§ The House in Committee of Ways and Means.
LORD J. RUSSELL
addressed the Chairman (Mr. Greene) as follows:—Sir, had Her Majesty's Ministers been disposed to consult their own ease, they would not in the present state of affairs have proposed any considerable alteration in the Sugar Duties. They would have had plausible reasons to allege for such a course: the advanced state of the Session, the labours which this House has already gone through, the recent formation of the Government, the intricacy of some of the details connected with this question—would have formed, in the eyes of many, grounds sufficient for postponing to another Session any large or permanent alteration of the Sugar Duties. But, Sir, there are, in our opinion, considerable evils suffered by the country in consequence of the present state of these duties. We consider that the great body of the public are sufferers by the increased price of sugar—a commodity upon which no less than 12,000,000l., or a sum ranging from 11,000,000l. to 13,000,000l., is expended by the public in this country: we think that the revenue is a very considerable sufferer by the mode in which these duties have been hitherto raised, and the exclusion, by prohibitory duties, of sugars of a certain class from the markets of this country. We are also of opinion that it is most desirable, for the sake of the public, for the sake of the interests which are most concerned, and for the sake of the trade and commerce of this country, to endeavour to arrive at some permanent settlement of this question, and not to expose this question any longer to discussion, debate, and doubt, from year to year. With these motives, therefore, however unprepared we might seem to be on this occa- 1305 sion, I am now about to state to the Committee the general reasons upon which we proceed, and the plan which—if this House shall be disposed to entertain a plan for a permanent settlement of the Sugar Duties—we propose for adoption. Sir, it has been a general complaint with all the most intelligent writers upon the subject for many years, that the price of sugar is enormously increased. Mr. M'Culloch, a considerable authority upon this subject, states, both in his Dictionary of Commerce and in his more recent work on Taxation, that the estimated increase in the cost of sugar imported in 1840, 1841, and 1842, by reason of the protective duty, on the supposition that foreign sugar rose from 20s. or 21s. to 25s. per cwt., was no less, during these three years, than 3,240,260l. a year. In the same manner, and for the same reason, the revenue was greatly reduced in the following years by the advanced price of sugar, making that article unattainable by all the labouring classes, and its consumption extremely limited and reduced by the richer and middle classes. Passing, Sir, at once from what has happened in former years, I will now take notice of the plan proposed last year by the right hon. Gentleman whom I see opposite, who was then the First Lord of the Treasury, the effects which that plan had, and the views with which it was introduced. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time—the Member for Cambridge University—in speaking of that plan, said—The highest quoted prices of Java sugar at present are from 22s. to 24s. 6d., but ordinary Java and Manilla sugars are lower, say about 17s.; the average may, therefore, be taken at 20s. Then, supposing the first cost of Java sugar to be 20s., by adding the amount of duty, 23s. 4d., it gives a total price of 43s. 4d. Then, with respect to West India sugar, the average Gazette price of that article is 29s. 7d.; add to that the duty of 14s., the total is 43s. 7d.; and that calculation only shows a difference in price between the two articles of 3d. This would make it little dearer than the Java; and I think I have taken a fair average upon the whole.We may, therefore suppose that the right hon. Gentlemen calculated upon a price of 43s. 6d. per cwt as likely to be the price of the year; but, Sir, in the course of the year a very considerable rise in the price of sugar took place. The Gazette averages, which for the four weeks in April show the price at 30s. per cwt, in the last four weeks in December show a price of 35s. per cwt. The cause of that difference, I believe, was very much what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, a 1306 want of the supply of Manilla sugar, and the absorption of Java sugar on the Continent; but the fact remains the same, that there was a very considerably increased price—that the hopes of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) were to a great degree disappointed—and that a rise of 5s., 6s., or even 7s. above the average price which he had calculated, took place at certsin periods of that year. I will next take the financial statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. He stated—We think it probable that the effect of the reduction of the duty may lead to an increased consumption of perhaps 43,000 tons. Of course, these estimates must be taken as very general; but it appears to us probable that the increased consumption of sugar, consequent upon the reduction of duty, will amount to a total not much short of 250,000 tons. The consumption of British muscovado sugar, to the extent of 160,000 tons, at 14s., would give 2,240,000l. The consumption of clayed sugar at a duty of 16s. 4d., or sugar equal to clayed, to the extent of 70,000 tons, will give a revenue of 1,140,000l.; foreign free muscovado sugar, 5,000 tons, at 23s. 4d., will give a revenue of 116,700l.; of free labour foreign clayed, or equal to clayed, 15,000 tons, at 28s., will give a revenue of 42,0000l. As I said before, these estimates must of course be very general; but, supposing them to approximate to the truth, the consequence will be, that we shall receive from the duty on sugar, in consequence of the reduction, the sum of 3,916,000l.Now, Sir, the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman, when he proceeded to make a reduction in the duties on sugar—the very large reduction which he made of upwards of 11s. per cwt. on colonial sugars—was more than justified; but by limiting the means of supply his estimate was widely different from the truth with respect to foreign sugars. Here is the actual fact with respect to sugar from the 1st of January, 1845. The right hon. Gentleman calculated the consumption of 1845 as follows: Of British Plantation muscovadoes, 160,000 tons—the actual consumption was 237,636 tons, or an increase of 77,636 tons; of British Plantation clayed, or equal to white clayed, he calculated on 70,000 tons—the actual consumption was 1,107 tons, a falling-off to the extent of 68,893 tons; of foreign free labour muscovadoes he calculated on 5,000 tons—the actual consumption was 3,809 tons; of foreign free labour clayed, or equal to white clayed, he calculated on 15,000 tons—the actual consumption was 54 tons. In consequence of the difference of duty, instead of 2,240,000l, derived to the revenue, at the rate of 14l. per ton on British muscovado, the produce 1307 was 3,326,904l.; and instead of 1,140,000l. on the British Plantation clayed, or equal to white clayed, at a duty of 16l. 6s. 8d. per ton. the duty amounted to only 18,081l. Instead of 116,700l. on foreign free labour muscovadoes, at a duty of 23l. 6s. 8d., the duty amounted to only 88,876l.; and instead of 42,000l. duty, which the right hon. Baronet calculated on from foreign free-labour sugar clayed, or equal to white clayed, at a duty of 28l., we derived only 1,512l. The total decrease, according to that estimate, in the revenue received was 481,327l. That was not the actual deficiency in the calculation; because there was a large portion of the British Plantation sugar taken above at 14s. per cwt., which paid duty previous to the 14th of March at the old rate of 25s. 2d. The real difference, therefore, was only 341,529l.* Now, I think this account sufficiently shows that, while the right hon. Gentleman's plan was successful even beyond his hopes, while he reckoned upon a decrease of duty producing a large increase of consumption, it was as conspicuous a failure when he calculated, with respect to the admission of
|* The following is the complete Official Return, of which the noble Lord quoted the summary:—|
|Stock of sugar on hand, 1st January, 1845||45,000|
|Supply, West India||135,000|
|Supply, East India||70,000||245,000|
|Sir Robert Peel calculated the consumption of 1845 as follows:—|
|Quality.||Quantity and Price.||Value.||Increase.||Decrease.|
|Of British Plantation, Muscovadoes||Tons.||£.||s.||d.||£.||Tons.||£.||Tons.||£.|
|The actual consumption was||237,636||at||14||0||0||3,326,904||77,636||1,086,904|
|Of British Plantation, clayed, or equal to white clayed||70,000||at||16||6||8||1,140,000|
|The actual consumption was||1,107||at||16||6||8||18,081||68,893||1,121,919|
|Of foreign free-labour Muscovadoes||5,000||at||23||6||8||116,700|
|The actual consumption was||3,809||at||23||6||8||88,876||1,191||27,824|
|Of foreign free labour, clayed, or equal to white clayed||15,000||at||28||0||0||420,000|
|The actual consumption was||54||at||28||0||0||1,512||14,946||1,568,231|
|N.B. £481,327 is not the actual deficiency in the calculation as part of the British Plantation sugar, taken above at 14s. per cwt., paid duty previous to the 14th March, at the old rate of 25s. 2d. The real difference, therefore, was only £341,529.|
§ distinct classes of foreign sugar, that a high duty would make up the revenue he estimated. I will now, Sir, proceed to state what are the general prospects, as stated from various sources, of the supply of sugar for the coming year, taking the estimate from the 5th of April, 1846, to the 5th of April, 1847. The estimate I now hold in my hand I consider extreme, and by no means likely to be realized. It first states the amount of colonial and free - labour sugar in the warehouse—
|Colonial and free-labour sugar in ware house, April 5, 1846||Tons.|
|Estimated import from April 5, 1846, to April 5, 1847 (Customs' Letter):—|
