§ On the Motion, that the Order of the Day for the Committee of Ways and Means be now read,
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said, that in moving the Resolution which was in the hands of the Speaker, as an Amendment to the Motion for the right hon. Gentleman's leaving the chair, he must take leave, whilst he asked the indulgence of the House, first to express his deep regret that the Motion should not have fallen into abler hands. He felt deeply the responsibility of having had intrusted to him the advocacy of the interests of those great mercantile speculators in the East and West Indies, as well as that other great cause which was connected with the slavery of the African race. He regretted as deeply that their vindication should have fallen into the hands of a feebler advocate than any they had ever before the misfortune to possess. In bringing forward this Motion, he was confident that his noble Friend at the head of the Government would give him credit for truth, when he 33 said that he brought it forward with no hostile feeling towards her Majesty's Government. Though upon other occasions the question of the Sugar Duties and the question of slavery had been mixed up with a vote of confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers, he could truly state on this occasion, whilst he could not say that he placed confidence in Her Majesty's Government, that it was not his intention to mix up with the question any considerations of that sort. Upon a question in which such great interests, such great British interests, as those which existed in the East and West Indies were concerned, and, above all, upon a question which affected the liberty of the African race, it would not be right to mix up these mere party considerations. But, while on the one hand, in introducing this measure, he disclaimed any hostile intentions towards Her Majesty's Ministers, he must, in answer to those surmises which he had seen published, that his hon. Friends around him were come down to fight a sham battle, vindicate them and himself from any such unjust insinuations. Feeble he might be, and perhaps was, but still he was prepared to fight this battle, as far as concerned the East and West India planters, and as far as it concerned the interest of the African race, with all the honesty and the vigour of which he was capable. The question now before the House divided itself into three distinct heads, and as such he would endeavour to meet it. The first question was that which concerned the interests of the British sugar planters in the East and West Indies and the Mauritius, and which, at the same time, concerned the supply of sugar to this country. The next question which he should consider would be the question of revenue touched upon by his noble Friend in introducing his resolutions to the House. And the third and last question which he should take up would be that of the interests of the African race. His noble Friend, in introducing those Resolutions to the House, founded his policy, in a considerable degree, upon the difficulty which existed of supplying the wants of the people of England with sugar, and the necessity of giving them a supply of cheap sugar. True, his noble Friend did not state that there would be an absolute famine in sugar; but he had led the House to suppose that there would be a considerable want of it. Now, he (Lord G. Bentinck) proposed to investigate that part of the question; and he 34 trusted to be able to satisfy the House that, so far from there being any probability of a scarcity of sugar in times to come, if they would only give confidence to the British planters—if they would only give confidence to the investments of British capital in the plantation and cultivation of sugar which were now going on alike in the West Indies, the Mauritius, and, above all, in the East Indies, they need entertain no fear but that there would be an ample supply of sugar for this country. He did not deny that the effect of the emancipation of slaves had been very much to diminish the use of the British West Indies—he could not deny, whilst for six years previous to the emancipation of slaves, the West Indies produced, upon an average, between 190,000 and 200,000 tons of sugar a year, that their production, since emancipation, had fallen off to such an extent, that at one period, it did not exceed 107,000 tons, whilst, at the utmost, the produce had not exceeded 145,000 tons; and that, as a natural consequence of this falling off in the produce of sugar, the price had risen. Taking the average of the prices (with which he had been furnished by the Grocers' Company) for the six years previous to emancipation, and the twelve years which had elapsed since that event, the difference in price as between those two periods had been no less than 10s. a cwt. He had taken two periods, the month of July and the month of March, in each of these eighteen years; and he found that the average price of the last six years of slavery did not exceed 27s. and some pence the cwt.; whilst the average price of the last twelve years had amounted to 37s. the cwt. He was not going to contend that by admitting slave-grown sugar the people of this country would not, for a time at least, gain to the amount he had stated; but it would be no more than exactly one penny a pound. At the same time, however, he maintained that we had a right to expect better things. He looked forward to an increased produce in the East Indies and the Mauritius, and to a restored produce in the West Indies, provided the Government of this country would facilitate the means of the West Indians to obtain free labour, and also continue to them the security of that protection which they now enjoyed. It was the calculation of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), that in the present year it might be expected that 125,000 tons of sugar would be obtain- 35 ed from the West Indies. Now, he thought that his noble Friend was somewhat sanguine in that expectation; but, on the other hand, his noble Friend far understated the produce that might be expected to come from the East Indies, provided, but provided only, that the price was maintained; for it was well known that the annual produce of sugar in the East Indies was very enormous—that the inhabitants of those countries were large consumers of sugar—and that when sugar was cheap, they purchased it themselves, and none would be exported to this country; but when sugar was dear, the inhabitants of those enormous territories, amounting in number to a hundred millions of souls, preferred taking their tea without the luxury of sugar. He had had it upon the authority of British merchants, who had themselves plantations in the East Indies, who had lived on those plantations, and had made the cultivation of sugar their business for a great many years—he had it on the authority of Messrs. Allen and Neville, the great sugar brokers of Calcutta, that whenever sugar in the East Indies fell to the price of 8 rupees, then the natives themselves consumed a large quantity; but whenever the price rose to the exporting price of 11 or 11½ rupees, then they were always ready to go without it. It was stated by Messrs. Allen and Neville, in a letter which he held in his hand—but he thought it must be a somewhat exaggerated statement; nevertheless, it showed what the opinions of persons living in that country were—that the natives of the East Indies consumed annually no less than 500,000 tons of sugar. He confessed that he thought that must be an estimate out of all reason; but that there was a probability that the cultivation of sugar would largely increase in the East Indies if protection were given to British capitalists, that he could not for one moment doubt. It was stated by Mr. Huskisson in that House, in the year 1823, that it was visionary to expect that the East Indies could ever become an exporting country in respect to the article of sugar. Mr. Huskisson stated that the East Indies imported more sugar than they exported, and that the whole export together was 4,000 tons to Europe, and 7,000 elsewhere. Now, he had been assured by those who were best able to judge, that there was every reason to believe that next year the exportation of sugar from the East Indies would amount to 100,000 tons. Those who had made 36 calculations upon the subject informed him that such had been the character of the season that the increase in the present year over the last would be no less than 30 per cent. An Englishman, speaking in reference to the sugar district of Bhurtpore, said—Since 1844, in this district alone, nineteen engines of 240-horse power have been erected, and fifteen more of 180-horse power are now in the course of erection; so that the quantity of sugar manufactured has this season amounted to 2,000 tons, and that expected next year is from 8,000 to 9,000 tons.So that the increase in that small district alone would be no less than four and half fold. There was also a company called the Richmond Company, which was about to send out engines and apparatus of the value of 70,000l. But that the House might see the way in which British capital was exerting itself in the East Indies, he would take the liberty of reading two letters of which he held the copies in his hands. The first was a letter dated the 24th of May last. The noble Lord then read the letter, which stated—The shipments from Calcutta this season will exceed those of last year; but it will be late before they arrive, as the exporters will hang back till August. There would be no difficulty in bringing twenty thousand maunds. The new sugar is looking well.Communications too received from Mirzapore represented the bazaar to be full of sugar, and no purchasers; and from Assemgar, that the crops were not yet sold. The next letter was from a gentleman connected with a great house in the East Indies, whose name he had been requested not to mention, and was dated the 22nd of May last. It was as follows:—From the day I joined the concern I have embarked 8,000l., for which I made last year 110 maunds of sugar, worth 1,300l.; 9,000 maunds worth 9,000l. I have bought part of the apparatus. I have completed one set of sugar-works, and am well on with another. I have 1,600 acres of sugar cane in the ground, out of which 500 are splendid 'Otaheite.' I have 1,300 acres more of