§ Mr. Hawes
observed, that the principle which the Government pretended to aim at in this Bill was to prohibit the importation of sugar the produce of slave-labour, and to encourage that of free-labour. Now, he thought he should be able to show that very little sugar would be imported from the East which was not more or less tainted with slave-labour. It had been stated on a former evening by his hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire (Mr. P. M. Stewart), that in Java there was forced labour, and that the labourers there might properly be regarded as slaves. The right hon. the President of the Board of Trade had, however, disputed that statement, and since then he (Mr. Hawes) had made inquiries, and looked into various authorities, and he believed he was in a position to show, by evidence the most conclusive, that slavery did exist in Java. 22 Sir T. Stamford Raffles, who had been far eight years governor of the island, in his "History of Java," stated that,According to the Returns obtained in 1814, it appeared that the following were the numbers (of slaves) in the principal divisions of the island:—At Batavia and its environs, 18,972; in the Samarang division, 4,488 in the Surabáya division, 3,682; total 27,142. These slaves are the property of the Europeans and Chinese alone; the native chiefs never require the services of slaves, or engage in the traffic of slavery.And again:A very extensive branch of trade is carried on by a direct communication between Java and China, entirely upon Chinese capital, in a description of vessels called junks.That slavery also existed to a limited extent in China there could be no doubt. Sir George Staunton, in an able and very learned work on the fundamental laws of China, had shown that a large part of the Chinese code had for its object the giving protection to slaves. He says,All slaves who are guilty of designedly striking their masters, shall, without making any distinction between principals and accessaries, be beheaded. All slaves designedly killing, or designedly striking, so as to kill their masters, shall suffer death by a slow and painful execution. If accidentally killing their masters, they shall suffer death by being strangled at the usual period. If any person beats to death, or intentionally kills a slave belonging to his family, who had not been guilty of any crime, the person so offending shall be punished with sixty blows and one year's imprisonment. … The master, or relations of the master of a guilty slave, may, however, chastise such slave, in any degree short of occasioning his death, without being liable to any punishmentIn Cochin China and Siam that slavery existed was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for he had excluded those countries from the benefits of this Bill on the express ground that there was so much doubt whether the cultivation of their produce was carried on by free-labour or by slave-labour, that it was not expedient at present to admit their sugar. Mr. Crawford, a very able and talented Gentleman, who had been employed by the East India Company in one or two missions to make inquiries, and to enter into negotiations with respect to trade, both in Siam and Cochin China, stales that, throughout the whole of those seas, a very considerable slave-trade was carried on, and that he himself has seen and been 23 with slaves in those countries. He stated, in his account of the embassy of 1821—Returning home after it was dusk, we met two persons conversing together in the Javanese language. Its accents, in this remote place, excited our curiosity, and we entered into conversation with the strangers. One of them recognised me as an old acquaintance, and described himself as one of a party, consisting of seven young men and six young women, who had been kidnapped at Samarang, in Java, about three years before, by the commander of a Chinese junk, and sold as slaves to the Siamese.The point he was anxious to impress upon the House and the country was, as both Siam and Cochin China were largely engaged in the Slave Trade, and as that trade was carried on wholly by means of Chinese capital, and in Chinese vessels, navigated by Chinese sailors, that if they permitted as they proposed to do, the importation of sugar from China, so closely and intimately was the trade of China connected with that of Cochin China and Siam, that it would be impossible—if they were disposed to do so—to exclude the sugar of other countries employing slave-labour, or prevent its introduction as Chinese sugar. Mr. Crawford, in his published account of the embassy to Siam and Cochin China, had put this matter beyond doubt. He says:—Of the foreign trade of Siam the most important branch is that with China. This is wholly carried on in vessels of Chinese form, navigated by Chinese; but the greater portion of them built in Siam, A far as Siam is concerned, the whole of the Chinese trade centres in Bankok, with the exception of a few junks which trade to Sungora and Ligor. The ports of China which carry on trade with Siam are Canton, Kiangmui, and Changlin; Amoy, Nimpo, Sianghai, and Sao-Cheu; besides several ports of the great island of Hai-nan. The most considerable exports from Siam are black pepper, sugar, tin, &c.Again, Mr. Fowell Buxton in his evidence on the African Slave Trade, in 1839, states that:In 1822 a Treaty was concluded by Captain Moresby, R.N., on behalf of the British Government, with the Imaum, by which the trade with Christian countries was declared abolished for ever throughout his dominions and dependencies. But this arrangement, it must be remembered, does not in any way touch upon the Slave Trade carried on by the Imaum's subjects with those of their own faith. By means of this reserved trade slaves are exported to Zanzebar, to the ports on both sides of the Arabian Gulf, to the markets of Egypt, 24 Cairo, and Alexandria; to the south part of Arabia, to both sides of the Persian Gulf, to the northwest coasts of India; to the Island of Java, and to most of the Eastern Islands. The vessels which convey these negroes are in general the property of Arabs or other Mohammedan traders.He said, therefore, that all the authorities he had had an opportunity of looking into, proved beyond all doubt that slavery did prevail, and the Slave Trade was carried on in Java and the neighbouring islands. Another authority stated that—Slavery in Java prevails to a much less extent than in other islands. The slaves do not exceed 30,000, and none of them are native Javans, but obtained by purchase or capture from Celebes or Borneo. Sir S. Raffles attempted and succeeded, during his Government, in mitigating the extent of the trade.The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the great object of the Government was to increase the supply of free labour sugar, and his main reason, he stated, was this—that there had been a tendency to an increase of prices of late years, and that it was necessary to increase the supply in order to prevent the article reaching so high a price as it had attained a few years ago, and to accomplish that object the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues had attempted to provide for the introduction of foreign free-labour sugar as contradistinguished from foreign slave grown sugar. Now, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider the statements he (Mr. Hawes) had made, and the authorities he had quoted, which he believed were unimpeachable, and then say whether he believed that the supply we should obtain by means of this Bill would or would not be confined to free-labour sugar? The ground for refusing the admission of foreign sugar generally was, he understood, the detestation and abhorrence with which the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues now viewed slavery and the Slave Trade, though the feeling came somewhat late, he thought; considering the position they had formerly assumed, and the part they had taken in opposing every effort made in that House to abolish slavery, he must say their present zeal was rather unexpected, and not entitled to any very great respect. He had never heard the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer utter a single sentence in favour of emancipation when that question was before Parliament, or take any part with the advocates 25 of total abolition. Nor did he believe that the present object of excluding slave-labour sugar would be accomplished by this Bill, and he wished to put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether, in his opinion, looking at the position of the countries referred to, and to the produce of which our ports were to be opened, and looking to the opinions of the authorities he had quoted, slave-labour sugar would not find its way into our markets under the provisions of this measure? The demand for sugar would no doubt increase, and whatever that increase should be, whatever might be the extent of new growth required to supply it, to that extent they would hold out an inducement to the foreign sugar-producing countries he had alluded to, to obtain labour for the additional cultivation by means of slavery and the Slave Trade. The sounder policy would be, to make no such distinction between free-grown and slave-grown sugar, for they might depend upon it that the great object of repressing slavery and the Slave Trade would be most effectually attained by throwing open the trade in sugar, and allowing English capital and enterprise to come into competition with slave cultivation, forcing in the first instance our own West-India colonists to have recourse to an improved system of cultivation and manufacture.