|Calculated amount of free-labour sugar admitted from foreign countries||20,000|
|Making in the whole||315,000|
|Probable stock April 5, 1847, stock being notoriously low||45,000|
|Available for consumption||270,000|
§ Sir, I have here various other returns, especially four, which appear to me to come nearer the mart than that I have just read. Here is a statement put forward by the West India body. They estimate the produce for
|The West Indies||125,000 Tons|
|The East Indies||75,000|
|The West Indies||115,000 Tons|
|The East Indies||70,000|
|The West Indies||110,000|
|The East Indies||70,000|
The only proposed alteration in the duty is the reduction of 3s. 6d. per cwt. on foreign free-labour sugar, which, if nothing further is done, either by treaties or otherwise, will have very little effect upon the market, as the quantity 1310 which can be received will not, it is now evident, be of material importance.Sir, I believe that statement, made by a firm of experience in the trade, to be thoroughly borne out by the fact, and that the increased price will limit the consumption; that you will be disappointed of obtaining the supply you wish; that your revenue will not increase as it ought to do, by increasing the supply of sugar; and that the people will suffer from the price they must pay, owing to the limit you place on the quantity that comes into your markets. Now let it be borne in mind that, supposing the consumption is 250,000 tons, an increase of price to the amount of 6s. only per cwt. would be a tax on the people of this country in the price of their sugar of 1,500,000l. a year, and that a tax which does not go into the Exchequer; it is paid by the people, but gives nothing whatever to the Government. In that state of the supply of sugar, what I should naturally be disposed to recommend, therefore, would be the admission of other foreign sugars into the markets of this country, to supply the deficiency under which it is evident we must otherwise suffer during the present year. But we are here met by an objection, contrary to the system which has prevailed during the last four or five years, but more decidedly in the present year, of allowing the people to buy in the cheapest market—we are here met by an objection that "by so doing, by admitting all foreign sugars, you would encourage slavery and give an increased stimulus to the Slave Trade;" and it is said that "there are moral considerations which overbear all financial and commercial views, and all views connected with the comfort and welfare of the people of this country." In examining that argument, though not at any length, I will just point out where I think it fails, both in completeness and in efficacy. That argument fails in completeness; because, while you refuse admission to your home market of the sugars of foreign countries, you place no such bar on the admission of other productions. You admit cotton, tobacco, copper, and various other articles which are produced by slave labour. Therefore, Sir, you do not actually carry into effect, or even pretend to carry into effect, these humane views which the persons who are most opposed to the admission of slave produce consistently entertain. I hold in my hand a circular with respect to the Sugar Duties, which is headed 1311 "urgent," and which begins with stating, it to be a very great misfortune, that which Ministers and statesmen of this country have regarded year by year as a very great advantage—namely, "the great increase in the import and consumption of cotton from the United States. It has been thought by the great majority of this House that a very large increase in the import of cotton, affording the means of industry and livelihood to hundreds of thousands of our people, making our manufacturing towns busy and flourishing, was a great advantage to the State. The persons to whom I allude contend, very consistently as I think, that the increase in the import of cotton from 1790 to 1845 ought to excite the grief and indignation of all moralists and philanthropists. They go on to say that—
If it be stated as a reason for excepting the United States from the principle of excluding slave produce, that the slavery existing in that country is characterized by none of the greatest horrors of the African Slave Trade, the Committee would observe that that atrocious traffic had been succeeded there by another—in some features still more revolting—the breeding of slaves, whose value is regulated by the price of cotton wool in the British market.Nobody can forget the eloquent statements that were made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh with respect to the Slave Trade in the United States; nobody can deny the force of the observations he then made, or the facts which are here stated by the Anti-Slavery Committee, that the consumption of cotton wool in this country, and the use of it in our manufactures, give an impulse and encouragement to the Slave Trade in the United States; and yet, if any one were to say that we should not on that account allow cotton wool to come into this country—if he were to say that before we will admit cotton wool we will force the United States to a solution of that tremendous problem that hangs over them—that tremendous problem, whether they shall keep their black population in a state of slavery; or whether, applying the great articles of their declaration of rights, they shall, at once, admit them to supreme power in many States, and treat them, as Mr. Clay contends they ought to be treated, as entitled to the elective privileges. Though constituting the majority in themselves, to say that we would insist on the emancipation of all their slaves, or that we should not take a single bale of cotton wool, would be nothing less than insanity. 1312 Sir, the same argument will apply to several other productions; it is the same with regard to copper ore, with respect to which the slaves employed in the mines of Cuba are as great sufferers as any that are employed on the worst sugar esates in that country; and yet, so from having proceeded on this consistent plan of the Anti-Slavery Committee, we have of late years diminished the duties on the admission of copper ore, and totally abrogated the duties on cotton wool. Such, then, is the first instance to show that your policy, if it were to proceed on an exceptional rule, is incomplete and unsatisfactory, even to those who most strongly maintain it. But you have not been able to maintain it even on that ground. You have not been able to say we will admit sugar only from our own Colonies and possessions, in which we have enacted that slavery shall no longer exist. You have been obliged—the late Ministry has been obliged by the necessity of the case, by the insufficient supply which comes from our own Colonies—to admit the sugars of other countries to our markets. The consequence has been a new complication of the problem. You have had to decide what was the state of society in those particular countries; what was the state of society in Java, for instance; and whether the obligation to cultivate sugar in that case did or did not amount to a state of slavery. You have had to consider, also, what was the state of society in Manilla; and you have also exposed yourselves to the decision according to the interests of the Dutch Commercial Company, at one time disposed to give you a large supply of sugar, and at another to withhold it. But besides this, you are obliged by the principles of your law and your treaties, to admit slaveholding countries which have treaties with you, providing that their produce shall be received on the terms of the most favoured nation into competition with the free-labour States. You could not do otherwise. You may say that no great quantity of sugar is admitted in that case; but your principle has utterly broken down under you: when you admit certain slave States to send their sugar here your principle is at an end. But in order to save your principle, you have been obliged to take another method—you have been obliged to refuse to Spain the privilege, which she claimed under Treaty, to send you her produce on the footing of the most favoured nation. You have been obliged to do so on grounds 1313 which, I think, are not very honourable, or worthy of a great country like this. It is shown by the Spanish Minister, that but a few years ago, within these ten years, you yourselves have claimed the benefit of these treaties, upon the principle that you had a right to be treated on the footing of the most favoured nation, and you have been obliged to reply, "True, we made that claim, but we were not justified in making it, and it was for you to find out the flaw in our claim." Sir, I cannot but be of opinion myself, that, although that Treaty has been at different times violated in Spain, yet the principle she contended for is contained in the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht. I found lately, in looking over the correspondence of an ancestor of mine, John, Duke of Bedford, who was employed in negotiating the Treaty of 1762, that when he proposed to refuse to the Spaniards the power of procuring their fish from Newfoundland, the Spanish Minister said to him—
If that is the case, we shall not admit your salt fish into Spanish ports.The Duke of Bedford immediately replied to him—
You cannot do that without refusing it to other countries; we are on the footing of the most favoured nation—gens carissima; the salt fish of France must be prohibited at the same time.The Spanish Minister said—