fallow land for sugar cane. We work day and night, with the steam always up. On one piece of less than two acres I made 150 maunds (i. e. 5 tons 9 cwt.) of sugar, of the Otaheite sort (that is, at the rate of 4 tons per acre, which all who know anything of sugar plantations will be aware is an immense crop, and it realized at the rate of 100l. per acre.He believed there was nothing even in the results of railway enterprise superior to that. Yet it had been stated that there was no land in India capable of bearing one-sixth of the sugar crops produced in Cuba. The native sugar cane in India was indeed 37 little better than a weed, growing only to five or six feet in length, and the thickness of a man's finger; whereas the "Otaheite" sort grew to eighteen feet in length, and was as thick as a man's arm. And it was only since 1839 that this latter sort had been introduced into India, where it had already made great progress. In consequence of its introduction and the employment of steam-engines in the manufacture of sugar, the quantity grown upon the banks of the Ganges and the Hooghley was increasing in the degree to which he had ventured to call the attention of the House. If protection were continued, and the inducement of good prices were held out for the employment of capital, there was no doubt before the five years had expired, from which period it was proposed to reduce slave-grown sugar to a level with British colonial sugar, that the increase of sugar in the East Indies would be such as to render the importation from slave States altogether unnecessary. The writer of the letter to which he had alluded also stated that in the last year he had produced no less than 905 tons, or 24,000 maunds, worth 24,000l., having two years ago produced only 9000l. worth. Messrs. Scott and Bell, of Madras, in their circular, stated that they had no doubt the quantity of sugar that would be sent this year from Madras would amount to 10,000 tons, and next year to certainly not less than 15,000 tons; that various factories had been newly erected, and others extended; but that, judging from repeated inquiries respecting the production of sugar during the last three years, it was very difficult to say what quantity could be fairly produced; for that nothing could be more disadvantageous than the great uncertainty which prevailed with respect to the Sugar Duties of late years, and that if annual Parliaments proved no better than annual Sugar Duty Bills, the longer they were staved off the better. With respect to the Mauritius, the produce this season, already shipped, amounted to no less than 46,000 tons, and the quantity either actually shipped or ready to be shipped, amounted to 49,000 tons, while the crop altogether would amount to 60,000 tons. For a period the immigration of free labour had been hindered by the Government, but latterly the supply had been better, and the result was now coming into successful operation; but it must be clear to every one that it was not possible for hired labourers sent from a distance to compete with those found upon 38 the native soil. It was well known to be no longer a matter of doubt that those who in their sanguine expectations, when slavery had been put an end to, had calculated that the free negroes would double the quantity of produce obtained from the slaves, had been bitterly disappointed. In those hot climates, which relaxed the energies, even the negroes could not for the high wages they received be induced to labour; and the free negroes, instead of producing double the quantity they were wont to produce when slaves, did not produce more than one-half of that quantity. He had a statement there of the comparative quantity of sugar by 300 slaves in Louisiana, and by 300 free labourers in the Mauritius. He should inform the House that the statements were made by different hands. The slaveowner of Louisiana stated that his 300 slaves produced him 1,500 tons of sugar a year; and the statement of the Mauritius proprietor was, that 300 free labourers produced but 500 tons a year. So that it was clear the slave urged on by the whip produced three times the amount of sugar produced by the free labourer; and that though the Mauritius had a most fertile soil and a climate that was very genial for the growth of sugar, while Louisiana had neither the same genial climate nor fertility of land as the Mauritius, pitting them one against the other, he very much feared that it was clear that slave labour produced far more than free labour. He had stated that to show that the West India planters would not be able, even with their free labour, to compete with the slavery of Cuba and Brazil; but while he said that, he trusted slavery would be held for ever extinguished in the British Colonies. But to return—he had been going on to advert to what was the amount of produce estimated for the year by his noble Friend. His noble Friend had not proposed to state what proportions were to be expected from the Mauritius, or from the East Indies, but had stated there would be altogether 240,000 tons of sugar imported into this country from the British Colonies, together with 20,000 tons of slave-grown and 20,000 tons more of foreign free-grown sugar. As to the capability of the East Indies to furnish a supply, he had already stated that the export depended upon the price; but it should be also borne in mind that the freight from the East Indies varied from 4l. 10s. to 6l. 10s. per ton—a heavy charge to which Brazilian and Cuban sugar 39 was not subjected; the freight from Cuba being at the present moment so low as 30s. per ton, though generally it was between 2l. 10s. and 3l. 10s. per ton. It was quite clear, then, that Brazil and Cuban sugar, even upon another ground, besides the opportunity of growing their sugar at a much less cost, had a great advantage over the East Indies; and, therefore, if the latter was to compete with them, it was evident Brazil and Cuba must be alone successful. His noble Friend had calculated in his estimate that the effect of the free import of Brazilian and Cuban sugar would be to lower the price 6s. per cwt. If that should be the case, it would no longer be possible for the East Indies to export. He was informed that the price was something like 23s. at which the native merchant sold his produce; but if they reduced that price, the native merchant would no longer bring his produce to market. For they should remember that a large portion of the sugar now produced in the East Indies was grown by the natives, as he understood, upon small patches of half an acre, and one acre, and so forth. His noble Friend had calculated that 280,000 tons would be the amount imported next year. Granting his noble Friend's estimate of 125,000 tons from the West Indies, and 100,000 tons from the East Indies, including Madras (and that was a low estimate), to be correct, 55,000 tons from the Mauritius added to those quantities would give 280,000 tons. But then they had China, Java, Siam, &c., to calculate on, which would produce a quantity sufficient to make the whole importation into this country amount to 300,000 tons. Now, the greatest consumption that had been ever known in this country had reached only 246,000 tons. It was perfectly clear, then, that without seeking the aid of import from slaveholding countries, there would be ample provision for the people of this country. There was at the present moment, according to the returns which they had received that day, a stock on hand of about 71,000 tons of sugar, which exceeded by about 10,000 tons the stock on hand at the corresponding period of last year. On the other hand, for the consumption of the last two months, as compared with that of the corresponding months of last year, the quantity entered for home consumption was about 10,000 tons less; so that, if there should be 300,000 tons imported, there would be a larger stock on hand on the 5th of July, 40 next year, than had ever been at any previous corresponding period. His noble Friend seemed to think the consumption would rather approach 260,000 tons; yet even so, if his (Lord G. Bentinck's) estimate was correct, there would be, including the 70,000 tons now on hand, 370,000 tons to meet that consumption. He thought, then, if any man even for a moment doubted the sufficiency of the supply from the ordinary channels, he would, on considering the matter maturely, lay aside any apprehensions on that score. But they were told that free trade required that the Brazils should be open to our markets—that they would not take our manufactures because we did not take their sugar. That might be true; but if we took their sugar, it might be by taking it instead of the sugar of the West Indies; and we had yet to learn in what respect any customers in the Brazils and Cuba could be preferable to customers in our own West and East Indies, the Mauritius, and our other Colonies and possessions. He had been looking the other day at returns of our exports to the West Indies, and he saw that in the year 1845 we had exported manufactures thither to the value of 2,500,000l. sterling, and the population was about one million; while to the United States the manufactures exported were to the value of only 7,500,000l., and the population ten millions. Thus while every inhabitant of the West Indies took something like at the rate of 57s. per head of our manufactures, the people of the United States took only 7s. 2d. per head. Should we not, then, preserve our West Indian customers, who, if they sent us their sugar, took in return their manufactures? whereas, in our trade with Cuba, for the sugar which they sent us they took back gold in coin or bullion. With respect to the East Indies, the present state of our trade with them was, that their markets were glutted with our manufactures; and there was a great difficulty in obtaining gold for them. What, then, would be the case if we deprived them of that export of 100,000 tons of sugar, which would be, in effect, taking from them the value of two and a half millions sterling in the year? We had already deprived them of their manufactures, and substituted the cotton and silk manufactures of the East Indies by the manufactures of Manchester and Macclesfield; and at the present time there was scarcely a market in this country for indigo, which was accordingly succeeded by the cultiva- 41 tion