considering how the subject had been exhausted, would not follow the hon. Gentleman into the general topics to which he had referred, or enter into the question of the consistency or inconsistency of himself and his right hon. Colleagues; neither should he, having already stated his views at some length, repeat his opinion as to what might be the effect of the Bill in admitting some portion of sugar, not the produce of free-labour, and whether or not the Government could be held responsible for that effect; but he would proceed to consider the statements of the hon. Gentleman as to the existence of slavery in the countries to which the hon. Gentleman had referred. First, with regard to China, he did not understand the hon. Gentleman to state that agriculture was carried on in that country by means of slave labour. No doubt domestic slavery existed to a limited extent, but he believed no one would contend that agricultural labour was pursued by slavery. China was a country, however, from which the supply 26 of sugar to be obtained for this country must necessarily be limited. But as to Java, it was a country of large productive powers, and yielded, he believed, between 80,000 and 90,000 tons of sugar a year, which he understood was the amount of production last year, a very large part of which would no doubt find its way into our markets. He fully admitted, therefore, that the question, as to whether slavery existed in Java or not, bore immediately upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman had quoted authorities showing that the number of slaves in Java ranged between 27,000 and 30,000. Now, in the first place, he would ask the hon. Gentleman to consider the amount, of slavery existing in that country (taking it upon the statements of those authorities) as compared with the whole population. There was no distinct census of the population of Java, but the lowest amount he had seen placed it between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000; while another account, which he was by no means prepared to say was not a credible one, stated it at 12,000,000; so that by the one account the number of slaves, in proportion to the population, would be one in 300, and by the other one in 400. He did not, however, rest upon that point—the small number of slaves as compared with the whole population. The slavery of Java was a domestic slavery—a decreasing slavery, the relic merely of a former system, and was fast disappearing. With regard to the labouring population of Java, he thought the hon. Member for Lambeth, who had taken so much pains to produce evidence on the subject, was the most favourable witness on his (Mr. Gladstone's) side of the question; for the hon. Gentleman, having searched with much industry and perseverance, and, he was bound to say, with much fairness, into the best authorities and records on the subject, had not succeeded in showing that the labour of Java approached in its character to slave-labour. He asserted, therefore, as boldly as he had done before, and more so, the allegations he had made in answer to the statements of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire (Mr. P. M. Stewart). He said that the payment of the half sovereign, which had been referred to, wherever it existed, its effect was to release the individual labourer from his engagement, and the renewal of that engagement was at the will and option of the party himself. The labouring population 27 of Java were as free to quit the soil on which they were employed as were the labourers of this country. He had seen and spoken with several persons who were acquainted with and had resided in Java, and one gentleman well acquainted with the subject, in describing the divisions of the country, stated—That although every Javanese was at liberty to quit his village and go to another, he seldom availed himself of the privilege, for, fondly attached to the soil of his ancestors, he was little anxious to remove from it.A gentleman who had come from Java, within the last year, had assured him in the most positive manner that no slave-labour, or anything approaching to it, existed in Java; but that the peasantry of that country was the best-conditioned he had ever seen.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
said, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that slavery did not exist in regard to the supply of labour in Java, and that the labourers there were as free to quit the land upon which they were employed as were the labourers of this country. Now, he should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what was his definition of free-labour. The statement he (Mr. P. M. Stewart) had made on a previous occasion, and which he now repeated, was, that the labour of Java was forced, and that all the exported produce of the country was obtained by forced labour. It was not one French pamphleteer that should settle this question. He had taken some pains in looking into authorities upon the subject, and he would take, as far as it went, the authority of Mr. Crawford; and it appeared that the revolt in Java had been occasioned by the labouring population having been subjected to the yoke of slavery, after having tasted of the sweets of freedom under British rule. He found also, that the exportable produce of the island, under the Dutch governor, was raised by forced labour. This statement he made from authority. In 1830, the Governor Vanderdosh introduced the system of prescribed cultivation and forced delivery of produce, under which the quantity of sugar was increased twenty-five times in ten years. The Governor directed that the inhabitants of villages should be brought to cultivate the land, and that for every 1 8/1 acre (English) four labourers were to be appointed, each to relieve the other alternately, so that one or other 28 should be always at work. The manufacture of sugar was to be carried on in the same way, by men constantly relieving each other, the work never ceasing. One plantation, employing 400 men at one time, had thus 1,600 men appointed, constantly relieving each other. Under the same system, the country was divided into communities of villages, and the work was under the direction and cultivation of regents, directors, controllers, and native officers, who shared in the produce, and were consequently more vigilant in respect to the amount of work done, and became rapidly rich. Now he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this was his definition of a state of free-labour — or could the labourers of Java, under such a system, be fairly said to be as free as the labourers of this country? [Mr. Gladstone: What is the authority on which the hon. Gentleman relies?] The statement was that of a respectable planter, and might be depended on. [Mr. Gladstone: Does he cultivate Government lands or his own estate?] He was not aware, but knew him to be an intelligent man, and that the truth of what he had stated might be depended on. He did not mean to set the statement against the authority of the right hon. Gentleman; but what he said was, that it would require something more than mere disputing to make out the case against it, that the produce of Java was raised, as the right hon. Gentleman assumed, by means of free-labour. Hitherto he had spoken of the cultivation of sugar, he now came to the article coffee, which, as produced in Java, illustrated still more strongly what he meant by forced labour. The growth of coffee was compulsory. Every owner of six acres of land was required to plant and keep in order 1,000 coffee-trees, and to deliver the crops to the Dutch Government at 6s. 6d. a cwt., the market price in the country being 40s. the cwt. And only one-half of this 6s. 6d. went to the cultivator, one-fourth being claimed by the Regent, and the remainder by the sub-officers. This was the way coffee was cultivated in Java by a peasantry as free (according to the right hon. Gentleman) as the peasantry of this country. It was to be regretted that the Government had brought forward this important subject without sufficient information. The Bill had succeeded in the most melancholy way in deranging every interest affected by it. There never had been an 29 annual Sugar Bill which inflicted so much injury, distrust, and derangement, as had this Bill. There were at the present moment 9,000 tons of sugar in stock more than last year, at an average of 4s. less than the prices of 1841, and 3s. less than the prices of last year; and yet in the face of this, such was the confusion and uncertainty caused by the measure, that the consumption of the present year, would fall 6,000 or 7,000 tons below that of the last year. As they had injudiciously fixed the time for the commencment of the working of the new law in November, all would be uncertainty and doubt in the trade until then. He would ask now what the intention of Government was as to the admission of Siam sugar. Of all systems of slavery, that which existed in that country was the most reprehensible and the worst, and if they admitted its produce they would be encouraging one of the most degrading systems of slavery and kidnapping in the world. He believed that if they would really admit under the present measure nothing but free-labour sugar, the additional supply which they would obtain would be very small indeed. The effect of the measure, in short, would only be to tantalize the consumer here, and to deteriorate the interests of the producer in the Colonies.
said, Siam was not included in the Bill. The question as so whether they could admit its sugars remained still open. The Government had not been able to obtain recent information as to the state of the working population of that country; but, so far as he knew, he believed that a severe system of slavery existed there, and that that system was supported by a cruel Slave Trade.