I agree at once; I acknowledge that such is the case; but I at once say those treaties are very onerous, and we are looking to a revision of them; for we do not find, though they contain that principle, that they are fair to the two nations.That is the sum and substance of the conversation stated by the Duke of Bedford—a proof sufficient that at that time it was the opinion, both of the English and the Spanish Minister, that the produce of either country was to be treated on the footing of the most favoured nation. Now, I must say, when you are standing up for humanity, it is a misfortune that you should be obliged to endeavour to find excuses for evading an obligation which otherwise would be binding, as contained in the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht, and in its tenor and spirit, favourable to the produce of both nations. But there is a further and more fatal defect in these objections, which are urged against the admission of slave-grown sugar. You do, no doubt, to a certain degree, diminish the price in the ports and markets of the world of that sugar, by refusing to take it; but the resources of 1314 commerce are infinite, and the spirit of commerce is too strong to be bound by stipulations which are against the natural interests of commerce. What the merchants do therefore is, to take care to find a market for that sugar in some country; they search the north of Europe, they search the shores of the Mediterranean, they send to Hamburgh, they send to Petersburgh, they send to Genoa—they search, in short, for a market anywhere, by which they may obtain a sale for that slave-grown sugar, and obtain supplies in return, which they can dispose of in the English market; and they then pay the Spanish producers of Cuba with those English manufactures which they might as well have sent to them direct without this intervening transaction. With a good deal of inconvenience, with a good deal of loss to English commerce, but, above all, with a great loss to the English consumer, this does, in fact, provide that which you seem to dread, that to which you so much object, namely, that the employer of slave labour in Cuba and Brazil is able to sell his sugar, and obtain a profitable return for it from some part of Europe. That object is attained. And this, again, destroys the whole morality of your proceeding. I see it popularly said, when there are meetings of persons who are a good deal inflamed upon this subject—"This slave-grown produce is, in fact, the produce of a felony, it is the produce of crime; these are stolen goods which you ask us to consume." It may be very well to say that these are stolen goods, and that you will not consume them; but if I were to put such a case as that in the instance of an individual, what would be thought of the answer? If a person should come with a quantity of sugar known to be really stolen from a warehouse, and should bring it to a shopkeeper and ask him to buy it, what would be thought if his answer were, "No, I cannot buy it, I know it is stolen goods; but I have a neighbour who has no scruple in taking it, I will direct you to him: he will give you a return in value for that which you have stolen, and if you will bring me what he gives you, I will buy it of you?" Of course, the whole pretence of morality would be demolished by that. I, therefore, for these several reasons, which I will not any further dwell upon, hold that the ground which has been hitherto taken is not tenable; that you must in this instance—as in the various instances in which upon the proposition of 1315 the late Government means have been adopted for taking away restrictions and admitting the people of this country to the best markets—proceeding upon the same principle, you must admit the sugar of these foreign countries into the markets of the United Kingdom. But while I say this, and contend that you have no sufficient grounds any longer to refuse to the people of this country that benefit, and that you ought not to deny to them the power of obtaining their sugars at 1,500,000l. or 2,000,000l. less than they now pay, I must admit that there are considerations which the West India body urge, and there are other considerations pertaining to the interests of the State, which forbid you to make an immediate equalization of the duties. Sir, the West India body urge, in the first place, and they urge with truth, that the change from slavery to freedom was an immense revolution effected by law; that it changed the relations, changed the mode of proceeding, changed the social condition of the labourers of the West Indies; that it reduced their produce from 4,000,000 cwts. of sugar to 2,500,000 in the course of a very few years; and then even your 20,000,000l. of compensation, large, liberal, and bountiful as it was on the part of the people of this country, has not been a complete and full compensation for the losses which in those first years they have sustained. They say, moreover, that having made the attempt to reconcile themselves to this great change, to employ labourers by new means, to offer wages instead of compulsion, to entice labourers away from indolence and enjoyment, which to men just set free must have been so powerful, this country did not allow them a full admission to other markets of the world, whence they could obtain a supply of free labour. Now, I think they are somewhat justified in this complaint. I do not think the Government of this country, or the Parliament of this country, was wrong in being exceedingly jealous at the beginning, lest anything like the Slave Trade should be resorted to. Such was the cause of the Orders in Council which prohibited the procuring of labourers from Africa; such was the cause of the complaints made in the House of Lords of those Orders in Council which permitted the Hill Coolies of India to be employed in Guiana, and of the refusal by this House to admit them into another Colony. That was a justiable reason, no doubt, and a just cause to 1316 refuse an increase of labourers by these means in the West Indies; but it was not the less a real grievance to the proprietors in those Colonies; it was not the less a reason why they should equitably demand delay in respect to any scheme to equalize the duties on their produce with those on the produce of foreign nations. But there are reasons connected with the revenue likewise, which I think are sufficient to induce this House not to consent to immediate equalization, but to propose that it should be for some time delayed. Any sudden or abrupt change of duty would no doubt most seriously affect the revenue, not only by causing an interruption in the cultivation of sugar in your own Colonies and in the East Indies, but by causing the markets to remain unsupplied for a considerable time. I therefore, Sir, in what I mean to propose to the House, shall recommend at the present time a large reduction of duty, a complete withdrawal of the present prohibitory duty, and a very slight change, after the first year, from year to year, till the duties are entirely equalized. It was at first thought by those who represent the West India Colonies, that the Government would be disposed to consent to a reduction of the duty upon all foreign sugar to 23s. 4d., which is the duty of foreign muscovado sugar made by free labour; but, upon considering that proposition, it appeared to us that with a very slight increase of price in the market for foreign sugar in this country, we should entirely lose the benefit both to the consumer and the producer. The prices of foreign sugar, I think, according to the printed Paper laid on the Table of the House on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, averaged in the year 1845, for Brazil sugar, brown and yellow, 20s. 5d., and for West and East India and Mauritius, 32s. 8d. Now, supposing a duty of 23s. 4d. to be imposed, we cannot but suppose that the price of the Havannah sugar would rise to 25s., and you would then have a price of 48s. 4d., being a price greater than the 32s. 8d. with the 14s. duty upon colonial sugar. We should therefore be exposed to the same result which followed the right hon. Baronet's proposition of 28s. and 23s. 4d. for foreign free-labour sugar. I shall therefore propose that in the present year, instead of the prohibitory duty of 63s., and the duty of 23s. 4d., there shall be on all foreign muscovado sugar a duty of 21s. per cwt., and I shall propose that that 1317 duty be diminished in the following manner:—duty to July 5, 1847, 21s. per cwt.; to July 5, 1848, 20s. per cwt.; to July 5 1849, 18s. 6d.; to July 5, 1850, 17s.; to July 5, 1851, 15s. 6d.; and that from July 5, 1851, a similar duty of 14s. shall apply to all muscovado sugars. Now, I say nothing here of the propriety or the advantage that might be derived from a still further reduction of the 14s. duty; considering that this an operation which is to be carried over five years, that in the present state of the revenue (of which I shall have something to say before I conclude), and in the present state of the Session, it would not be right in us on any speculation to ask for any considerable reduction of duty below the reduction made last year. I should say, with respect to the distinction that was made last year of the clayed sugars, it is quite true, and I have shown by the account of sugars entered, that that has not operated on the sugars to which it was proposed to be applied; but at the same time I find in all the Prices Current, and in the returns of the merchants, that with regard to all the Havannah sugars there is the distinction of what is called white sugar, or white clayed sugar, of which the price is 4s., or more, above that of the brown sugar. I have only to state at present that in the schedule which I shall lay on the Table of the House I propose to keep up that distinction in the same manner in which it was made last year. I do so on account of those sugars. Of course, I have not been able to obtain all the information I could wish upon a subject on which the intention of the Government could not be disclosed; and, therefore, with regard to that part of the plan, it may be varied by information subsequently obtained. [Sir R. PEEL: Will that distinction be applied to all clayed sugars?] The Havannah sugar is the cause of our preserving this distinction, but it will be continued as to all clayed sugars. There will be from year to year a similar reduction to that which I have stated on the refined