of sugar, the trade in which, however, by the operation of this measure, would be taken from India, and given to Brazil and Cuba. So that on those grounds, if it were urged that all that was required of them was to find a market for the productions of Manchester, Birmingham, and the other manufacturing districts, it did not appear that the manufacturers of this country would benefit by the exchanging of their old customers of the East and West Indies for the new customers of Cuba and Brazil. Looking at the details of some of our exports, he saw that in the articles of printed and plain cottons alone the people of the West less Indies, in the year 1845, had taken no than 37,000,000 yards, while the United States had not taken more than 29,000,000 yards. The cotton manufacturing districts and localities in the west of Yorkshire, at all events, would not find they would better their own interests by the change. He came now to the question of revenue. His noble Friend had calculated that by his scheme, as contrasted with that of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would gain no less than 725,529l. revenue. He (Lord G. Bentinck) was utterly at a loss to understand how his noble Friend would derive that amount. As far as the 240,000 tons of British Plantation sugar went, which was to be let in under his Resolutions and those of the right hon. Gentleman opposite at a duty of 14l. per ton, he apprehended that would make no difference. With respect to foreign free-grown sugar, his noble Friend calculated that 20,000 tons would be imported, which he presumed would pay a duty of 21l. per ton, while the same would have come in under the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite at a duty of 19l. 16s. 8d. per ton. The difference of amount, added to the increase that would arise from an augmented consumption reaching even so high as 280,000 tons, together with the duty on an additional importation of 20,000 tons, would not yield more than 23,333l., which would be all the gain in point of revenue that his noble Friend could obtain by giving up the principle which had hitherto governed this country with respect to the purchase of slave-grown sugar. On these grounds, he thought he had shown sufficiently, both as far as commercial policy, and as far as the policy of encouraging British capital in preference to foreign capital, went; as far, too, as the justice 42 went of protecting capital which had been invested on the faith of the policy of a hundred years, there was no just ground for the alteration proposed by his noble Friend. Above all, he deeply regretted that at this period of the year, in the last week of July, when the House had been sitting more than six months—when half of the Members had gone to the country, and could not be called back, a measure of this great importance should be brought under discussion. On the Motion which he made the other night, when he was left in a small minority, he thought he had shown to his noble Friend that he had no desire to embarrass the Government. He anxiously desired there should be a temporary settlement of this question. He thought such a settlement could be effected with perfect justice to the consumers of sugar. He had shown there was no fear of this country being starved with regard to its consumption; but of this he was sure, if slave-grown sugar was admitted, and the price of sugar was reduced 6s. per cwt.—for his noble Friend's estimate of the sum this country would save was between 1,500,000l. and 2,000,000l. sterling a year—that sum must be taken out of the pocket of the British merchant. Somebody must lose; the consumer could not gain 6s. per cwt., or between 1,500,000l. and 2,000,000l. sterling, as stated by his noble Friend, without somebody losing their money. The sugar was grown; nothing could now keep down the crop for the year to come, and, therefore, the profit, either the 1,500,000l. or the 2,000,000l. must go, as he suspected a great portion of it would go, into the pockets of the planters of Brazil and Cuba, or it must come out of the pocket of the British planter from his estates in the East or West Indies and the Mauritius. Now, they could not take 1,500,000l. or 2,000,000l. out of the pockets of British merchants and planters engaged in the sugar trade, without creating such distress and ruin as was hardly ever before known. He need not mention names, but he had received intimations from many men, who, by their industry, had amassed considerable fortunes in the sugar trade, stating that if this measure passed, their names, before many weeks elapsed, would be in the Gazette. He thought, therefore, justice required that some notice—that some time should be given to the merchants of England and the planters in the East and West Indies, to prepare them for this 43 change. It was only with regard to the crop now coming, that in the month of February last, the right hon. Member for Tamworth gave notice of the alteration he intended to make in the Sugar Duties: on the faith of that statement, and of the permanency of the engagements then made, orders had been sent to the East Indies, to China, to Siam, and to Java, and could not be recalled. He recollected to have heard, in the early part of this Session, the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) make an observation which he feared would soon be re-echoed in every corner of the Empire, that "it had come to this pass now, that no man thought his property safe while the House of Commons was sitting." If such were the vacillation in the commercial polity of the country, instead of its free constitution being its pride and privilege, it would soon be its greatest curse. There was energy and enterprise enough in the merchants of Great Britain to take care of themselves if that House would but let them alone. "Let us alone," was the cry of every merchant, manufacturer, and trader of Great Britain. How was a man to trade if he could not calculate when he sent out orders to be executed in China, which would take fifteen or seventeen months to execute, what price they would produce, or what remuneration he should obtain for his produce when it came? On these grounds he earnestly prayed his noble Friend at the head of the Government not now to press on this measure with indecent haste. The House could not be kept together. He remembered that on a former occasion, when the measure was discussed in 1841, the same Resolution took eight nights' discussion. Could they have eight, or even four nights' discussion now? The Members of that House were so wearied that they could not be kept together; and even if the measure could be discussed there as it ought to be, the other House would not be found when it would have to come before them. But, as he said before, he did not bring this Motion forward out of hostility towards his noble Friend. In 1841, when a similar Motion was brought forward, and carried by a majority of thirty-six, the success of that Motion was not fatal to the Government of the day. In 1830, when he was a humble follower in the ranks of Mr. Huskisson, he remembered that Mr. Huskisson opposed the Sugar Duties proposed by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Obstinate 44 was the battle, and Mr. Huskisson was defeated; but he remembered that in speaking of that measure, Mr. Huskisson used every opprobrious epithet toward it that could be applied to any commercial measure. He thought he said of it, that in all the city they would not find a merchant, planter, broker, or shopkeeper, who could understand it. He showed, also, that although it professed to be a measure for the relief of the West Indian interest, it would give relief to those who did not need it, and take it away from those who wanted it most. He forgot what was the majority on that occasion; but it gradually dwindled, and in the end the Government of the day withdrew the measure altogether. But that Government of which the Duke of Wellington was the head, did not think it necessary to retire from office. A similar occurrence had taken place on two great occasions, once when Lord Melbourne was at the head of the Government, and again when the Duke of Wellington was the First Minister of the Crown. He thought, therefore, that his noble Friend, who had found it possible in the course of a fortnight to organize a Government, go through all his elections satisfactorily, and bring forward a great measure of this kind, might consent to withdraw this measure, and pass a temporary measure. He now came to the last division of this question—that relating to slavery. The question he would fairly admit was—he did not wish to blink it—the question was, whether or not the people of England would have slavery and sugar, as his noble Friend said, cheaper by 6s. per cwt., or two-thirds of a penny per pound, or whether they would be content to pay two-thirds of a penny a pound more for sugar grown by the free hand of British industry? He regretted that this subject had not fallen into abler hands, and especially when he saw many Gentlemen who, on former occasions, had taken distinguished parts in these discussions. He saw just now in the House the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell). Few Gentlemen in that House had put the question more forcibly before them. That hon. and learned Gentleman said plainly—and he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman—The question is, cheap sugar with slavery, or dearer sugar without it. It is nothing else than the repetition of the children's fable—the large loaf and the father's curse. It is a farce to propose to let in the sugar of Cuba and the Brazils, and at the same time to propose or to continue emancipation.45 The hon. and learned Gentleman said, it was only necessary to place the question fairly before the people of England, and he feared not for the result. So said he. The noble Earl, the father of the Member for Liverpool, when called upon to support a measure, the effect of which would have been the encouragement of slavery, said, "I dare not obey, I dare not obey!" He believed the people of England, oppressed as they were with taxation, did not regret the twenty millions sterling they had paid for the emancipation of slaves. He could say for one that he had never heard any man—that he had never received any communication from any constituent—begrudging the