§ Mr. Mangles
was of opinion that the Bill did great injustice to both East and West-India interests. As to the West-Indian sugar-growers, indeed, he did not think that they had experienced the most ordinary fair play. There would have been little use in his saying anything with respect to the claims of India upon this country, and he would not have opened his mouth upon the subject, were it not for the manner in which these claims had been spoken of by hon. Gentlemen in this House. Let them recollect the facts of the case. From Returns he held in his hand, he perceived that our exports to India alone, last year, exceeded those to the West Indies and to the Brazils put together. 30 Besides, India sent a free tribute to this country annually, without any reference to exports, and only in return for some comparatively slight military service, of upwards of four millions of money. Such was long the case; but it was not until 1837 that the common justice had been conferred upon India of putting her sugars upon the same footing as the produce of the West Indies, and it was not until 1841 that the same justice was extended to her rums, Now what he complained of was this—that, notwithstanding all the claims which India had upon their consideration, no sooner had they called up a new interest, established a new branch of industry within its territory, than they turned round upon the East-India planters, and, by reducing the import duties upon foreign sugar, exposed them to a premature and unequal contest with the produce of other countries. If the East-India planter had had time allowed to him to prepare for competition, to establish firmly his manufacture, then a discriminating duty of 10s. (or even of less than 10s.) would be a sufficient protection, and would enable him successfully to compete with the sugars of Jamaica, Manilla, or any other country in the world. But a fair time for preparation had not been allowed. He held a letter in his hand from a gentleman connected with the association established for the cultivation of sugar in India, which he would beg to read to the House. It was as follows:—Although it is now some years since the equalization of the duties on the East and West India sugar (during which time the enormous increase in the imports has already been before Parliament), it is only now, I mean literally only last year, that European skill and capital was first applied to the cultivation of the cane in India, it is only a recent discovery that the Otaheitean variety of cane can be successfully cultivated in various parts of India, and more especially in Tirhoot, where by the last accounts great efforts were being made to extend the cultivation. You heard from our Committee of management the day you called, that machinery to the value of 25,000l. was at this moment under shipment, expressly for crushing the cane in that district alone. As an instance of the rapid increase I speak of, I may say that we anticipate having home no less than 2,000 tons of sugar from our own crop of cane in Tirhoot now in the ground and ready for crushing this year. I know of another party who will have not much less, and I think I am speaking quite within bounds when I say that from the small districts 31 of Tirhoot alone, there will be imported into this country next year upwards of 5,000 tons of sugar, altogether from lands which have never yet sent a single ton home to this country. Further I may assert that such was the spirit and energy thrown into the cultivation in that district, that if left to itself and not blighted by such an impolitic measure as that now contemplated by ministers, we may fairly calculate that within four or five years from this time, the districts of Tirhoot alone will send home as much sugar to this country as the colony of Mauritius, or 30,000 tons; and this too will have to be received from a quarter which has never sent home sugar to this country at all, and consequently may be safely added to the present imports. If this is to be done by Tirhoot alone what may not be expected from India at large?This prospect, the measure of the right hon. Baronet opposite was calculated to crush. No one could be a more firm supporter of the principles of free-trade than he was, but he deprecated their application to the present case, because there was something still higher and better than even free-trade, and that was fair play and justice. He now came to the case of the West Indies. With respect to them he could speak freely. He had no connection with them, but he did think that no interest had ever been treated with such gross, with such scandalous injustice as was the West-Indian interest, with respect to the supply of labour promised them. He had not been in the House at the period of negro emancipation, but if he had, he would have supported the noble Lord opposite in that great measure; but he could not now help feeling very much surprised at the suicidal course pursued by the opponents of slavery in attempting to prevent a supply of free-labour being sent into the West Indies. By doing so, they were fighting the battle of the American slave states, who were triumphantly pointing to the West Indies as a proof that it was impossible to raise sugar in tropical climates without slave labour. Now, what part had the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies acted in this matter? When the late Government introduced the proposition for immigration into the West Indies, it was stoutly opposed by the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman near him; and thus, after having prevented the West Indies from obtaining a supply of labour, and thus preparing for successful competition, they now came forward and suddenly threw open the door of competition with other and more 32 advantageously situated sugar countries. They first admitted competition, and then began to think of a means for supplying labour. All that the Government were doing now for that purpose could have been done ten years ago. Good regulations for immigration of Coolies was as necessary then as now. These people were most anxious to go to the West Indies and the Mauritius. They were absolutely starving in their own country, where they could only earn two pice a day, or about two shillings per month. And yet these were the people who, for the sake of humanity forsooth, were prevented from going absolutely to make their fortunes in the West Indies and the Mauritius. When those who were allowed to proceed there came back, they did so with 200 or 300 rupees in their pockets; sums they could never have dreamt of amassing in their own country; and they returned not only rich, but comparatively enlightened men; fit, at all events, to be the very apostles of civilization among their own countrymen. Let the House listen to Sir Charles Metcalfe's account, drawn up in 1841, of the state of the West-Indian negro population, among whom he presumed they would not allow the Hill Coolies to go, for fear of contaminating the latter. Sir Charles Metcalfe, on the 1st of November, wrote to the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies as follows:—With respect to the labouring population, formerly slaves, but now perfectly free, and more independent than the same class in other free countries, I venture to say that in no country in the world can the labouring population be more abundantly provided with the necessaries and comforts of life, more at their ease, or more secure from oppression, than in Jamaica; and I may add, that ministers of the Gospel for the religious instruction, and schools for the education of their children, are established in all parts of the island, with a tendency to constant increase.Now, in any part of India, would the natives meet with such advantages? It was absurd to say it. But, in fact, the whole malady lay in that great plague of the country, the Colonial Office. It appeared to him—and he did not say it with reference to either Whig or Tory—that the Colonial Office was the great national drag, put on to clog the exertions of energy and industry in the Colonies, and applied too seemingly with the view of preventing the country from establishing too rapidly colonial markets for our own 33 manufactures. There would be no good Government for the Colonies until a great moral ploughshare had been driven through and through it. Let the House compare the Government of India with that of the Colonies—let them look at the uninterrupted prosperity and success of the one, and the uninterrupted failure, discontent, and distress of the others. He said this with the greatest respect for the talent and intentions of the noble Lord at the head of the colonial department, but had he as many heads as Cerberus, and as many hands as Briareus, he could not be expected to govern with success all our immense Colonies, having such different interests and prospects, and scattered over all the world, He repeated that he opposed the Bill, because it dealt out justice neither to the West or the East India growers, and he reiterated his assertion that, with respect to a supply of labour, the former had been scandalously treated.
had not intended to trouble the House for a moment upon the question before it, but after the manner in which he had been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he could not help trespassing upon them for a few minutes. He would not discuss the question of the East-India sugar; but he could not help remarking, in passing, how apt hon. Gentlemen, who were in general the strongest advocates for free-trade, were, at the moment it was proposed to apply these principles to a case which touched their own interest, immediately to find out that there were places and cases, with respect to which there was something higher to be taken into consideration than free-trade, and which forbad its application. He hoped that in future they would hear no taunts from the opposite side of the House about hon. Gentlemen being free-traders in the abstract, but unwilling to carry their principles into practice. But the hon. Gentleman stated that he considered that the East Indies had been hardly dealt with as to the Sugar Duties. Now, for the last seven years they had been placed upon precisely the same footing as the West Indies in this respect True, a complaint was made as to rum. Very well, he would come to that presently. But were the East-Indian planters on a perfect footing with the West-Indian growers as to labour? The hon. Gentleman stated as the great grievance of the West Indies their 34 inability to procure a proper supply of labour; but from his statement it appeared that in the East Indies, where they could procure plenty of labour at two pice a day—where they had all the advantages of British capital and machinery employed in the cultivation of the cane, where in a single small district they expected to raise 5,000 tons this year—with all these advantages, with a soil and a climate respectively the most genial and the most fertile, alter seven years' preparation, and with a protecting duty of 10s. over the Java and Manilla sugars, they yet could not enter into competition with them. But, said the hon. Gentleman, it was not until very lately that the East was placed upon the footing of the West Indies, as to rum. Was the import of rum here a very great advantage? Well, then, they would enjoy a monopoly in that respect, for under the Bill neither the rums of Java or Manilla could be imported. This liberty of importation must be a great advantage, as the want of it had been found a great grievance. Well, they would now enjoy it, while Java and Manilla would be shut out from the benefits of the trade. But still the East-India interest was not content. To all these advantages they wished a share in the monopoly hitherto enjoyed superadded. [Mr. Mangles: For a time only.] For a time! What did that I mean? For how long? For seven years more, or for longer? Until the hon. Gentleman and his particular Friends got their machinery shipped and sent out and in operation. The fact was, that the East Indies had abundant time for the introduction of British capital and British skill in order to cultivate the cane, so as to allow them to enter fairly into competition with foreign grown sugars. But instead of that, they were attempting to keep up a monopoly for themselves. He would not identify the whole of the East-Indians with the honourable. Gentleman, but he, the great advocate of free-trade. [Oh, oh,"]—well, a great advocate of free-trade as he was on most occasions, was the only man now who put himself forward to complain of the hardship of allowing Java and Manilla sugars to come in. Now, as to the East Indies. The hon. Gentleman had argued strongly for permission to import the Hill Coolies into the West Indies, and stated that he was disposed to negative, or, at all events, not to act upon the arguments which he had 35 urged in 1842 for the admission of the Coolies into the Mauritius. Now, what were the facts? Why, as soon as he possessed official power, his first step had been to bring forward a scheme for the admission of Hill Coolies into the Mauritius. In this he was opposed by the hon. Member for Northampton on one side of the House, and upon the other, in the strongest manner, by the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Hogg) — an opposition founded upon an extensive knowledge of India, he being a great practical authority upon such subjects. [Mr. Mangles: But he was never out of Calcutta.] Never out of Calcutta? But it was at Calcutta that all the abuses complained of took place. It was on account of the kidnapping in Calcutta—of the crimps in Calcutta—of the abuses in the river and the frauds practised in ships dropping down the river—that the Opposition of the hon. Member was excited. But he (Lord Stanley) had been asked whether he had not objected in 1840 to the removal of restrictions upon Hill Cooly immigration. Now a system of emigration to the West Indies and the Mauritius had been formerly sanctioned, but in consequence of the gross abuses which prevailed in it the late Government had put an entire and peremptory stop to the practice. They had subsequently attempted to relax that restriction in 1840, but in 1839 they had referred the whole question to the consideration of the Governor General and the Council in India, asking them to report whether, in their judgments, the abuses complained of could be removed, and in 1840, no Report having as yet been received from India, he had, in conjunction with his hon. Friend the Member for Beverley, pressed upon the late Government the expediency of not rescinding their own act, at least until the Report of their own Governor General should have informed them that the proposed relaxation could be safely made. Well, and what was that Report? The Council were equally divided upon the question of the practicability of allowing any restriction, and the hesitating sanction of Lord Auckland as to emigration to the Mauritius, and his direct negative of it as respected the West Indies, could not be taken as very favourable to the experiment. In this Report great stress was laid upon the difference between emigration to the Mauritius and emigration to the West Indies. 36 The present Government, who were willing to provide as efficient a supply of labour as they could, consented, notwithstanding the difficulties and objections in the way, to give to the Mauritius the advantage of immigration, but they said, and continued to say, that they must see the result of that experiment as to the Mauritius before they could consent to extend it to the West Indies. The Government had the object of emigration of the Hill Coolies in view since 1842; and now that the experiment had partially succeeded, they had not lost a moment in communicating with the Government of India, and recommending to that Government its extension to the West Indies. If he had done more he should have been charged with rashness—if less, with neglect.