and double refined, and on molasses, in similar proportions; but I need hardly read the table to the House. We have likewise been urged to take some measures with respect to various other subjects on which the West India body think themselves aggrieved. They have stated, that while they think any equalisation of foreign and colonial sugars unjust to them and inconsistent with the policy which Parlia- 1318 ment has hitherto pursued; yet, supposing it to take place, there are claims which they think they are entitled to make to be placed on a footing of equality as regards other matters. The first refers to that subject which I have already mentioned to the House, the subject of immigration. I remember, when I was in the Colonial Office, we had so far relaxed the Orders in Council hitherto made, that I proposed to obtain the sanction of the Queen in Council to an Order permitting negroes to emigrate from Sierra Leone to the West India Islands. Those Orders in Council were very much considered by the Government that followed; various relaxations have been made; and, with respect to other parts of the world, I believe very considerable relaxations of a similar description have been adopted by Mr. Gladstone, the late Secretary for the Colonies. With respect to that subject, there is only one material alteration which we propose to make; it is at present forbidden to make any agreement or contract in Sierra Leone or the British settlements in Africa which shall hold good in the West Indies. We think, upon the whole, that with the present knowledge which the West Indian proprietors have of the conduct of the blacks—with the knowledge of what was stated by Lord Metcalfe, that, in fact, the blacks in the West Indies have much more command over the employers than the employers over them—it is safe to allow these bargains to be made for a limited time: I should say not beyond a single year. But, with regard to another proposal that is made, namely, that this should be the case elsewhere, with regard to emigrants proceeding from the coast of Africa, where we have not possessions, where the British flag does not fly, and especially the Kroo coast, we must say, we do not think it is safe to allow such contracts, or to say that these should be protected from the British cruisers, unless there is some British authority under which the bargain is made. There is another question upon which these parties have laid considerable stress, which refers to the introduction of colonial spirits or rum into this country; they say that rum is not admitted into this country upon equal terms with other spirits. That subject has been referred by us to the consideration of the Excise; and the information that I have obtained upon the subject leads me to this conclusion — that while there is a difference of from 7s. 10d. to 9s. 4d. a gallon in the excise duties of this 1319 country and the duties upon rum, yet that difference is not to be placed to the account altogether of differential duty. The statement is, that while in the process of distillation the excise duty is at once levied on British spirits which are afterwards subject to leakage and other losses, rum arriving in this country, and taken out of bond, arrives in a state in which it has undergone all those losses; and, therefore, there is not a smaller quantity to sell than has paid duty. We think, however, that there may be some reduction in the duty on rum, and that the differential duty of 1s. 6d. may be reduced to 1s., placing them on terms of greater equality. There is another question with regard to which there is far more difficulty, and upon which I do not feel myself in any way authorized to give satisfaction to the West India body; they complain of the differences that exist in the duties in Scotland and Ireland, while the same duty is still levied upon rum. Any alteration in that instance would, I think, lead to great difficulties in principle, and great difficulties in application It would lead to the question whether you should not admit foreign spirits likewise, subject to the same differences in Scotland and Ireland, which you do in England. It would lead to many questions of difficulty with regard to a difference of duty upon the same article admitted by a customs duty in different parts of the United Kingdom. Upon that subject I shall be ready to hear the argument when it is stated; but I certainly do not feel, in the present instance, that we ought to make any alteration of that kind. There is another demand, likewise made, to which I do not feel myself enabled to agree. It is proposed that molasses should be admitted into our breweries and distilleries. Now, at first, there appears nothing more fair than that proposal. It appears that is only asking that those who wish to consume this article in the breweries and distilleries should have the power to do so, and that the colonial sugar should be admitted as well as the barley of foreign countries into the breweries and distilleries. But in the application of the principle to practice there are various and very considerable difficulties. There is a great difficulty with respect to the exact amount of duty which ought to be imposed upon these sugars, and great difficulty in the practical levying of the duty with the Excise; and, as far as I am informed, I do not feel that I am able to comply with that request. There 1320 is another question, upon which, according to the principles that we have stated, they ask that there should be an abolition of the duties which are now levied in the Colonies. There are certain articles on which the colonists are obliged to pay differential duties in favour of articles the produce of this country as against foreign productions. Now I think it is but fair, when we are endeavouring to carry those principles into effect, that we should allow the colonists the full benefit of them, so that they may be enabled to obtain their provisions and their lumber in the cheapest markets. There may be some articles with respect to which there must be some delay; but we propose, in imitation of an Act passed some few years ago, to introduce a Bill giving to the Queen in Council power to assent to any Acts which may be passed by the Colonies, by which the existing 5 per cent or 7 per cent in favour of this country should be taken away, and the colonists should be enabled to obtain the produce in the cheapest market. In speaking of these subjects some years ago, I said that I thought that the whole system on which this country had gone had been that of a vicious circle; that the manufacturers asked to be protected, and that thereby the farmers and the colonists were not enabled to obtain foreign manufactures; that the farmers again asked to be protected, and that consequently the manufacturers and the colonists were not able to obtain provisions at the cheapest rate; and that the colonist again, in his turn, asked to be protected, and thus the farmers and the manufacturers in this country were not enabled to obtain the produce of the tropics at the cheapest rate. I said, that the whole system hung together; that freedom ought to be infused into every part, and that the circle by which these interests were protected ought to be broken. That has in a great measure been done since I spoke; and I do not think, unless the ground of morality as to slave labour, to which I have before alluded, should be thought sufficient to prevail, that you ought now any longer to keep up in favour of the colonists differential duties which inflict so heavy a tax on this country. Appealing to those who during the course of the present year have been in favour of protection, I do not think that they could give any satisfaction, even to their constituents, by saying that in this instance they would endeavour to keep up these protective duties. It would be well to say—if they 1321 could say so—that plans were introduced for the reduction or abolition of protection to the British farmer, and those plans they had successfully resisted; but, as they cannot say that, I think it would be but a bad consolation to say, "It is quite true that with respect to all those duties which protected the British farmer, and which prevented the foreigner coming into competition with him, we have been unsuccessful in our endeavour to maintain them; but yet we have so contrived that the farmer himself shall be obliged to pay a high price for his colonial produce, and that the labourers whom he employs must still deny themselves that colonial produce, whilst at the same time, with respect to all agricultural products, they are subjected to competition." There is, however, another view of this subject which I beg leave to submit to the House, because it refers to what may be in another year the state of the revenue with respect to the income and expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a statement, which no doubt he was perfectly justified in making, of the prospects of the present year; but it was impossible not to perceive that with respect to the future year, in reference to which he was certainly not bound to make an estimate, the prospect afforded was of a far less consolatory description. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the total income of the country for the year 1846–7 at 51,650,000l. Of that sum the amount of the China money was 700,000l., and the estimatod permanent income therefore would be, that sum being deducted, 50,950,000l. The expenditure the right hon. Gentleman estimated at 50,873,546l. If we take away from that expenditure 200,000l., which might be of a temporary nature, the expenditure would be reduced to 50,673,546l.; but then we must add certain expenses which the right hon. Gentleman was not bound to take into his view, as he was only taking certain portions of the year, and apportioning the expenses thereto. The expense of the Irish constabulary was only taken for half the present year, and therefore there must be added the amount which will be due in the next year, viz., 175,000l. Then there was a deferred estimate for a quarter of the year on account of certain army and ordnance services. It would be necessary to take four quarters in the next year, and this would make a difference of 283,000l. Another half-year's expenditure for auditors, schoolmasters, and medical officers 1322 of poor law unions, which had been voted for a half-year only in the estimates of 1846–47, would amount to 61,500l.; a half-year's expense for prosecutions would amount to 60,000l.; the same for Ireland, 9,000l.; a half-year's expense for the maintenance of prisons under sentence of felony would amount to 40,000l.; making, in the whole, 628,500l. Thus I will state the total future permanent expenditure, according to the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman, at 51,302,040l., and the permanent income, as estimated by the right hon. Gentleman, at 50,950,000l., leaving a deficiency for the year 1847–48 of 352,040l. This is the result, leaving out of the calculation the sum of 200,000l., which might be a temporary expenditure; but if it were added, the deficiency would be upwards of half a million. Under these circumstances, it does seem expedient, if it can be done fairly, to endeavour to obtain an increase of income for the country, without at the same time augmenting the burdens of the people. The plan which I have proposed, supposing that there would be imported, as the produce of the West Indies, the Mauritius, and the East Indies, 240,000 tons of sugar, would give 3,360,000l. of revenue, I stated in the course of what I addressed to the House, that it might be expected that 20,000 tons of foreign free-labour sugar would arrive in the course of the present year. With respect to other sugar, we must expect that there will be no very great supply in the present year, owing to the obstacles interposed by the navigation laws. A great part of the supply of foreign sugar, which is at present in warehouse in this country, has been brought in by American ships for the purpose of being sent forward to foreign ports. Therefore, under the navigation laws, that would be inadmissible into this country, even supposing that it were otherwise admissible by law. I think it would be very presumptuous in us if we were merely for this emergency to propose to alter the navigation laws. Any question of that kind ought to be deeply and seriously considered, and ought to be proposed with respect, not to any temporary but to some permanent change of those laws, if such should be thought desirable. The consequence would be, that only a small portion of the foreign sugar now in bond would be admissible under this change of duty; and having taken some pains to inquire on the subject, I find the quantity of the foreign sugar, now warehoused, 1323 which would be at present admissible under this change of the law, estimated at from 6,000 tons to 8,000 tons, or at the most 10,000 tons. I should say that the quantity would be about 8,000 tons. Now, supposing 20,000 tons of free-labour sugar to be admitted, and adding these 10,000 tons of other sugar now in bond, together with 10,000 tons more to be imported, that would make a total of 40,000 tons, which, at a duty of 21s., would give 840,000l. The whole revenue to be derived from the sugar of our Colonics, and from foreign sugar, would be 4,200,000l. The revenue to be derived, according to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, was 3,474,471l. Therefore, the increase of revenue under this proposed plan would, in the present year, amount to 725,529l. It is evident, therefore, that that amount of revenue would at once turn the balance in our favour in the course of the next year, and that we should have some surplus of revenue over expenditure. The plan will, besides, have the great advantage of giving to the people of this country an increased supply of sagar. I have now stated generally what is the plan proposed by Her Majesty's Government with respect to the Sugar Duties; and I should add, that I look to this plan as a plan which, as far as principle is concerned, is to be a permanent settlement of these duties. I shall therefore propose, if these duties should be carried in Committee, to found on them a Bill which should make the Sugar Duties permanent, not leaving the question to be debated yearly with all the uncertainty which belongs to it at present. I feel sure, that, much as the West Indian interest may feel aggrieved by the change which takes away prohibition, yet that the settlemcnt of a question which has been to them a source of so much anxiety—which has been so repeatedly a matter of debate—will be in a great measure a compensation for the change in the law. I do not propose to vary in any respect the constitutional practice of leaving a large, a considerable amount of revenue, dependent on a yearly vote of this House, as hitherto has been the case. I shall therefore propose some other source of revenue, which I will state before these Resolutions are formed into the shape of a Bill, to be yearly income, and for which, previous to the 5th of July, the Minister of the Crown shall every year be obliged to ask the consent of Parliament. I think that it would be unfortunate that the duties on sugar should 1324 be made the annual subject of debate; and, without departing from a constitutional practice, I shall endeavour to find some other duty, which it will be less objectionable to take as an annual vote. I know some persons will say that by the plan now proposed we are again breaking in on our colonial system; that we are destroying that protection which ought to be given to the Colonies; and that we shall be lessening the affection of those Colonies to the mother country. But I own that I consider the time is come when, with respect to this subject, you must adopt an altered, and, as I think, an improved policy. It was the habit of this country, and of other countries, to provide that they should have a monopoly of the commerce and productions of the colonists, and that the colonists should be obliged to take, exclusively, the produce and the manufactures of the mother country. I believe that no country was more rigid and exclusive in that system than Spain. That country had a vast colonial empire, and yet at the end of two centuries and a half after she had acquired that empire, we find Sir R. Walpole stating to this House, on the question of the Spanish trade and galleons from South America and the Spanish West Indies, that the greater part of the goods so to be introduced into Europe would belong, not to merchants of Spain, but those of other countries. Such was the result of an exclusive and rigid system. Impelled by energy and invigorated by the spirit of freedom in commercial transactions, my belief is that the colonists will gain, and not suffer, by this great change in our policy. I believe that the cultivation of sugar itself will be advanced to a greater extent when the colonists know that they must compete in the market of the mother country with the productions of other countries. I believe that they will derive fresh energy from being allowed to seek where they like for the cheapest products of the other countries of the globe; and, Sir, bear in mind that we will not part with this great advantage—that neither in this country shall we ever impose differential duties as against the colonists, nor will the colonists ever impose such duties against us. This is a commerce which will be secure in war as well as in peace—commerce that is not exposed to the danger of conflicting tariffs, but in which custom-house duties are imposed only for the benefit of the whole. The colonists, I think, derive 1325 great advantage from being connected with this country, and from having the benefit of all the skill and the accumulated capital of this country; and this Empire has an immense advantage also in the loyalty, the strength, and the assistance of the colonists. But these colonists must not hereafter exist on the limited and restricted system of former days; that must be acknowledged to be erroneous, and other principles must prevail. I believe that both the mother country and the colonists will flourish all the more for the abolition of useless restrictions, and that after some period of murmuring, perhaps some passing cloud of discontent, we shall acknowledge both in this country and in the magnificent possessions belonging to us, that we have been heretofore mistaken in following the former policy of restriction, and that the affection felt reciprocally will be all the stronger when neither party is subject to any restrictions imposed by the other; when the colonists are neither obliged to submit to restrictions for some supposed benefit to the mother country, and when the mother country is not deprived of the benefit of some of the choicest productions of the globe for the sake of the colonial interest, favoured by her imperial laws. The colonial empire of this country is an empire of which every British statesman is most justly proud, and to which the people of this country attach the highest value. I trust that when this better system has been adopted, we shall see the Colonics increase and flourish; that we shall be proud of them as our creation; that we shall continue to see them in the enjoyment of that liberty which we have given them; and that both they and the mother country may flourish in union for ever. I shall now conclude by proposing a Resolution for the continuance of the present duties on sugar, and by laying on the Table the Resolutions the nature of which I have explained to the Committee. I trust that these Resolutions will be hereafter adopted, and, if they should be, I think the present Ministry, however short may be its existence, will not have administered the affairs of the country without effecting some national advantage. The noble Lord moved the following Resolution:—
Resolved—That towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the several Duties now payable on Sugar, be further continued.