payment of that magnificent tribute to the cause of humanity, Did the people of England not know that they paid yearly something like half a million sterling for the abolition of slavery? Did they not know that at this very time they had forty-nine ships of war engaged in the service of putting down the traffic in slaves? Did they not know that they had upwards of 7,000 men and 700 guns engaged in repressing that inhuman traffic? And would they then be so inconsistent—would they make themselves so ridiculous in the eyes of all the world, that at the same time they were spending this half a million a year, and employing all their means to put down slavery and the Slave Trade, they would contribute, as his noble Friend told them, 1,500,000l. or 2,000,000l. sterling a year, to add to the profits and premium of slavery. If they meant to allow slave-grown sugar to come into the country, let them call home their fleets, let them cease to expend their blood and treasure on the coast of Africa. His noble Friend calculated the profits at 6s. a cwt., that was, 6l. a ton. He had partly admitted that slave-grown sugar would rise in price; and it was admitted on all hands that the price of West and East India sugar would fall, so that the prices of the two would meet together. But if the prices of slave-grown sugar rose 6l. a ton, and if each negro made three tons of sugar a year, it was easy to calculate what additional value would be added to every slave. Each slave would be worth 18l. a year more; and admitting that the life of a slave driven by the lash did not exceed ten years, as it was stated in the correspondence beside him, they would add to the value of each slave 180l. during that period. The price of a man slave was stated by the Commissioners at Rio Janeiro to be 81l.; the ave- 46 rage price of slaves of all descriptions was 64l.; add the additional value to them, created by this measure, and what a premium and inducement would they give to the Slave Trade! They were told by those Commissioners that the most extensive slaveowner at Rio de Janeiro was Senhor da Fonseca, and that he had himself proclaimed that in 1844 he cleared 150,000l. by this infernal traffic. It appeared by that book that out of 16,200 slaves shipped to Rio, this slave merchant succeeded in importing 4,150. His fleets rivalled the fleets of many nations. At one time nine different ships, under nine different names, arrived with his slaves. Now, it was said, that if one slave in five survived, the venture was a successful one. How, then, would it be when they added this additional price to the value of sugar—when they added the additional price which it must needs give to the value of slaves? As the amount of the sugar grown in a Colony was a sure index of the lives of the negroes, so the price of the sugar was a sure index of the negro's value. He might be asked whether there was anything in the Slave Trade as it was now carried on which should induce the people of England to change their minds with respect to this terrible traffic? There had come out within these two days—he did not know whether he might call it a State Paper—but a document written by a paid officer of the Crown, in which he said the West India planters must be roused from their lethargy, and that this was only to be done by allowing slave-grown sugar to come into competition with them. Mr. Porter afterwards says—If, then, you ask me why—the interest of the English consumer being thus secured—I am anxious for the admission of slave-grown produce, I reply that I am so anxious because I believe there is great efficacy in the carrying out of a true principle; that there is in commercial legislation only one true principle, that understood by the expression 'Free trade.'So we are to have free trade in sugar!—"that we cannot with impunity violate any true principle." And then he goes on—That men have thus placed themselves in opposition to what we have a fair right to believe is the intention of Providence in giving different climates and various productions to the nations of the earth; and that it is amongst our first duties to aid, so far as we know and can understand them, and not to thwart, or attempt to thwart, the designs of the Great Parent of the Universe.What! was the Great Parent of the universe to be called into partnership with Mr. Porter for the encouragement of the dia- 47 bolical Slave Trade? Was He, to whom they were taught from their earliest childhood to believe manstealing was an abomination and the shedding of innocent blood—was He to be called into partnership with Mr. Porter, this paid servant of the Government, to encourage slavery in Cuba and Brazil, and to give freedom to the traffic between Africa and the West Indies? He asked just now whether there was anything in the modern system of the Slave Trade to reconcile humanity and Englishmen with it. He would now read to the House—and that and another should be the only passages he would read—an account of the treatment which one of these cargoes of slaves belonging to Senor Da Fonseca met with on their passage to Rio de Janeiro from the coast of Africa. This Da Fonseca was not only a slavetrader himself, and a slaveowner, but he was also a sugar planter; and as he himself sat in judgment on these wretched beings, and was on board of the American brig Kentucky at the time the scene in question took place, when the slaves met with the cruel treatment recorded—treatment which would enable the House, in the case of these Brazilian slaves, to form a pretty accurate estimate of the treatment which they would receive in other circumstances — he (Lord G. Bentinck) should read the statement made on the subject for the House. The Kentucky sailed from Annam Bay with a cargo of 500 slaves on board. His authority for the details which he should state to the House was an English sailor, of the name of Page, who was represented as being born in America, and these details were as follow:—There were about 500 slaves in all on board the brig. Of these about one dozen died on the passage; and about forty-six men and one woman were hung and shot on the passage. 440 or thereabouts were landed at Cape Frio. When the slaves came on board, they were put below between the slave deck, and all were ironed.He had ascertained that the "slave deck" was about 2 feet 10 inches high; and he had found that in one instance no less than 349 slaves had been embarked in a vessel 67 feet long by 21 feet broad; with a measurement of only 80 to 100 tons. By the Passenger Act in force in this country, every three passengers were allowed five tons; but in this case, on the contrary, there were about four or five passengers to one ton. By the Passenger Act it was provided that each person should be allowed 15 superficial feet of deck; but these wretched beings were shackled down in a 48 place with no more than 2 feet 10 inches above them, and not 4 feet of deck each. The narrative proceeded:—When the slaves came on board they were ironed and sent down below to the slave deck. A bulkhead was run across the midships, and the women and children were placed aft. There were about 250 of them. When it was fair weather a good many of the slaves were permitted to come upon deck, and they remained there night and day. When it was stormy, they were all sent down below. It was intended that there should be 700 of them; but they could not be got together. The day after the vessel sailed—when she crossed the bar of the river, and got out to sea, the negroes got off their irons, broke the bulkhead, and rose on the officers and crew of the brig. Some of them got on the forecastle, some of them aft. The captain armed the crew with cutlasses, and gave them loaded pistols; and the crew and officers then commenced firing down among those in the hold, and continued to do so for more than half an hour.He stated that he did not join in it; but he said the Brazilian sailors seemed to enjoy it and liked the sport. In about half an hour the slaves were wholly subdued, and the ship had become quiet. The slaves were after a time brought upon deck, about ten or a dozen at a time, and ironed again. None of them were killed with the firing, and only nine or ten were wounded, though the sailors fired at them with balls in their pistols and shot in their muskets. He supposed the cause why there were none of them killed, to be, that the sailors had to fire at them down through the hatches; and that the slaves got away when they saw them present their pieces. The next day the slaves were brought upon deck again, twelve at a time, and then and there were tried by Captain Fonseca and the officers of the brig. For two or three days from that time there were forty-six men and one woman hung, shot, or thrown overboard at the command of these individuals. There was not even the same mercy shown to these wretched beings who suffered this punishment that was shown on the new drop at Newgate.Those who were thus executed were heavily ironed; a rope was then put round their neck, which was rove through the yard-arm, and they were run up from the deck. By this means they were not hanged—they were strangled or choked. In that state, and while still alive, they were shot in the breast, and then thrown overboard. If there were two shot or hanged together, they were run up in the same manner until their legs were laid across the rail of the bulwark on the ship's side, and then they were broken and chopped off to save the irons. In this way the bleeding body of the negro was thrown overboard to make room for another. The legs of about a dozen were 49 chopped off in that manner. When the bleeding feet fell upon the deck they were picked up by the Brazilian crew and thrown overboard after the body; sometimes they pelted the body with them in sport while it still hung, half alive.Could anything, he (Lord George Bentinck) asked, be more devilish than that? and yet it all took place in the presence of the master of those wretched beings. When two chained together were to be hung they were shot while they remained suspended, and thrown overboard still alive. The woman was shot in the neck and thrown over living. Several of them were seen to struggle in the water for some time before they sunk. After this slaughter was done, about twenty were brought up and flogged. They were laid on their faces on the deck, and their hands