§ Mr. Warburton
objected to the measure on account of the great protection it afforded to the East and West Indians; a protection amounting to 50 per cent. upon the cost of sugar as estimated, in the Liverpool market, on Brazilian sugar imported into this country. A 10s. protection, taking the price at 20s., was a protection of 50 per cent. He thought the West Indians had no cause whatever to complain. The tax levied on the consumers of this country, and taken from the revenue for the benefit of the West Indians, could not be estimated at much less than a million and a half annually. Suppose, for the sake of argument, we were to pay a second compensation to the West Indians at the present rate of interest, 3 per cent., the sum required would be only 500,000l. annually, instead of 1,500,000l. He would suggest to the Government the propriety of paying an annuity of 500,000l. to the West Indian proprietors, and then to throw open the markets for sugar to all the world, and give our people the full benefit of free trade. Of all the bargains ever made, he thought that would be the cheapest, and in the long run, the most advantageous.
§ Viscount Sandon
believed, that as soon as the West-Indian proprietors obtained a sufficient supply of labour, they would be able to compete with any other country, without any protection. He entirely disapproved of the proposition of the hon. Member who had just sat down. A great national possession ought not to be destroyed for want of an ample supply of labour to enable West-Indian proprietors to work their estates to advantage. That 37 would be the most short-sighted policy that could possibly be adopted. [Mr. Warburton did not propose to prevent the importation of labourers into the West Indies.] No; but the hon. Member certainly did all he could to discourage the supply of free labour. If those Colonies were not encouraged they would be thrown up, not from any defect in the quality of the soil but from a deficiency of labour This would result in the withdrawal from the sugar market of a large supply of sugar, and a consequent rise in prices. Our other sources of supply were Brazil and Cuba, which were very uncertain, being almost every day exposed to the dangers of an insurrection. If an ample supply of free labour were not afforded to the West-Indian proprietors, the alternative would be the destruction of the Colonies and the encouragement of slavery.
§ Mr. Bright
said, the hon. Member for Cumberland, the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, and some other hon. Members on the same side of the House, had pro claimed to the House that sugar which was selling for 6d. a pound, had cost them 6½d., and on that ground claimed some allowance from the rest of their countrymen to enable those gentlemen to carry on their trade in a manner satisfactory to themselves. He was a manufacturer of various descriptions of cotton cloth, and a spinner of cotton yarn, and if he produced to the House a letter received from his brother in Manchester, slating that, owing to the competition with Swiss and American manufacturers, he was obliged to sell yarn at 10d. a pound, which he could not make for less than 11d. and asked for some protective system to raise the price of the article he had to dispose of, what would be said? He did not think it would be Parliamentary to use the term which the House should apply to him in such a case. And such terms was he disposed to apply to the hon. Members to whom he had referred. He could not use that term in the House, but out of the House he would say that anything more impudent never was heard of. He had asked the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade on what ground he maintained protection on the article of sugar? He said there was a list plea on behalf of the West Indians for protection, inasmuch as there had been a great change made in their circumstances by the interference of this country 38 and that they had an insufficient supply of labour. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the East Indians had a soil of extraordinary fertility, and a climate most favourable for the cultivation of sugar, and abundance of labour at a cheap rate. The noble lord the Member for London said, the West Indians had a claim to protection on the same grounds that were seated by the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade. Would the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty' Government explain to the House on what ground he proposes to give 10s. protective duty to sugar grown in the East-Indian Colonies and the Mauritius, seeing that they have plenty of labour at a cheap rate, a favourable climate, and a soil of the greatest fertility? In addition to the 2,000,000l. which the country had to pay for this sugar, a great deal was lost by the hindrance of trade. Of that 2,000,000l., 1,250,000l. went to the West-Indians, and 750,000l. to the planters in the East Indies, and the Mauritius. He (Mr. Bright) asked the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) whether some plan should not be devised by which the 750,000l. could be returned, for which no pretence was set up by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He thought such an explanation should be given on that point.
