hon. Gentleman opposite that there were two kinds of spaniels or dancing dogs —one which feared the threats of a Government, and the other the threats of unpopularity. I, said the hon. Member, brave both. I have supported Her Majesty's Government upon principle from the beginning, and feel not the rebuke of the hon. Gentleman; but I think those hon. Gentlemen behind me ought not to be taunted by the hon. Member, who himself danced round upon his hind legs on the factory question.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Member charges me with being guilty of that of which I accuse others. He says, I gave one vote on the Factory Bill one day, and the next another. I deny it. The fact is true, but the hon. Gentleman's inference is false. The hon. Gentleman has spoken of some kind of cowardice. I don't know what cowardice is. I tell him I will give him in a moment a satisfactory explanation. I was determined to do that on a doubtful question which I thought would be most agreeable to my constituents. [Cheers.] You cheer as if there was no force or value in the word "doubtful." With the greatest anxiety I had canvassed the subject with some hon. Gentlemen near me who can bear 1168 witness to the truth of what I say; and I told them I was doubtful in my mind, and was determined to be guided by authority. The authority was not that of a Minister. I would not bend to the will of any man, but I did show my willingness to attend to those most interested in the question, to the operatives themselves, and to the masters of factories. To them I bowed as an authority, and I have letters in my possession which ought to be satisfactory to every just man. Masters of factories have told me, that last year they were desirous that a Ten Hours' Bill should be passed, but that such was the pressure of circumstances in the present year, they could not retain their opinion in this respect. It is very easy for Gentlemen to laugh and turn an explanation into ridicule, but I am confident that what I say will bear investigation; that on investigation it will be found I have not acted in any degree from unworthy motives, and that my vote on the Factory question cannot be viewed in the same light as the votes of those hon. Gentlemen who recently acted in direct opposition to their own sentiments.
said, amid renewed uproar, that no one doubted the statement of the hon. Member, although he regretted the hon. Member did not read the whole of the letters to which he alluded. Some hon. Members on his (Colonel Sibthorpe's) side of the House had been taunted with having acted too submissively, and had been on that account described as spaniels. He could only say, that he should much prefer being a spaniel to an ill-bred cur.
§ The Amendment withdrawn.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ House resumed. Bill to be reported.