were tied while the flogging was administered. The relater of the facts stated, that he and another Englishman who was on board, contrived to get clear of the hanging and shooting, but that they were compelled to perform the flogging on these poor creatures. He had himself flogged four of them. Several of the women were flogged as well as the men. Most of them were obliged to lie on their belly during the remainder of the voyage, such was the severity of the flogging they received; on the backs of some the flesh had putrified and fallen off in pieces of six or eight inches in diameter. The wounds were dressed with a salve made on board, and the hollows left in the back filled up with farina. When the farina was placed on the sores the creatures writhed with agony. And yet (continued the noble Lord) this is a traffic which you would encourage by encouraging the consumption of that which produces it. Six years ago Mr. Fowell Buxton stated, that the Slave Trade consumed annually 250,000 negroes; and Lord Aberdeen, in 1844, said, that the average number of slaves imported from Africa into the Southern States of North America and the Spanish West Indies was not less than 100,000l. in the year. This year there were 16,000 and odd imported into Rio Janeiro; and the number imported into the Havannah in the same period was, according to the authority of the Judge-Commissary of the Mixed Court, about 10,000l. He called on the House to reflect on what that Gentleman stated in writing to Lord Aberdeen upon the subject, and to pause before they proceeded farther with the measure of the Government. That Gentleman stated, that though the importation of slaves into Cuba this 50 year had fallen to the amount of about twenty-five per cent., that reduction did not arise from any fear of the British cruisers, but because the price of sugar was low, and the profits of slavery consequently very much lessened. He said, in that correspondence, if it suited their interests to send vessels to the coast of Africa, he should doubt very much whether they would be deterred from doing so by any fear of the blockade established on that coast; and that, therefore, the cause of the diminution which existed in the number of slaves imported was to be looked for elsewhere. A sufficient reason would be found in the deficient demand for slaves, owing to the low price of sugar; also in the difficulties in which the planters themselves were involved from a combination of various circumstances. "And yet," observed the noble Lord, "you are going now to raise the planters out of their difficulties; you are going to add 6l. a ton to the value of their sugar; you are going to impoverish, and perhaps to ruin, our own West India Colonies, and to alienate the affections of our capitalists in the East Indies too, by adding to the gains of those horrible wretches who follow that infernal traffic, the Slave Trade. You are going to add 18l. a head to the value of the negro, as if the temptation was not sufficient already; and, as if the premium was not enough, you are about to encourage them to send out fresh ships to increase the imports of these unhappy creatures." The Judge-Commissary gave an account of the cause of the quantity of sugar that was in existence, and stated that it partly arose from the high prrice in former years, and partly from the hurricane which destroyed the crops. The average crop in 1844 was 847,000 boxes; that in 1845 was 650,000 boxes. Yet, with that diminished amount of production, he maintained that there was no increase of price expected; and for this reason—because the price of the year preceding had been kept up by the failure of the sugar crop in the United States of America. He said he had entered into this detail for the purpose of showing that the unsettled state of commercial affairs in that particular was one of the chief causes why the importation of slaves had decreased; the planters being disinclined, under the altered circumstances of the market, to increase their expenses of production. The proposition of the Government would be but to regulate the transit of ne- 51 groes between Cuba and the Brazils. He said about 3,000 negroes died under the hands of the military in Cuba in the year; and that the usual price of a negro was from 300 to 350 dollars, but that, last year, they brought 400 dollars each. That being the case, he thought that when the condition of the Slave Trade and slavery in Cuba came to be considered by the people of England, if the question was put to them whether they would be disposed, after the splendid gift of 20,000,000l. which they had made to the planters for the suppression of slavery in the West Indies, to stimulate the Slave Trade for the advantages of two-thirds of a penny in the pound weight of sugar—he was satisfied that they would never repent their good deed, and that they would answer in the negative. But his noble Friend argued that this country was bound, by Treaty with Spain, to admit her slave-grown sugar on the same footing as that of the most favoured free-labour nation. If he concurred with his noble Friend in the construction to be put upon the treaties that existed between the two nations, no man in that House would sooner come to his noble Friend's support, or more readily give him his assistance to carry out their principle. But he did not concur with his noble Friend upon that point; and he would say that he thought his noble Friend must have been at a very great loss indeed for an argument upon which to let in slave-grown sugar, when he relied upon that. His noble Friend found that last year only 5,000 tons of free-labour sugar were grown; and now he calculated on 20,000. His noble Friend, in raising difficulties on the subject, made a mountain of a molehill; but he differed from his noble Friend in toto as to his reading of the treaties with Spain. He had studied those treaties very deeply, and he construed them very differently from his noble Friend in that particular. He was, under these circumstances, at a loss to understand how, either in the letter or in the spirit, his noble Friend could point out how any distinction in the case could be drawn in favour of Spain. His noble Friend pointed to certain negotiations which had taken place, and in which a noble ancestor of his had been engaged, as conclusive on the question; but his noble Friend had forgot to inform the House that "fish" was an article distinctly specified in the Treaty. If the Treaty of 1667 were looked to—the foundation of all the subsequent trea- 52 ties between the two countries—it would be found that, so far from its being possible that sugar should be admitted into this country, the produce of the Spanish Colonies, it was specially provided in that Treaty that no ships of Great Britain should be allowed to visit these possessions of Spain in the new world. There was not one word about sugar in the Treaty. It was personal altogether, and had for its objects, not the admission of articles of produce, but the security of the rights and privileges of British subjects, similar to those of France, Holland, and other countries. There was not a single word of any privilege to introduce the produce of the Spanish Colonies on the same terms as that of other favoured countries. A proof of that was found in the fact, that in a few years after another Treaty was made, in which a distinction was drawn between French and Spanish wines, imposing a duty of 7l. per ton upon the former, and 20l. upon the latter. A distinction was also established between the tobacco of Spain and that of the United States—the Spanish paying 6s. per lb., whereas the latter only paid 4s. But that was not all, for in 1839 and 1840 his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary was engaged in a Commercial Treaty with France, which was on the point of being executed when a difference arose between him and M. Thiers to prevent it; and in that Treaty a distinction was drawn between the produce of France and that of other countries. Therefore, of all the public arguments that had ever been used to admit slave-grown sugar to this country, none was so preposterous as that of his noble Friend, founded upon the faith of treaties. He believed he had now exhausted all the arguments which had been brought to bear upon the subject by his noble Friend; and that he had put the case fairly before the people of England, as it was his wish to do. He did not desire to disguise anything from them, and he hoped he had omitted no point of reply. If they chose to take 6s. per cwt., or two-thirds of a penny on the pound of sugar, as a price for the increase of negro slavery, he would say be it so. Upon looking at the comparative price of sugar for the last twelve years of freedom, and the previous six years of slavery, he saw more than the difference of 6s. the cwt. in the price. He wished the people of England to know that the question was one of two-thirds of a penny in each pound of the sugar they consumed, and to let foreign 53 nations also know that the people of England were willing to eat their food "unleavened by a sense of injustice." He wished to let the people of England know, that if in furtherance of that which was now assumed to be the true principle of commerce, free trade — if Government wished to inculcate this principle further, and to cheapen their sugar as well as their bread—that they must eat their sugar, their cheapened sugar, moistened by the blood of the negro. He was convinced if such an appeal were fairly made to the people of England—he was convinced there was not a man who would hesitate one moment in his choice. There was not one man in England, beyond the circle of the free traders, who would not cheerfully consent to pay the additional penny per pound. He was sure that the people of England would not grudge 1,500,000l. paid annually to put down the Slave Trade; and if his noble Friend drew an argument from their inconsistency, in refusing to consume slave-grown sugar while they consumed slave-grown cotton and tobacco, he valued that argument at nothing. It seemed to be nothing but the old argument of the highwayman and the sheepstealer, "If we are to be hanged for stealing a lamb, we may as well be hanged for stealing a sheep." His noble Friend's argument was, that because we could not do all the good we wished, we were to do no good at all. The people of England had made a monstrous sacrifice of 20,000,000l. for the purpose of abolishing slavery in their Colonies, and giving the owners of slaves compensation; and during the twelve years since which slavery had been put an end to in our West India possessions, they had made the further sacrifice of 24,000,000l. in the increased price of their sugar, with the view of discouraging slavery elsewhere. He humbly trusted that this mighty sacrifice had not been made in vain, and that the tribute of a penny per pound, which he believed the people of England were still ready to pay, might be accepted, and recorded above by the side of the widow's mite. The noble Lord concluded by moving, as an Amendment—To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'in the present state of the Sugar cultivation in the British East and West Indian Possessions, the proposed reduction of Duty upon Foreign Slave grown Sugar is alike unjust and impolitic, as tending to check the advance of production by British free labour, and to give a great additional stimulus to the Slave Trade,' instead thereof.