§ Mr. Borthwick
hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite, in support of whom he had given a rather popular vote some few nights ago, would excuse him if he did not consult them now, when he ventured to explain the justice of the vote he intended to give. He had not, in any one of the stages of this rather long discussion, sought the indulgence of the House to say one word upon it, and he trusted he might be pardoned if he said that one word now. Yes, one word, it should be no more—to show that the course he was about to pursue was consistent with justice, and that which ought to be pursued by those who, like himself, viewed this question not as one of interest, but as a question of national honesty and virtue. Whatever might be the merits of this somewhat ingenious opposition which met the Bill of the Government, it appeared to him that the time chosen for it was not appropriate. This discussion was introduced to the House, first of all in the shape of a proposition submitted to a Commitee of the whole House, on which proposition this Bill was to be founded. Upon 39 that discussion no opposition, that he could recollect, was given to the Government scheme at all—certainly none on behalf of the West-Indian interest. He was one of those who thought this measure fatally injurious to the West-Indian planter, and he must say, he was much surprised that no one in the House, on behalf of that very important interest, did take any objection to the introduction of the principle of the measure in Committee when the resolution on which the Bill was founded was submitted to the House. That opportunity was permitted to pass, and when it became impossible for the Government to do otherwise than bring in the Bill which they had laid on the Table, then opposition arose on behalf of the West-Indian interest—not an opposition to the diminution of protection, but, on the contrary, an opposition which advanced the principle of free-trade, by 4s. further than the Government themselves, and maintaining for the East-Indian interest precisely the same protection which Her Majesty's Government had proposed. Viewing the measure as, in its principle, dangerous and injurious to the West Indians, what choice had he, or those who thought with him, other than to support her Majesty's Government against the advocates of the West-Indian interest who proposed that that interest should have no higher protection than Her Majesty's Government proposed, and who, in addition to that, went one step further in the direction of free-trade. Her Majesty's Government did not dispute the abstract principles of free-trade—they could not be disputed. They were truisms as palpable to intuitive perception as that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or that two and two make four. No one could doubt that to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest, was an abstract proposition on which all commercial transactions ought to be conducted. But because that admission had been made, hon. Members on the other side of the House rose up and said, "If you admit the proposition to be true, why not apply it?" He had asked the hon. Member for Bolton a question two years ago, and it never had been answered. He had asked him if two and two made four, and he said that was a novel proposition. But if two fools and two fools were added together would they make four wise men? A certain quantity 40 of sugar was required by the world—the West Indies were blessed with a fertile soil, a favourable climate, and other natural advantages for the production of sugar — why, then, give protection to the West Indians as against any other portion of the globe in favour of the production of sugar? No one could answer that question. There was no natural reason for giving protection to the West-Indian interest. There was no natural reason for giving protection to the English grower of corn. There was no reason in nature for doing so, but we had created a reason ourselves, by the artificial position in which we placed the West-India planter and the English grower of corn. Were the West Indians in their natural position in the world? Was society in the West Indies in a natural position? No, they were in a most artificial position, and that position was not of their own making, but of ours. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford, in a speech—and the only speech made that grappled really with the principle of the question reminded him (Mr. Borthwick)of a view this House had been most careful to forget in the discussion. Who instituted slavery in the West Indies? Was it the planter? No Gentleman was so ignorant of colonial history as not to see that the planter was a sufferer from the system of slavery. He believed the first grant of land made in Jamaica was given to Mr. Archdeacon whose descendants held the properly from that period to the present moment, and what was the condition on which that grant was grounded? Why that Mr. Archdeacon should purchase a certain number of slaves from each ship that landed its cargo at Jamaica. That was in fact the general condition on which land was held in the West Indies until the year 1807 when the Slave Trade was abolished. The Slave Trade was then the child of the adoption of this country, and when the object of giving encouragement to that trade was the cultivation of the land, was it likely that the West-India planters would purchase either females or children when they knew full well that the labour they required could only be performed by men. It was not; and what was the consequence of this? why that the deaths among the slaves were obliged to be supplied by new purchases. The first opposition to the Slave Trade occurred in 1760. It was not with either Mr. Wilberforce or Mr. Clarkson — names which he, however, 41 venerated—that the opposition to this traffic originated: but that opposition was first manifested in South Carolina, then a portion of the British Colonies. A Bill on the subject was then passed, which failed to obtain the assent of the domestic Legislature, and what was the result? Why that the Government of this country sent out a hint that it would be advisable for the colonial Legislature not to interfere in the matter. In 1704, two Bills on the subject of Slave Trade were passed by the Legislature of Jamaica, and what followed? Why that the Earl of Dartmouth sent out a dispatch containing an intimation that the Home Government would not permit the colony to interfere with a traffic which was so beneficial to the mother country, and thus they had prevented the West Indies from accomplishing the work of negro emancipation for themselves. In 1807, it was agreed that the Slave Trade should be abolished, and in what state did they leave the West Indies? Why, with a negro population, the great majority of whom were males, and that population kept decreasing from that period down to 1834, when slavery itself was abolished in these Colonies. The West-India planters were blamed by the hon. Members opposite for having kept the negroes on their estates in an unfavourable state of moral cultivation; but while this country was agitated by the anti-slavery cry, what were the planters doing? The Government at that period emancipated 300 slaves in the island of Antigua, while no less than 17,000 received their freedom at the hands of the planters in Jamaica. The negroes in the Crown colony of Antigua did not use their liberty as was expected; but it was different in Jamaica, for there they became useful labourers—the planters, in fact, awarding to Mr. Nethersole 10l. a-head for every negro who, through his instrumentality, was rendered a useful and industrious citizen. The planters in Jamaica, too, had paid a sum of 60,000l. for promoting education among the negro population of that island, and that was an amount far above anything that had ever been given in this country for a like purpose numbers considered. He had now demonstrated that the blame attempted to be cast upon the planters was unfounded, and he asserted that the twenty millions which they had received was a miserable compensation in proportion to the value 42 of then loss. Their loss amounted, in fact, to some hundred millions, and yet all they got was twenty millions. He did not know why the West Indies had not come boldly forward and met the Government on this question, and he thought they would have been fully justified if they had demanded the continuance of the high protecting duties which they had previously enjoyed. If that question had been mooted, he certainly should have voted with the West-Indian party, but it had not been proposed, and it appeared that the West-India proprietors agreed with the Government because the resolutions had passed without the slightest opposition, except from the noble Lord the Member for London. His hon. and gallant Friend behind him and others had been charged with inconsistency because they had voted against the Government, and with the Government on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bristol, but he could see no inconsistency in this. No doubt they were actuated by a hope that the Government would abandon their proposition and renew the existing protective duties for another year, and having, as he believed, pursued a straightforward course, he thought it grossly unjust that they should be held up as though they had been guilty of inconsistency. He could very well guess the motive of the combination which existed at the other side of the House, and he believed that the object of the hon. Gentleman opposite was to defeat the Government without any reference to the merits of the Bill. He had supported the Government throughout, and he had voted on the principle which he had stated; but not having intended to speak, and being without the materials with which he would otherwise have been prepared, he would not trespass longer on their attention, but conclude by thanking them for the patient hearing which they had given him.
Lord J. Russell
, before he spoke of this particular Bill, must make some reference to the statements of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, with respect to industry and labour in the West Indies, in the historical account he had given on that subject. He had been charged with having in some degree thwarted the introduction of labour into the West Indies some years ago. The noble Lord stated that there was a measure of the late Government, about 1837 or 1838, which 43 sanctioned that introduction of labour, but such abuses had sprung up under it, that the Government had thought proper to withdraw that Measure. Now, there were a few remarkable facts connected with that withdrawal, and the most prominent, of them was, that there had been certain abuses connected with that immigration in the West Indies, and a frightful mortality in one or two instances. The question, as might be seen by a reference to the History of Parliamentary Proceedings of that day in Hansard, was brought forward with great eloquence and power by an opponent of the late Government in the House of Peers. Lord Glenelg then stated that it was his object to promote emigration to the West Indies, because he thought it was desirable, to give a stimulus to the labour and industry of the negro race, to introduce a competition of labour, and thereby prevent the West Indies from declining, and the Colonies from falling into that state of barbarism which might be the case if the negro race should be found averse from labour. He stated likewise that it was his intention to continue the Order in Council until the year 1840; the time at which he spoke was March, 1838. It was, therefore, in the contemplation of Lord Glenelg and the then Government to continue that immigration, and to endeavour to prevent the abuses that might take place under it, with a view to see whether the emigration from India to the West Indies might not be usefully and beneficially continued as a system. The opinions, however, there stated, were too strong for Lord Glenelg and his system of policy. Strong feelings were raised in the country, and they were represented by persons of great name in the other House of Parliament; and it was then agreed that the Measure should be withdrawn with a view to further inquiry. Such, then, was the conclusion of the first Bill on this subject, evidently not arising from the observations of Government as to those abuses, but from the opposition they met with in Parliament from their adversaries. In the subsequent year, when he held the seals of the Colonial Secretaryship, he endeavoured to promote immigration into the Mauritius, as an experiment by which Government might guide their aftercourse. He was told by a right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the suggesstion was a very fair one, that a better method, instead of advising Her Majesty to issue an Order in 44 Council, would be to introduce certain clauses in a Bill, and if the House did not approve of them, the prerogative of the Crown would at least not be touched by any resolution of the House on the subject. Such clauses were accordingly introduced, and they were again defeated by a majority of that House, consisting chiefly of the political