§ MR. GOULBURN
Sir, the proposition of the noble Lord is one of such extreme importance, both commercially and politi- 1326 cally, that I think I shall best consult the fair discussion of the question by forbearing to enter into any debate upon it until I shall have had an opportunity of examining the Resolutions, and rendering myself able to comprehend the details of a system which must necessarily be rather complicated. I shall now confine myself to asking the noble Lord a question with respect to one part of his system upon which I did not fully understand him. The noble Lord stated with respect to the colonial trade, that it was his object by Act of Parliament to empower the several colonial Legislatures to repeal such portions of the discriminating duties at present existing in those Colonies as regarded the produce of foreign countries and the produce of Great Britain, as the Colonies might think it for their advantage to repeal. Now I did not understand the noble Lord, whether it were his intention still further to give extension to the colonial trade by permitting an intercourse in the produce of those Colonies with foreign countries, and for re-importation to those Colonies of the produce of foreign countries in the ships of foreign countries, or whether the trade would be confined to the ships of this country? I think this is an important point, and I should be glad for the noble Lord to have an opportunity of explaining it.
LORD J. RUSSELL
What I propose to do is, to empower Her Majesty (not the Governors of the Colonies) to give Her assent in this country to any Bill passed by the Colonies which would take away those discriminating duties on foreign produce. I do not propose, in any respect, to alter the navigation laws which now exist; I only propose to give that power to Her Majesty in case the Colonies should alter those duties.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
I fear, Sir, that in the able and perspicuous statement of my noble Friend two communications alone will be agreeable to the hon. Friends around me—the one that it is the intention of my noble Friend, when he settles the Sugar Duties, to put an end to the vicious system that has lasted for many years, of renewing those duties for one year only; the other, that it is the intention of my noble Friend to facilitate the means of the West Indies in obtaining labourers from other countries. With respect to the Resolution now before the House for the temporary enactment of a measure for the levying of the Sugar Duties, my noble Friend 1327 will have my support and the support of my Friends around me; but with respect to that measure of which he has given us an outline, I fear I cannot promise him the support of those who are acting with me. True to the principles upon which they have acted upon former occasions, my hon. Friends around me will not be disposed either to consent to the admission of slave-grown sugar, or (if high moral grounds do not impose it upon them) to remove from the West India interests the protection which they at present enjoy. My noble Friend has spoken of the colonial system as a vicious circle. My hon. Friends around me differ altogether in opinion from my noble Friend. They are of opinion that so far from being a vicious circle, it is the wisest policy to at once give protection to the East and West Indian interests, and to our manufacturing interests at home. My noble Friend has said that in his opinion, having lost our protection, it will be but bad consolation to the agricultural interest, which we represent, that we should now refuse it the opportunity of obtaining cheap sugar. I can tell my noble Friend that it will be no consolation to the agricultural interest now to be avenged upon the East and West India interests for that protection of which they themselves have been mainly deprived. True to the principles of protection, my Friends around me are determined to support the East and West India interests. They are resolved to support British capital wherever they find it invested. A statement has been made that there is a great fear with respect to the supply of sugar. But I think my noble Friend has understated the quantity of sugar that may be expected to be derived in the sugar year of 1846–7, from the East Indies and the Mauritius. He stated the amount of sugar to be expected from the Mauritius at no more than 50,000 tons. I believe, from the best information I can obtain, that 60,000 tons will be the amount of produce we may expect from that quarter. My noble Friend has also stated the produce of the East Indies at no more than 80,000 tons. I believe there is every reason to expect that the produce of the year to come, 1846–7, will be 100,000 tons from Bengal alone, exclusive of the sugar expected from Madras. I have taken some pains to make inquiry upon these points, and such I have learned will be the results of the crop of the present year. With regard to Madras there is good ground for the expectation; for whilst the exportation 1328 from Madras during the first three months of last year had not exceeded 600 tons, the exportation for the first three months of the present year amounted to 3,500 tons, or more than five times the produce of last year. I believe, then, there is every reason to expect that 15,000 tons will be imported from Madras alone. If this be the case, the defalcation from the drought in the West Indies will be made up for by the greater produce of the East Indies. My noble Friend will call to mind the enormous increase of produce in the East Indies under a system of protection during the last ten years. He ought not to be sceptical on this point. It was in the year 1836–7 the differential duty was reduced and rendered equal between West and East India sugar. In that year the quantity of sugar, the produce of the East Indies, imported into this country, amounted to between 13,000 and 14,000 tons. Since then, ten years of protection have so far encouraged the growth, that the amount, as I have already stated, to be expected in the course of the year from Bengal will reach 100,000 tons. I believe, therefore, that in the estimate which my noble Friend has given to the House, of the quantity of sugar to be imported from the East Indies, he has far understated the probability of the case. Upon these grounds then, not wishing on the present occasion to enter upon further discussion, but reserving myself for a future occasion, I beg leave to intimate that it is my intention, when my noble Friend shall introduce his Resolution for the permanent settlement of the Sugar guestion, upon the basis of which he has qiven an intimation to-night to the House, to propose an Amendment to that Resolution.