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I hope it is needless for me to express to my noble Friend my conviction that in the course he has taken this evening he is not actuated by a desire to embarrass Her Majesty's Government. I have been opposed during great part of this Session to my noble Friend, and I never for a moment ceased to give credit to him for the entire sincerity by which he was actuated in the course he has pursued, which I believe that he has pursued only because he considered it to be that which was best calculated to promote the interests of the country. I have not now the slightest intention of questioning the grounds on which he has come forward this evening in opposition to the measure of Her Majesty's Government; I give him full credit for the purity of the motives which actuate him and his friends in the course they take, and anxious as I am to show that the arguments on which they rely are destitute of foundation, I, nevertheless, will not dispute for a moment the fairness of their intentions. In discussing this question, I think it will be convenient to follow the course that has been adopted by my noble Friend, and I shall therefore take the division of the subject that he has made. My noble Friend said that the question resolved itself into three parts—the question of the supply of sugar; the question of the revenue; and the bearings of the whole question as affecting the Slave Trade. Now, Sir, to begin with the supply of sugar. About two years ago the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me in the office which I have now the honour to hold, stated, in this place, when he brought forward a measure for the introduction of free-labour sugar into this country (and he stated more forcibly than I shall venture to do), the all-importance of a due supply of sugar in this country. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that from a luxury sugar had become almost a necessary of life to the people of England, and that he was anxious, by legislative measures, to do what was possible to make it more plentiful. He stated that in former times all the ships carrying sugar to the north of Europe came to this country; that England had the command of the sugar of the world limited only by the price of sugar in the continental markets, if it was not wanted here. He told us that it had become necessary when the supply from the West Indies became deficient, in order to increase the supply here, 55 to open our markets to the East Indian supply, and bring it into competition with the produce of the West Indies, so as to meet the increased demand in this country. He said that when both the West Indian and the East Indian supplies were found inadequate to the demand, he and his Colleagues had felt that it was necessary to take means for obtaining a further supply, and for that purpose to let in free-labour sugar from other parts of the world. He also stated that the rise of the price paid for sugar in England justified the measure he proposed. Sir, I say that, at present, the demand is greater than it was when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the measure of the late Government, and also that the rise in the price is more remarkable now than it was when the right hon. Gentleman spoke; and that all the considerations which induced the late Government to bring into our markets foreign free-labour sugar, to enter into competition with sugar the produce of our own Colonies, exist in a greater degree now than they did then. At the time the right hon. Gentleman spoke, the demand, as measured by the consumption, had increased in no degree to the same extent as it has done in the course of the last year. The consumption of 1843, the previous year to that in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, was only 8,000 tons above that of 1842, but was actually less than that of 1841. The consumption of last year exceeded the consumption of the preceding year (1844) by 36,000 tons. The price of sugar in the three years previous to the time at which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, had fallen 6s. a cwt. In the last three years it has fallen only 10d. a cwt. The right hon. Gentleman said the price when he spoke was 2s. a cwt. higher than it had been the preceding summer. The price in June, 1846, was higher by 4s. a cwt. than it was in June of last year, and taking the average of the preceding three months it is higher at this moment than the price of the corresponding quarter of the preceding year by 5s. 3d. a cwt. The question of price, then, as well as that of demand, is more urgent now than it was then; and on these grounds, I think—and I trust the House will coincide with me—that we have now a stronger case than the right hon. Gentleman had then; and we have this further ground, that the supply which the right hon. Gentleman then promised the country has almost entirely failed. Another right hon. Gentleman, 56 who was lately a Member of this House (Mr. Gladstone) estimated the importation of free-labour sugar that would follow that measure, at 20,000 tons a year. Now the return of the importation of sugar which I moved for, and which has since been laid on the Table of this House—a return which I think a fair one, because it gives the importation for the full year during which the lower rates of duty proposed by the right hon. Baronet opposite were in operation, states that the whole importation of free-labour sugar into this country, from April 1845 to April 1846, instead of 20,000 tons, was less than 4,000 tons. In the last quarter the importation was only 113 tons, so that it has been only 4,113 tons for the whole five quarters. In short, the sources of the supply anticipated have entirely failed. It is incumbent, therefore, on us again to open sources from which a supply of sugar may be obtained, to make up that supply which the right hon. Gentleman told us of, but which has failed. My noble Friend quoted the trade circular of Messrs. Truman and Cook, to show that it was expected that the new plan of the late Government proposed in January last would fail of securing an adequate supply. It has heen proved by the return to which I have referred, that the former measure failed, looking at it as a measure of revenue. The amount of revenue derived from this species of sugar, in the year ending 5th April last, was between 400,000l. and 500,000l. less than had been estimated. The measure, therefore, has entirely failed as a means of adequate supply, as well as a means of revenue. Hence arises the necessity for some further measure in the same direction and of the same description, but calculated better, I hope, to secure an adequate supply. The supply being adequate, the price of sugar depends on the power of consumption in this country. If the price is sufficiently low and the supply sufficiently large, it is impossible to set a limit to the consumption of sugar in this country; and it is quite remarkable how accurately the consumption of sugar varies with the price. It is usual to take the consumption at so much per head, and that mode of reckoning is perhaps sufficient for most purposes. According to that mode of estimating, I find the consumption of 1831, with sugar at 23s. 8d. a cwt., was 20lb. per head; in 1840, when the price was 48s. 7¾d., the consumption was 15lb. per head, the duty being the 57 same in both years; in 1845, the price being 32s. 11d. a cwt., the consumption was again 20lb. per head. Now, the average price is 35s. 10¼d. for the month of June, but for the last week of June it was 36s. 9¾d. In three months, April, May and June of 1845, the average price was 30s. 6¾d.; in the corresponding three months of 1846 it was 35s. 9¾d.; the rise of price has considerably diminished consumption; 10,000 tons fewer have been taken out of bond this quarter than in the corresponding quarter of last year. That diminution of consumption, there cannot be a doubt, is owing to the rise of price. With a high rate of wages prevalent throughout the whole country, as is the case at present, owing probably to the competition of railway companies for labour, which has acted beneficially on the condition of the agricultural labourer, I think there is scarcely any limit to the consumption of sugar in this country that might be arrived at if the supply were equal to the demand. In 1840 a pamphlet was published, which is known to many hon. Gentlemen here, and which goes into the question of consumption; and it is there stated, that the allowance in workhouses, to aged paupers, is 22¾lb. ahead, being 2 lb. more than the average consumption throughout the country, and that the sailors on board of our men of war have 34 lb. 3 oz. a head allowed them. Let it be considered to how large a portion of the population a rise in the price of sugar makes no difference in the quantity they consume; and if you deduct the consumption of that portion from the whole, you will find there is very little left for the consumption of the mass of the people. That they consume much less than those who have the means of obtaining a sufficient supply do, is perfectly clear; and if the labouring population at present consume so small a quantity as, when added to the large amount consumed by the richer classes, to give an average for all classes of only 20 lb. a head, I am convinced they would consume much more if they had the power. The actual consumption of the country, in the course of last year, ending April 5, 1846, is 252,000 tons, of all kinds of sugar—I think it is fair to take the return from April to April, and I think it is not fair to take it from January to January, when the reduced duty was not in operation. That would give too narrow a view of the consumption of the country. 