opponents of the Government. Thus, in 1840, the plan of immigration proposed by the late Government was again defeated. He thought, that at least the noble Lord could not claim the entire praise of being the first to resort to this system. The noble Lord could not say that in 1841 he turned his attention to this subject and found that it would be extremely useful to permit this immigration, taking credit to himself for the measures adopted in consequence. He had no doubt the noble Lord attended to it very sedulously, and employed the abilities he possessed in relation to this subject; but for the benefits of the Mauritius and the West Indies, it was to be lamented that he had not considered the subject with the same candour three or four years before, and that his political friends had not arrived in office with a fair and unbiassed view of the subject. So much with regard to immigration into the West Indies. With respect to the particular measure now introduced, he need not remind the House of the history of this measure during the preceding stages. It was introduced on the ground that there was not a sufficient supply of sugar in this country. Those who represented the West Indies and East Indies had observed that there was as great a supply in 1843, as in 1842 or 1841; and that, therefore, there was no sufficient reason for the introduction of the measure. Now, he did not agree with them on that subject, because he thought that in every one of those years the introduction of a further supply of sugar was required by the wants of this country, but at the same time he could not but admit that those who were told in 1841 that they might rely on the resistance by Gentlemen opposite of any further supply of sugar, on the ground of justice to the West and East Indies, and that there was a sufficient supply of sugar in this country, had some reason to be surprised and to complain of the introduction of such a measure in opposition to former Bills. He saw that with respect to the supply in 1843, there were 93,500 tons imported, 45 while this year, up to the 7th May, there had been 57,000; with respect to the stock in hand there were 40,000 tons in 1843, and 49,500 during the present year; and with respect to the quantity entered for consumption, 79,500 tons during this year were to be set against 88,500 last year. That, he thought, was very likely to be the consequence of the uncertainty that had prevailed respecting this measure. Now, he must say, admitting, as he was ready to do, that it was proper to introduce a measure on this subject, he thought it desirable that Government should have reviewed the whole subject, and considered what measure was most advisable for the country as a permanent system, instead of introducing a temporary measure, uncertain in its effects and singular in its character, and reserving all the main parts of the question for further deliberation. He owned it did seem to him that their maxim had been to give the greatest possible disturbance to the interests of the producer, with the least possible benefit to those of the consumer. Combining those two elements they had endeavoured to discover how the advantage to the consumer could be the least, and the alarm and disturbance to the producer be the greatest. There was a part of this measure on which much discussion had taken place that night—he meant that with respect to free-labour and slave-labour. He did not want to go through many of the arguments stated, but he must say that the result of the whole was to leave the subject in the same state of uncertainty which had prevailed on the first day of the introduction of the measure by Government. When you once begin to make a distinction as to the import of articles from foreign countries, according to their institutions, you attempt a kind of legislation most difficult to carry out with any degree of consistency, fairness, or justice. If a special enquiry were to be instituted as to the state of Java and Porto Rico, it was very uncertain what might be the result, but he should not be surprised if it were found that the condition of the labourers in Porto Rico, generally speaking, was better than that of the labourers of Java. The statement of his hon. Friend near him (Mr. P. M. Stewart), that the Slave Trade was carried on in Java, had not been contradicted. It was true, the President of the Board of Trade had said that there were 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 of people in 46 Java, and only 30,000 slaves. That might be the case, but you were speaking on principle—you attempted to make a distinction between slave-labour and free-labour states, and it would not do to say that Parliament had determined to introduce the sugar of countries where slaves were in a very small proportion, and exclude that of countries where they were much more numerous. The whole of the discussion, after the alterations with respect to the introduction of sugar from free-labour states, confirmed him in the fairness of the judgment he had formed, when Ministers stated that the protection was to be ten shillings, that the amount of duty should be equalized for imports from all countries in the world. He had failed, however, in that Motion; and some of those most favourable to free-trade had found themselves unable to vote with him, on account of the protection given by the 10s. duty. Then came the proposition of the hon. Member for Bristol, and he must beg the House to consider the situation in which it had placed itself by its decision on that proposal. Let them recollect that notice of that proposition had been given for a considerable time before it came on. The hon. Gentleman gave notice of his intention, in the first place, when the House was in Committee of Ways and Means. The Bill was afterwards read a first and second time; and it was not till the House went into Committee and a night had been taken up by the Motion of the hon. Member for Dumfries, that the proposition came before the House. It was then discussed by a very full House, and a majority of twenty were in its favour on Friday, the 14th of the month. Upon the Monday, without any notice whatever, that decision was reversed by the House, and a proposition, which had been negatived, was affirmed. Now, he did not think that decision was at all like the vote on the subject of the Malt-Tax, to which reference had been made; that vote, so far as he recollected, had been passed in a House not very full, and when the subject, was not expected by a great number of Members to be brought forward, and many persons, not purposely, but accidentally, were absent. It was a question, likewise, which affected the whole finances of the year, and Lord Althorp very justly said, that the House had come to a decision when many Members were not aware that anything so important would have 47 been discussed, and that the House ought maturely to consider the whole subject, and choose whether they would have the continuance of the Malt Tax or a Property Tax. It was quite fair in the former case that the House should reconsider its decision; but on the late question of the Sugar Duties, there was nothing in the least resembling those circumstances. The first decision on the hon. Member's Motion had been taken after long notice—the next on the Monday—without any notice being given. When he entered the House he had not the least suspicion of what Government meant to propose. Various rumours had been current as to what was going on, and they had been informed that a grand and solemn meeting had been held at the Carlton Club, on Sunday, to keep the right hon. Gentleman in office; but as to what was to be proposed he believed the House was in the same ignorance as himself. Then, without notice or preparation, the right hon. Gentleman proposed that what had been negatived on Friday should be affirmed on Monday. The result was most remarkable, for it appeared that forty-nine Members who had not voted on the previous occasion supported the right hon. Gentleman, and thirty-eight Members who had voted in favour of the hon. Member for Bristol absented themselves on the second day. Four of those, of whom the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool (Sir H. Douglas), whom he saw opposite, was one, voted against the Government propositions on the first night, and voted against the hon. Member for Bristol on the second occasion. The hon. and gallant Member explained what his intention was; he said he was against the proposition of the Government, and against the proposition of the hon. Member for Bristol. Why, soon afterwards the proposition of the hon. Member for Bristol was negatived by a majority, the hon. Baronet and the gallant Member had an opportunity of voting against the Government on another proposition, and he certainly expected the House would have had some proposal from the hon. Gentlemen who were against the Government to negative their proposition. But nothing of the kind took place; not a word was said, and they who had voted against the Government on Friday, proceeded to give their votes in its favour on Monday. Perhaps it was too late to take any further steps on 48 that night, but they did not, up to the present stage, attempt the least opposition. The Report came, the House was now on the third reading, and not a single Member who had thus voted had declared that he meant to oppose the introduction of foreign sugars, as proposed by the Government. He could not, therefore, reconcile the conduct of hon. Gentlemen with the declarations they had made. But, with respect to the whole House, he must say that there were no reasons shown to them for thus approving of what they had rejected. Nothing more was said than that the right hon. Gentleman would not remain in office unless the House consented to abandon their proposition. For his own part, he quite agreed that it would not have been a proper course for Government to propose the continuance of the Sugar Duties of former years without alteration. After what he had declared relative to the wants of the people for a further importation of sugar, it would not have been consistent in them to do so. But he could see no objection, considering that the revenue was in no danger, that there was amply sufficient to the 5th of April, and that it would be made up in the course of next year, why they should not have supported the proposition of the hon. Member for Bristol. Sugar would have been cheaper and the consumers benefited; and he thought that Ministers might have taken this course, especially after the House, by a previous decision, bad placed themselves in a position ill-becoming the House of Commons. It was in fact a question between the character of the House of Commons and the pride of the Ministry: and the Ministry, rather than that their pride should be let down, had sacrificed the character of the House of Commons. Henceforth it would be understood, whatever measures the Government might bring forward, it would be possible for the House to obstruct them, nay, entirely to defeat them—for it was very often in the power even of the minority to do so—but as to making any alteration whatever in the details of the Bill, that was not to be permitted, and the House of Commons was thereby deprived of its functions. That was a change more important, he thought, than any change in the Sugar Duties. He thought that such a system could not be maintained. If the House of Commons did not rely on its own character, and did not show on 49 future occasions that, if the House entertained a strong opinion that a measure would be beneficial to the country, it would support the measure, and not consent to abandon it, let them depend on it the country would not approve of such conduct on the part of its representatives. There never was a time, so far as his observation went, when, at particular elections, it was more agreeable to the electors for candidates to declare that they would vote conscientiously, according to their own opinions, and not tie themselves down either to one party or to the other. It was far more the custom than formerly, and showed the tendencies of opinion, for a candidate to say that he would be a partisan of no government, whether Tory, Conservative, Whig, or Radical—that he would adhere to his own views of politics, and would not bind himself down to support any particular party. When such was the state of opinion, if the country would perceive that so far from keeping their pledges, the Members of that House, or at least a majority, were disposed to support a measure which they thought injurious to the country, because it happened to be agreeable to the party in office, he thought they might conclude that the country would not be disposed to support the House of Commons. It was essential to the future character and usefulness of the House, whatever their politics might be, whether in support of Government, or of a more liberal character—that whatever was done by the House should be done after full and solemn judgment, unbiassed by any regard to influence which might mislead. In the particular question now before the House, he could not refrain from giving his opinion, and entering his protest against the course which had been pursued.