§ MR. GRANTLEY BERKELEY
trusted that in the observations he would address to the House when he alluded to that part of the West Indies with which he was intimately connected, it would be understood that what he stated was the result of practical experience. It appeared, then, that they were going to have free labour thrown over. In a petition which had been presented that night from the Tower Hamlets, it was stated that there was not a sufficient supply of sugar for this country; and then they were asked—where was the great supply to be had from? He maintained that in the first place they should look for supply to their own Colonies, and that no hon. Member had a right to say to the House and the country, that there was not 1329 a sufficient supply of sugar from the Colonies for home consumption until they had a fair opportunity of sending the produce they could raise, if they had a sufficiency of labour at their disposal. With respect to the Colony with which he was connected—viz., Berbice, if they took away protection, while there existed the present inability to obtain free labour, he must say they could not enter into competition with other sugar-producing countries; and he could assure the House that that Colony of Berbice was at present in a complete state of disorganization. There were proprietors in that Colony at the present moment in an absolute state of starvation, not because they had not a most fertile soil—not because they were not anxious to pay for labour, if they could get it; but simply because they could not obtain a single hand to work upon their estates. Under those circumstances, his noble Friend should give the subject great consideration before he proceeded further. Such a state of things could not last long, but must speedily end in the ruin of the Colony, if not remedied. Then, if an absentee proprietor forwarded the most humble petition to the Governor of the Colony, he did not meet with the slightest consideration. With the permission of the House, he would read a letter which he had received, in reply to a petition that he had sent to the Governor, and which in its tone resembled more an emanation from the Celestial Empire than anything else. It was as follows:—Government-house, Demerara.Sir—I am desired by Governor Light to say, that he has received your letter of the 15th of May, respecting the management of your plantations, in your revocation of authority from your late agent, and your appointment of Mr. Read in his place, together with other particulars connected with the management of your property in that Colony. His Excellency is quite at a loss to conceive why you should have thought it necessary so unceremoniously to bring these private affairs under his notice, especially as he has not the honour of any personal acquaintance with you. If you have been induced to do so under a supposition that his Excellency's position, as Governor of Guiana, imposes upon him the superintendence of landed estates, you are under a misapprehension.The hon. Gentleman having commented on the inconvenience arising from the colonists being subjected to Dutch law, concluded by observing that he could not support the proposition of the Government unless they gave the subject of the supply of free labour greater consideration; and that it was impossible for the colonists otherwise to 1330 consider the plan of the Government of utility either to themselves or to the mother country.
§ In answer to MR. MOFFATT,
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
stated, that he apprehended the first question of the hon. Gentleman was, whether it were proposed to maintain the present differential duty upon clayed sugar and sugar equal to clayed? He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen remembered that about two years ago, when that duty had been reduced, he had stated that he had no objection to the duty on principle, but that he believed it would be impracticable in operation; and certainly the result of a return which he had moved for at the end of last year, stating the quantity of sugar admitted as white and clayed sugar duties, did show that the duty was nugatory in effect. At the same time it was a question attended with a good deal of difficulty, which had not been diminished but rather increased by the introduction of Havannah sugar. He had, therefore, retained that duty in the Resolutions before the House; but the Government were perfectly ready to receive any information that could be laid before them, as to whether it might be necessary to retain or dispense with that duty. They would take further time to consider as to what they would determine finally to adopt. The next question referred to the duty on refined sugar. There could be no doubt as to the maintenance of that duty; and he proposed to go further, and add words which he did not believe would extend the practice of the Resolution, but would make the intention of it more clear. The words he would add were "other refined sugars, or sugars by any other process rendered equal thereto." That distinction would be still essential with respect to Havannah sugars. With regard to the third question, the duty would vary from year to year, taking muscovado sugar as the basis. Every other duty would be fixed by a rule-of-three sum according to that basis, and the duty for the first year would be 28s. upon refined sugar, 24s. upon clayed; 21s. upon muscovado; and 7s. 10d. upon molasses. With respect to sugar-candy, he did not think there would be much objection to putting it on the same footing as double-refined sugar. The Resolutions containing all the duties would be introduced, as his noble Friend had given notice, on Friday next.
§ MR. P. M. STEWART
was happy to find that the interests of the Colonies were 1331 not to be disturbed every year, but were now to be fixed by a final settlement. There were two points, however, touched upon by his noble Friend which might throw great obstacles in the way of the final settlement of the question, and to which he wished to direct attention. They were to have free-trade principles introduced with regard to sugar; but rum, the staple produce of the Colonies, was, it appeared, to remain under the old system, and to be treated rather as a foreign than as a colonial spirit. His noble Friend had said that upon reference to the Excise, he found the difficulties that existed and were acknowledged on the subject, were such as to be almost irremovable; but he (Mr. Stewart) begged leave to remark that there was no case upon record of a reference to the Excise of this country, for the purpose of simplifying and regulating the duties of that office, ever having been successful; and, therefore, he called his noble Friend's attention to the matter, in order to examine the question more thoroughly than he could have done in the short time that had elapsed since he had taken office, in the hope that he would come to a different conclusion. His noble Friend had said that the discriminating duty might be reduced to 1s. But why not extend the same principle to Ireland and Scotland as well as to England? The other point to which he wished to direct his noble Friend's attention was the exclusion of our colonial produce from the breweries and distilleries of this country, which resulted from maintaining a remnant of the old system of Corn Laws. This was, he thought, a most important point for consideration in the settlement of this question; and he hoped his noble Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of leaving it to be dealt with by the Excise, would give it their own careful attention. Let them apply one principle to the colonial interests, and set this question at rest.
thought it a great pity, if the Resolutions were to stand for discussion on Friday, that hon. Members should enter into a debate at this particular moment, when they must, like his hon. Friend, broach a subject in so limited a way that they could not do it justice. He must say, however, with respect to the use of sugar in breweries, that he never could obtain any satisfactory elucidation of the law with respect to it. He was told that there was no restriction upon the use of sugar 1332 in breweries; but he had not been able to obtain any explanation of how the matter really stood. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must have had his attention directed to this subject; and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would find great difficulty in obtaining any satisfactory solution of the question, whether sugar could or could not be so used. The brewers declared that it required no statute for the admission of sugar and molasses into their breweries; but he knew, with respect to distilleries, that an alteration of the law was required before they could be admitted; and he thought it would be wise in the Government not to allow the present opportunity for a satisfactory arrangement to slip. Till they saw the Resolutions in print, they could not fairly enter upon the discussion, and he would therefore abstain from saying anything more now.
§ MR. BARKLY
expressed his regret that the noble Lord had not felt himself in a position, whilst he proposed the admission of slave-grown sugar, to make that admission a little more palatable to those who had been well nigh ruined by the attempts to suppress slavery. When the noble Lord was about to apply the principle of free trade to the West Indian Colonies, he ought to have been better prepared with a reason for excluding the people of this country from using the products of the West Indies for any purposes; and with respect to the keeping up the differential duties of from 50 to 300 per cent on rum, he must ask if the noble Lord would give the Papers on which he had founded his opinions?