252,000 tons were, then, the consumption of the year ending April 5, 1846. Now, 58 Sir, I must say that I do not agree with my noble Friend in his estimate of supply; and I think he estimates a degree of importation beyond the most sanguine calculations that have yet been laid before the House; but he has not said what he estimates is to be the importation from the West Indies. I understand, however, that he means to say, my noble Friend made a sanguine estimate when he stated it at 125,000 tons. Now, I confess it is very difficult to form accurate estimates of such matters; but I have taken great pains to obtain the best information from parties who are well informed, and who are also likely to give accurate evidence respecting the state of our colonial possessions. The highest estimate is 255,000 tons from the British colonial possessions. The estimate of the sugar refiners, laid before the right hon. Gentleman, put it at 225,000 tons. I have heard the same amount of 225,000 tons stated by a merchant and broker of eminence in the trade. Two other gentlemen, both intimately acquainted with the West Indies, have estimated it at 230,000 tons. A sugar merchant of Antwerp, unconnected with those interests in this country, but largely connected with the sugar trade, has stated it at 220,000 tons. When, therefore, my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) took the probable supply at 240,000 tons, he took it above the estimate of those who are the best informed as to the trade in this country. I do not differ much from the noble Lord's (Lord G. Bentinck's) estimate with respect to the Mauritius; but his estimate of the supplies to be expected from the East Indies was certainly too large; and when I heard it I thought it so extravagantly too large that I turned to an hon. Friend sitting near me, who is a West India proprietor, in surprise, because it seemed to me that such a supply would put an end to competition not only in the West Indies but elsewhere, and that no sugar from any country could come in competition with such a supply. But for the comfort of the West Indians and others concerned in the growth of sugar, there was a qualification in the noble Lord's statement which entirely destroyed the whole anticipation, because he said that the possibility of the importation he spoke of from the East Indies would entirely depend on its being sold here at a high price. Now, 500,000 tons of sugar, he told us, is the produce of the East Indies—an enormous supply, certainly; but a great portion of the sugar 59 grown there is consumed there—in the food I will not call it—but the sweetmeats to which the people of that country are so much addicted. But he said that if the price was high, the importation would be great. The fact is, however, that the price as it is now checks the consumption of that kind of sugar in this country. The result will be, that if the price is low, the sugar will not come from the East Indies; and if it is high, it will not enter into consumption here; so that it will not affect our plan of obtaining an adequate supply at a low price. I hold in my hand a letter from an importer of sugar from the East Indies, which, with the permission of the House, I will read. He says—The cultivation and manufacture of sugar by Europeans is increasing considerably; and though your market does not look so promising as it has done, we think the exports of 1816 may be expected to exceed those of 1845, though not to a very great extent.Now, the whole quantity we imported in 1845 was 67,000 tons; and I have calculated that the importation from the East Indies will amount next year to 75,000 tons, being an increase of 8,000 tons. This is the probably supply we shall have from that source; but that is a very different thing from the calculation of the noble Lord of 100,000 tons this year, and an unlimited supply in time to come. The letter goes on to say—It should be borne in mind, however, that India consumes its own sugars to an immense amount, probably not less than 500,000 tons: and if, from the introduction of slave-labour sugar into England, at low duties, or from any other cause, prices of fine sugar here should fall below eight rupees or so for export, we should probably soon cease to supply you with any but a very insignificant quantity.Therefore this statement, while it so far confirms the statement of the noble Lord, that we might have a great supply of sugar from the East Indies if prices remained as high as they are now—that is, so high as to check and prevent the consumption of sugar in this country—shows that if prices fall, we cannot expect, as the noble Lord seems to do, any great quantity of sugar from the East Indies. When my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, therefore, took the probable importation of colonial sugar from the 5th of April last to the 5th of April next at 240,000 tons, I think, judging from the estimates furnished to us, he rather overstated than understated the amount. I would have said that about 230,000 or 235,000 tons was probably 60 nearer the mark. But, at the same time, I think that it is infinitely better to give the colonial interest full credit for the quantity they can reasonably be expected to produce; and to overstate rather than to understate it. With respect to foreign free-labour sugar, the highest estimate that I have seen is 20,000 tons. I believe the more probable quantity will be 15,000 tons. The House will remember that the whole importation of last year was only 4,000 tons. There is in bond at the present moment 8,000 tons of foreign free-labour sugar; and I don't know that there is any prospect of a much greater quantity coming into the country. The greater quantity of the sugar which comes from Java is diverted into the Dutch market. This does not arise from any difference in the terms upon which slave-labour and free-labour sugar is introduced into Holland; for they are admitted upon perfectly equal terms; but because the Dutch merchants have a direct interest, from the commission which they obtain on the sale of their own colonial sugar, in conveying the Java sugar to Holland. If, therefore, we take the foreign free-labour sugar at 12,000 or 15,000 tons, and the colonial at 240,000 tons, this will make in all 255,000 tons, or probably somewhat less. In point of fact, all the colonial and free-labour sugar we are likely to get will not exceed the consumption of last year, namely, 252,000 tons. It should be observed that the stock of sugar in the market in April last was low, being only about 40,000 tons; whereas, in the April preceding, it was 46,000 tons. We ought to allow for a somewhat larger stock next April. It is probable, therefore, I repeat, that the quantity of colonial and foreign free-labour sugars available for consumptien in this year, will not exceed the quantity consumed in this country during last year. Now, of course, as to what the probable consumption of next year may be, it is very difficult to say; but why it should not increase I cannot conceive. I have not the least doubt but that the consumption last year was checked by the inadequate supply; and we may readily believe that if there is this year a large supply at a reasonable price, the people of this country will consume a much larger amount than last year. Now, it is of course very essential for this object, that the price should be kept within moderate bounds; and that we must introduce other sugars in addition to those which at present come into our market, in order to 61 ensure the price being so low as to extend the consumption to any large extent; and be it remembered, that every reduction of price has the effect of extending the consumption to a wider and wider circle. Now, all authorities agree in this, that the price of sugar, duty paid, should be at or under 45s. per cwt., in order to extend the consumption to any great amount. The present price of sugar of this description is about 50s. per cwt. The last sales are at 50s.; that is, without the duty, 36s. per cwt. Of course, to bring it to the price at which consumption would extend, it would require to be 45s., or, without the duty, 31s. per cwt. This would be a reduction of 5s. per cwt. below the present price of colonial sugar. But be it remembered that the present price of sugar is unnaturally high. The crop having been deficient, the price, in the course of last year, rose excessively; and the present price of sugar is by no means the natural and ordinary price of sugar. The average price last year, without the duty, was 32s. 11d.; so that, in order to bring it to the price which is stated to be necessary to increase consumption, it would require to be 1s. 11d. below the average price of last year, or about 6d. higher than the price during the summer of last year. It is, of course, very difficult to attempt any calculation as to price; and any estimate I may make on the subject is necessarily liable to many deductions, qualifications, and disappointments, which it is impossible to foresee; but corresponding slave-grown sugar was sold for 24s. 3d. per cwt. We are told that a duty of 21s. is not an adequate protection to the West Indian interest; but suppose that the duty were 23s. 4d., this, added to the selling price, would make 47s. 7d., being 2s. 7d. above the price which is said to be necessary to extend consumption. But take the duty at 21s.; this, added to 24s. 3d., comes to 45s. 3d., which is as near as may be the price at which it is hoped the consumption may be considerably extended. If, however, a rise in the price of foreign slave-grown sugar should take place, I am afraid we should not attain our object; and that, so far from the proposed duty of 21s. being too low, if there is any risk, it is that it will be too high for the purpose of promoting an increased consumption. But, at the same time, considering the general