§ Sir Howard Douglas
was obliged to the noble Lord, the Member for London, for having afforded him an opportunity of saying a few words upon his vote of a former evening. The noble Lord admits that he (Sir H. Douglas) declared his intention of voting against the proposition of the Government, and that he would likewise oppose that of the hon. Member for Bristol. But the noble Lord says, that he (Sir H. Douglas) did not intimate or entertain an intention of still voting against the Government, measure. Now he appealed to the House, whether, when he intimated his 50 intention to vote against the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Bristol, he did not, at the same time, declare his opposition to the Government measure to be undiminished; and that if that night, or at any other time, and in any other form, any proposition should be made against that measure, he should prove his consistency by voting in favour of such a proposition. Had the noble Lord carried out his intention of taking the sense of the House on the third reading of this Bill, he (Sir H. Douglas) should have divided with him; and he had come down that evening to the House, intending so to vote, if the sense of the House should be taken against the Government measure. Did any one mean to say that, when an hon. Member negatived any given proposition, he was thereby held to affirm any Amendment that might be moved upon it? If such were the usage of the House, he should only say that it was not consistent with common sense, and one, certainly, that he should not practice. He objected to the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, because he thought it unjust, and believed it would be injurious to the West India and Colonial interests. After such prolonged discussions on this subject, he would not go into the details of the Ministerial measure. The House, he hoped, would allow him to say, that he was in possession of all the facts and figures of this question. But his objection to it was taken on higher grounds. He had always advocated the Colonial principle, in this House, and elsewhere. He advocated the principle of protection throughout our Colonial empire, the principle which had created that empire, and by which only it could be kept together. He (Sir H. Douglas) would now pass on to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Bristol. He objected to that Amendment, because the protection, generally, was not adequate; the duty on foreign clayed sugars insufficient; the classification not sufficiently carried out; and because the proposition was worse,—he characterised both as bad,—than that of Her Majesty's Government. In his opinion, the West India body had never committed a greater mistake, than when they resolved to support the proposition of the hon. Member for Bristol; because so far they would be held to recognise or concede the principle of admitting foreign sugar. He (Sir 51 H. Douglas) thought it would not be practicable to discriminate, effectually, between free labour foreign sugar, and slave labour foreign sugar. But he took his stand on the impolicy of importing any foreign sugar at all into this country at present, as unjust and unnecessary. He objected to the admission of any description of foreign sugar to compete with British sugar, until the West India colonies shall have been afforded ample opportunity of trying and ascertaining the result, there, of the interesting experiment, with respect to the immigration of free labour, which is now making with so much advantage, and with every appearance and hope of success in the Mauritius; and because he thought it was not fair to bring the West India colonies into competition with any foreign sugars, whilst they were bound, hand and foot, by the difficulties and disabilities under which we had placed them, with respect to labour. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, had shown that it was not safe to extend to the West India colonies, the introduction of Hill Coolies, until it should have been tested in the Mauritius. Admitting, then, that the noble Lord has not been tardy in extending that boon to the West India colonies, it appears to him that Her Majesty's Government have been precipitate in interfering, as by this Bill, with the West India interests in particular, by not having deferred this, or any other measure, until those colonies should have been in possession of additional labour for a sufficient time to show the working of the recent measure, and to prepare for the competition which they may be destined to sustain. In the meantime, it does not appear that British sources are inadequate to the supply of sugars. For some time after the passing of the Slave Emancipation Act, when we indulged our humanity so largely, at the cost of the West India interests, the importation of sugar from those colonies, which, in 1831, amounted to about 4,100,000 cwts., fell off to 2,100,000 in 1841, when it changed its sign, and a progressive increase is now taking place. Is this favourable change now to be arrested? Mauritius likewise suffered greatly from want of labour; its production fell off; it is now largely increasing, and the best effects from the experiment of immigration might, he knew, be confidently entertained. Then, in the East Indies, that 52 rich and boundless space which we possess, production is rapidly increasing, and from it, if steadily protected and stimulated by British capital, the supplies of sugar must be immense. In 1832, there were imported from the East Indies, 88,000 cwt. of sugar; and now the importation has risen to 1,200,000 cwt., and might have been vastly greater, if assured of protection. Taking the quantity likely to be imported this year from British possessions, at 225,000 tons, and looking to the stock in hand at the beginning of this year, say at 49,000 tons, with a consumption that cannot be rated higher than 205,000 tons; it is clear that there is a margin of production and importation over consumption, sufficient to show there was no immediate necessity for the measure now under discussion, and that we might safely rely on the sources which we possess for the supply of sugar. The supply of British sugar is increasing, price has been diminishing steadily since 1840, and is now moderate; the Revenue has likewise increased, and is now maintained. All this ought to have convinced the Government that there is no real necessity for the measure they have proposed. Much has been said of commercial unions, hostile tariffs, leagues and rival combinations against the commerce, manufactures, and power of this country. Sir, in the vastness and unbounded resources of our colonial em-empire, we possess a league which may defy all rivalry, and defeat all combination and hostility, provided we adhere firmly to the great principles by which this colonial empire has been formed, and by which only can it be kept together. On that principle he (Sir H. Douglas) had voted against both propositions; they were both deviations from the principle to which he had adverted; the one proposing, and the other admitting or conceding, the importation of foreign sugars; and, because neither of them provided a sufficient and adequate degree of protection for British sugars. By voting against both, he had not committed himself, either in principle or in degree, to either of these concessions. He denied the necessity, and objected to the principle of resorting to foreign nations for any productions which our own possessions could, if properly protected, supply in abundance, and at moderate rates. He might, when called upon to vote on the last occasion, have walked out of the House, and have 53 declined to vote for the proposition of the hon. Member for Bristol; but such a course never had been, and never should be his practice. He (Sir H. Douglas) would appeal to the Speaker, whether, in every such case as this, the question did not resolve itself into two distinct propositions, upon which two distinct divisions were to be taken; the first question put was, whether the Ministerial proposition should stand part of the Bill? to this he (Sir H. Douglas) said no. The next question put was, that the blank be filled up, by the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Bristol; to that also he voted in the negative; and he did not regret having given a negative to both propositions. If asked what his motives and expectations were of the consequences likely to result from negativing both motions, and which, so far as he (Sir H. Douglas) was concerned, he was resolved should be the case, he would say, that the natural result, the necessary consequence would be, that Her Majesty's Government would allow the present Sugar Duties to remain in operation re-enacted for another year, unless they were prepared now to bring forward some comprehensive, and enduring measure, really beneficial to all parties. By thus acting, he (Sir H. Douglas) had kept himself free and clear, in an uncompromised position, to give his best consideration to any great comprehensive and permanent plan for the settlement of the Sugar duties, which the Government might hereafter bring forward; and when that time should arrive, he should go into that discussion with a sincere desire and determination to act in a manner which he might think due to the real interests of this country, to the general interests of our Colonial empire, and in particular to our West India Colonies, suffering, as they have done, and still are. There could be no material reduction in the price of sugar, without a considerable sacrifice of revenue; but whatever might be done in this respect, he (Sir H. Douglas) would never consent to any scale of duties that should discourage the production of British sugars, or displace by foreign sugar one particle of British sugars in British markets