§ MR. EWART
thought it was of the utmost importance to have an early and a permanent settlement of this question; it was most desirable for the commercial as well as the colonial interests; but he differed from the hon. Member for Weymouth, for he thought this the proper time to express a general opinion upon the proposal of the Government, though not upon the details. He should have been glad if the time for the final settlement had been limited to three years, and he should have deemed it still better if there had been no interval; for when they had determined to settle any question, a settlement finally and without delay was the best policy: and the noble Lord thought it would have been best with corn, and so it would have been with sugar. Agan, as far as the general principles of free trade went, he did not see why molasses should not be 1333 admitted for all uses; and he questioned whether the reduction of 6d. in the duty on rum was not too small to work well. For himself, he hoped to see the time when the duty on all sugar would be reduced from 14s. to 10s., and he believed that reduction would be one of the greatest blessings to the country. He and others had fought this question for years: they began with seeking an equalization of duties on East and West Indian sugars; afterwards they sought for the admission of colonial and foreign sugars on an equal footing; he believed that this would be better for the Colonies themselves, and that they need not wait for a supply of free labour before they admitted competition, since it was by the free and unlimited application of British labour, British skill, and British capital, that the Colonies must be raised.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, it was unfortunate that the Government had not sufficient information to guide them as to whether they would continue the differential duties between refined clayed sugars, or sugars equal to refined clayed, as the market would remain in a state of suspense till the question was settled by the Government.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that what was refined, or equal to refined sugar, it was intended should pay the same duty under any circumstances; and he had introduced words into the Resolution to meet that case. As to what had fallen from his hon. Friend (Mr. P. Stewart) as to other measures for the admission of West Indian produce, he must say, that the question of the free introduction of molasses and sugar into breweries and distilleries was not quite so simple as he thought: on account of its probable interference with the malt duty the proposal could not be lightly entertained. Her Majesty's Government were prepared to give a fair and impartial consideration to the proposal if it could be carried out without interference with other interests and duties. In the same way the equalization of the duties on rum and other spirits in Scotland and Ireland was not so simple as his hon. Friend supposed. It was something perfectly new to introduce different import duties in different parts of the United Kingdom; the only exception was with respect to spirits comiug from the Channel Islands; and that exception was of no importance, as no spirits had been introduced. There was 1334 not the least doubt that it was an anomalous state of things to have a different rate of excise duties in different portions of the kingdom; but that distinction was adopted solely because it was calculated to put down illicit distillation. It had answered this purpose; but it was in other respects indefensible; and he was not prepared to give any assurance that the Government would carry this anomaly any further. The differential duty upon rum was not imposed for the purpose of protection; it was done to place rum and British spirits upon a precise equality. The duty on British spirits was 7s. 10d. and on rum 9s. 4d., making a difference of 1s. 6d. Those duties were settled, because it was supposed that they brought the consumption to equal terms, and to balance the disadvantages to British spirits. He admitted that rum and British spirits ought to stand upon precisely the same footing; and on that principle the existing differential duties were supposed to admit them. After inquiry, however, he had arrived at the conclusion that the differential duty of 1s. 6d. was too high; and he was inclined to believe, according to his present information, that a duty of 1s. would bring them into consumption on equal terms; and he had come to the conclusion that the reduction of one-third of the difference would, under the circumstancs, be proper; but, if the West India interests could show that this reduction was not fair, he would reconsider the question; for the only object of the Government was to put both on an equal footing.
MR. H. J. BAILLIE
said, it was unusual, and he believed unprecedented, for a Government to bring in a measure of such great importance at this late period of the Session. The question related to three important subjects—to slavery, to finance, and to the Colonies; and the House was about to deal with it in the beginning of August, when it was perfectly notorious that many Members had left London, and when it would be impossible to obtain a fair expression of the feelings of Parliament. If the noble Lord had proposed the renewal of the present duties for one year, he would not have met with opposition from any party.
§ MR. HUME
, so far from agreeing with the hon. Member, thought that the Government ought to have full credit given to it for bringing forward a plan for the settlement of the Sugar Duties at once and finally. He could not but consider it 1335 a great advantage to the interests of the consumers and of the producers that the duties, which, on being annually voted, had produced so much stagnation and uncertainty, should be settled; for those who produced sugar would not apply their capital when they did not know what the duties would be in the following year. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not know that in consequence of the high prices a great quantity of sugar had been brought to this country; but that a loss incurred upon this sugar had prevented the increase of produce until the matter of these duties was settled. For the purpose of settling the matter, the House should sit, if necessary, beyond the usual period. He was glad to find the facility to be given to the introduction of labour, which was the one thing necessary to procure capital to be employed; but he wanted to impress upon the noble Lord the expediency of putting an end to the differential duty, and to make the duty the same in Scotland and Ireland as in England. In Scotland the duty on spirits was 3s. 10d., and the duty on rum, 9s. 4d., was perfectly anomalous. Then, as to the prohibition of the use of sugar and molasses in breweries and distilleries, it was a monstrous absurdity to continue the present system; when sugar had once paid the duty, every individual ought to be allowed to apply it in any way he pleased. He thought it would be of advantage to the House and to the Government, if any one had any objections to any part of the scheme, that he should state them at once. The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) hrd objected to the plan on account of the slave question, which he thought had been settled. He highly approved of the course the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had taken. He only feared it would occasion some loss of revenue; but if this were not the case, there could be no objection to it. He hoped to see the time when the duty on all sugar would be less than 10s. If this change were not effected too suddenly, it could be made without loss to the revenue. Sudden changes only benefited the foreigner; but when they were made gradually, the consumer got the benefit, as he ought to have in every case of reduction. He considered that, after corn, this was the most important subject that could engage the attention of the Legislature; and he trusted that the same Session would witness the settlement of both questions.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, the argument of 1336 the noble Lord (J. Russell) seemed to be that, because they did wrong in admitting one article of slave produce, they were justified in admitting others. It would appear from this that they were to have free trade in morals as well as in everything else.
§ MR. RICARDO
said, he could not agree with the hon. Member for Montrose; and his hon. Friend's doctrine, which was quite new to come from such a quarter, surprised him much. He believed that the worst part of the Corn Law Repeal Bill was the postponement for three years of the final settlement of the duties. He thought the noble Lord had not made out a case, either in a financial or colonial point of view, for delay in equalising the duties on foreign and colonial sugar; and he hoped, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed himself open to conviction on many points, he would be open to conviction on this point also, and cause the duties to be made equal at an earlier period.
§ MR. WAKLEY
observed, that the noble Lord on the cross benches expressed great satisfaction at the portion of the plan which permitted the unlimited introduction of free labour into the West Indies; and yet the noble Lord dwelt with a most energetic tone upon his adherence to the principle of protection, stating that British capital should be supported. But what was the fact: the introduction of crowds of labourers into those Colonies would swamp the West India labourers, at present living in comfort; and the enormous importation of these men would revive slavery there in its worst form. The House should recollect the case of the Hill Coolies, and pause before they sanctioned that part of the scheme. He (Mr. Wakley) trusted that the noble Lord would, at all events, see if an unlimited supply of labourers was to be permitted, that the Slave Trade should not be again revived—that merciless, cruel, and cold-blooded speculators should not be allowed to prey upon human life—and that those wretched creatures who were imported into the West Indies should have the same degree of protection accorded to them as the Hill Coolies.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
observed, that the acuteness of the hon. Member for Finsbury seemed for once to fail him: the House had decided nothing, not even that the Resolution should be adopted, up to that moment; though the hon. Member had assumed its sanction to the importation 1337 of unlimited labour. The hon. Member, however, had no reason to fear anything on the subject of the revival of slavery; for three hon. Members had risen to protest against it, and he (Sir R. H. Inglis) would be ready to do so when occasion should arise.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
was understood to suggest that those statements which referred to colonial protection had better be deferred to another Session. The effect of admitting slave-grown sugar directly to the English market would be to act indirectly upon the whole market for foreign sugar, and raise the price, perhaps as much as 25 per cent. With reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Finsbury respecting the condition of the West India labourers, he thought that the House was bound to attend to the condition of the East Indian labourers also, and not to make an exception of one in favour of the other.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
said, if he opposed any part of the scheme of the noble Lord, it should most certainly not be that part of it which abolished the distinction between free and slave-grown sugar.
LORD J. RUSSELL
, in explanation, stated Her Majesty's Government were not prepared to admit applicants for labour from the coasts of Africa, where there was not a British settlement, for fear that anything approaching slavery should take place. Precautions would also be taken to secure the principle of free and voluntary emigration in all other cases. With respect to the remark of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, as to the probable rise in foreign sugar, no doubt there would be a rise; but then it would only be, according to his opinion, temporary.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ House resumed Resolution to be reported.