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he was unwilling to say one word that should have the effect of prolonging the discussion, because he was most anxious to proceed with other business of the greatest importance; and nothing should have induced him to utter 54 a syllable upon the present occasion, except the speech of the noble Lord opposite. He must first say, that he thought his hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Liverpool, was perfectly justified in the vote he had given the other night. He knew that his hon. and gallant Friend was decidedly opposed to the measure of Her Majesty's Government, and he knew that his hon. and gallant Friend was opposed also to the measure of the hon. Member for Bristol. His hon. and gallant Friend appeared then to him to be perfectly consistent in taking the course he had taken, namely, giving a vote in opposition to both propositions, and if the noble Lord would to-night have proposed that the third reading of the Bill should be rejected, he would probably have found that the hon. and gallant Member would have been perfectly ready to support him. [Sir H. Douglas: Hear]. The noble Lord had asked why the hon. and gallant Member had not given notice of a Motion for opposing the Government scheme. Why, when the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol had been defeated, the hon. Gentleman himself said, that he would not persevere in opposing the Government proposition, and the determination of the hon. Gentleman met with unanimous concurrence; and when he said, that he would not take the sense of the House against the insertion of the 24s., there was great cheering from hon. Gentlemen opposite. No one urged him to preserve in taking the sense of the House, and the vote passed without a single observation on the part of any hon. Gentleman. He thought, therefore, that his hon. and gallant Friend and those Gentlemen who had opposed Her Majesty's Government, and also opposed the proposal of the hon. Member for Bristol, had acted a part perfectly consistent with their views and intentions, and he did not see how they could have taken any other course, holding the opinions they did. Not only, therefore, was his hon. and gallant Friend justified, but if he had taken any other course he would have acted inconsistently. Now, in regard to the speech of the noble Lord this evening—after the declaration of the noble Lord, and after the opportunity for mature deliberation, he must say, that the Government were perfectly justified in the course they took in attempting to persuade the House to rescind the resolution to which it had previously come. There appeared 55 no distinction between this case and the rescinding of the vote regarding the Malt Tax. Due notice was given in that case. Lord Althorpe came down and asked the House to reconsider its decision, and prevailed upon the House to rescind its resolution. When the rescinding a resolution happened to be in conformity with the opinions of the noble Lord, nothing was heard of such a course being in the least degree degrading to the character of the House of Commons. There was in that case a formal, solemn resolution of the House of Commons to diminish the Malt Tax by one-half. Lord Althorp took the same course the Government had now taken, and he succeeded in prevailing upon the House to rescind its resolution. At that time there being then a very powerful Government, not a word of condemnation or reflection upon the House of Commons was heard. But what did the noble Lord say to this—that his own right hon. Friend near him, the late President of the Board of Trade, also expressed a hope and conviction only a few nights ago, that he should succeed in persuading the House to rescind a resolution to which it had previously come. The right hon. Gentleman said he could make out a case against its last decision, and hoped he should be able to induce the House to rescind it. Such confidence had he in reason and the force of argument. The noble Lord had probably been induced not to ask the House to reject this Bill, because he felt that such a course would be inconvenient with the doctrines he now maintained. If it were competent to the Opposition to ask the House to rescind a resolution, why not to the Government? The question must be as regarded the public interest. The Government thought that the vote was not for the public interest, and they again submitted the question to the House. Putting the question calmly and deliberately, he (Sir R. Peel) was still of opinion that the Government proposition was preferable to the other. He did not wish to make use of any taunts, or to insinuate or impute motives; but he still thought that the original Government proposition, in regard to British sugar, and affixing upon foreign free-labour sugar a duty of 10s. in addition, was preferable to the proposal of his hon. Friend, the Member for Bristol, that there should be a prospective reduction of the duty of 4s. in November next, and that 56 there should be an additional protecting duty for certain classes of sugar of 14s. Entertaining that opinion, he could not help thinking it was becoming in the Government to submit all the facts of the case to the reconsideration of the House; and if they thought that the reasons shown were good and tenable, to attempt to persuade the House to rescind its resolution. He thought the Government proposition preferable on these grounds. To reduce the duty in November next would be unfavourable to the consumer of sugar. There was a great objection to the prospective reduction of duty, definite in amount, to take place on a certain day. He thought that a reduction, definite in amount and point of time, had a great tendency to disarrange the internal retail trade in sugar. He thought it was disadvantageous to the consumer on this account, that there would probably be no reduction of price in the interim until November. The profit would go into the pockets of the grocer and retail dealer, who might accidentally happen to have a large supply on hand, and so dole out an insufficient supply to keep up the market price. He believed it would be a loss to the revenue without any corresponding advantage to either the producer or the consumer — that the whole benefit would accrue to the dealer. Still entertaining this conviction, there could not be any inconsistency in coming to the House and asking it to reconsider their former decision. The noble Lord took a different view. He, however, thanked the noble Lord for his admission that the Government could not have proposed a continuation of the present duties. His (Sir R. Peel's) hon. and gallant Friend thought that that would have been the wisest course for the Government to adopt, and it was probable that a great number of the West Indians who had voted with the noble Lord, had done so under the confident impression that that would be the result. That was the advice tendered to the Government under the present difficulty. Now, with the increased demand, and the tendency to increased price, the Government thought it desirable to admit a supply of free-grown sugar, and they determined to adhere to that course. He could not, he admitted, perfectly understand why the noble Lord had on this occasion united with those who had quite a different object in view from himself. 57 No doubt the noble Lord was actuated by motives of public good, but he still thought it was the duty of the Government to resist the combination that was formed, and to attempt to procure, from the deliberate sense of Parliament, a revision of the decision to which it had formerly come, if a rescinding of that decision was best for the public interest. He adhered to that decision, he rejoiced at the course that had been taken, and he could not see any discredit attaching to the House of Commons in reconsidering their decision. He never could believe that the House of Commons could throw discredit upon itself by adopting that proposition which was best sustained by reason and argument. An hon. Gentleman opposite had asked what were the difficulties in the way of reducing duties on sugar. There were certainly difficulties arising from those who were the strenuous advocates for retaining protection, but when he looked around him, and came to deal with details, by far the most formidable opposition he had to encounter; was from those Gentlemen who were loudest in their declamations about free-trade. There was the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mangles), who was a purist in respect of free-trade—had been attempting to show to the House that it was unjust to diminish the protection to East-India sugar, and endeavoured to persuade the Government that they ought to wait until all the speculations that had been entered into had been brought to perfection; and declared that both East and West India interests were treated with the grossest injustice, because it was sought to introduce sugar from Manilla, Java, and China, Now, when would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to admit foreign sugar into the market? How can the hope of the hon. Member for the introduction of slave-grown sugar be consistent with the doctrines he had held to-night for the maintenance of the East-India monopoly. The hon. Member had said that machinery had gone out to the East Indies, to the value of 20,000l., to give increased advantages to the production of sugar, and he called for protection to enable the growers to compete with the coarse processes of other countries. So it was, when a practical measure was brought forward—such as there was a probability of carrying—it was directly denounced as a step of the grossest injustice towards some 58 interest. The hon. Member put him in mind of what happened when a reduction in the duty on cheese was contemplated. An hon. Member who was a stanch free-trader got up and said, as the representative of the county of Cheshire, and though devoted to free-trade doctrines, he could give excellent reasons why cheese was peculiarly entitled to be exempted from the experiment; and he should, therefore, support Government in resisting any reduction in the duty on cheese. And now the hon. Gentleman opposite said he had no interest in the West Indies, but he had the strongest feeling for the East Indies; and yet he appealed to the West-India interest to combine and co-operate against the Government, and at the same time appeal to the people on the ground of free-trade. The hon. Member for Durham might depend upon it that the removal of protection was accompanied by great difficulties, but the greatest difficulty would be found to be, the opposition of those who were the professed advocates of free-trade. Those who are prompted by motives very different and dissimilar in their opposition to the measures of the Government say, when some remedial measure is introduced by Government, now let us confederate together and sink our differences, in order to procure from the Government a remedial measure of a more comprehensive character. This should be our object in the first instance, but above all let us take care to decry and to trample upon every smaller concession which may at all trench upon our particular interests.
§ Bill read a third time, and passed.