interests that will be affected by the measure, I think it is safer to be on the right side; and I do believe that with a higher amount of duty we should not attain our 62 object. My noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) said a good deal about the probable rise in the price of slave-grown sugar. It is my own impression that there will be little, I may say no rise in the price of slave-grown sugars if they are admitted into the markets of our country. The price did rise in the course of last year, not only on the Continent, but in this country, mainly in consequence of a deficiency in the importation from Cuba, and partly in consequence of being admitted into the market of this country; but the price of sugar on the Continent has latterly been falling. It rose, from May to June, 3s. or 4s. per cwt.; but since June the price has fallen, and there is a very large stock of slave and free-grown labour sugar at present in the Continental market. The price rose upon the announcement of the measures of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) in January last; but since that time, I believe, it has fallen; and I am inclined to think that all the rise likely to take place has already taken place, and that when the quantity of sugar on hand comes to be thrown upon our market, the price of slave-grown sugar is as likely to fall as rise. I certainly think it improbable that the price will rise in any degree. To confirm the view I have given as to the effect of the proposed duty, I beg to read an extract from a letter written by a gentleman, the member of an eminent house connected with the sugar trade. He refers to a statement which appeared in The Times some time ago, respecting the admission of slave-grown sugar at a duty of 23s. 4d. His opinion is this:—The effect of such a measure as The Times points at would be to prevent a further rise in sugar; but it would not, in my opinion, reduce prices now current more than 3s. per cwt. If it is practicable to carry in the House of Commons 21s. per cwt. in place of 23s. 4d. on all sugars not being colonial, I think the country would reap considerable benefit in the price.On the 6th of July, two days later, the same gentleman said—Allow me also to state, that 21s. would allow a much larger quantity of sugar to come in, and would therefore reduce the price much more than the mere difference of 2s. 4d. per cwt., or a farthing per pound. Upon the whole, I am of opinion, that were the duty fixed at 21s. it would bring down the price of sugar sufficiently to give a great impulse to the consumption.I believe that to be the case. I believe that the effect of the duty we have fixed upon will be to bring down the price to so much and no more as will bring sugar into 63 general consumption—as will at once increase our supply and bring in a large amount of revenue to the country. The West India body may complain of the reduction in the price of sugar; but I think they will admit that the present price is higher than it has been for the last three or four years, and even higher than they would wish to see maintained as a permanent price. I say this, because I believe that it is their interest to extend consumption, and this can only be done by lowering the price of sugar. I believe that their interest, as well as the interest of every other class in the country, is involved in low profits and large productions. If they will consult the manufacturers they will tell them that this is the system which has answered best with them. The same I believe to be true of the agriculturists of this country. I believe that, with increased productions, even with lower profits upon those increased productions, their interests will be far better consulted in the end, than by attempting to keep up higher prices, at which the great body of the people complain and grumble. And be it observed, that, whilst low prices and large productions produce the same effect on the profits of the producer, the consumers of the country have the benefit of a large supply at a more reasonable and moderate price. I, therefore, believe that with the low duty proposed we may reasonably expect an increased consumption of many thousand tons in the course of the year. I don't know why the increase in the consumption should not equal that of last year. Last year the increase in the consumption amounted to 42,000 tons. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) calculated the increase at 43,000; and the result was within 1,000 tons of his estimate. But, as I said before, the consumption was checked by an inadequate supply; and why with an adequate supply we should not look for an increased consumption—say a consumption of 280,000 or 290,000 tons—I cannot see; and if so, I need not point out to the House the benefits and blessings which this would bring to the nation. I think I have, on the first branch of the subject into which the noble Lord divided what he addressed to the House, shown that his estimate of the supply is far above what we are likely to obtain; while, at the same time, his estimate of the consumption is far less than we have a right to calculate upon. It would, of course, be rash to say precisely what I 64 thought the probable increase of consumption will be. That will depend upon the price, the supply, and many other things which we cannot command. All that we can do is to take care that there shall be no imposition of high duties to check the fall of price and the increase of consumption. When we have done that, we have done all that is in the power of the Legislature to accomplish. I now come to the second branch, namely, the question of revenue; and perhaps it may be necessary for me to state what my view of the income and expenditure at this moment is. Gentlemen will remember, that ten years ago the revenue was in a flourishing state; after that time, however, partly owing to a bad harvest, and partly owing to a depression of trade, the revenue fell off. In 1839 this deficiency was aggravated by a measure, the passing of which, I am sure, nobody now regrets or wishes undone—I mean the measure for the reduction of postage. In 1840 my right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed an additional 5 per cent on the Customs and Excise; and, in 1841, an attempt was made to reinforce the revenue by measures in which the Government were defeated and retired from power. In 1842, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) came into power. Since that time the revenue has been in a flourishing state, mainly owing to the considerable amount of revenue produced by the income tax; partly to the commercial measures of the right hon. Baronet; and very much also to the good harvests, to a prosperous state of trade, and various other circumstances. I am afraid, however, that these good times are not likely to last. Last year there was considerable stagnation of trade; and I am afraid we cannot look forward with the same pleasure as we can look back. Two days ago I received a circular from Manchester, in which it is stated—We have had another month of depression in this market, almost without a precedent for dulness and paucity of transactions. Notwithstanding the fine prospects of an early and abundant harvest, trade continues embarrassed, and a restlessness and apprehension everywhere apparent, which checks improvement, and almost debars the hope of any favourable change during the remaining part of the year.I shall now notice the Estimate of the Income and Expenditure given by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. In his financial statement this year, he estimated the— 65
£ Total Income for the year 1846–7, at 51,650,000 Deduct China money 700,000 Estimated permanent Income 50,950,000
The Expenditure at 50,873,540 Deduct an expenditure comprised in his Estimate, which may not be required again 200,000 50,673,540
That is, supposing all the estimated revenue shall remain the same, and the expense of the establishments shall be as the right hon. Gentleman has estimated, there will be to add next year an increased sum of 628,500l. to the Estimates, making the whole expenditure 51,302,000l.; and if we suppose that the income shall remain the same, there will be a deficiency on the next year of 352,000l. That being so, the House will see the necessity why, from some source or other, additional sources of income should be provided. And, Sir, I cannot see, looking at the course which has been taken in the last Session, any possibility of such a reduction in the public expenditure as will render it unnecessary to provide additional sources of income. Let us compare the expenditure of the years 1835 and 1845 from returns laid upon the Table of this House; and I will take the year 1835, because the Estimates of that year were not prepared by Gentlemen on this side of the House, and I will take the expenditure of 1845 because it 66 excludes the increase in the establishments made this year which the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Williams) thinks may be reduced in consequence of the more pacific aspect of our foreign affairs; but let us compare the expenditure of the year 1835 with the expenditure of the year 1845, and we shall find that the charges have thus increased:—
Portion of expense of the Irish constabulary now defrayed by Irish counties, to be hereafter charged on Consolidated Fund 175,000 Deferred Estimate for a quarter of a year on account of certain army and ordnance services 283,000 Voted for half a year only in Estimates of 1846–7:— Half a year's expenditure for auditors, schoolmasters, and medical officers of Poor Law unions 61,500 Half year's expense of prosecutions 60,000 Ditto, Ireland 9,000 Half year's expense of maintaining prisoners under sentence of felony 40,000 628,500 Total future permanent Expenditure 51,302,040 Deficiency 352,040 50,950,000
Making the whole increase in the expenditure in the ten years between 1835 and 1845 no less a sum than 5,081,000l. Now, I confess that I do not see any disposition in this House to diminish materially this expenditure, When I consider the hardships of our colonial service upon our soldiers, the increased colonial possessions for which we have to provide defences—I allude to China and New Zealand—and what is going on at the Cape of Good Hope, I do not see any probability, consistently with justice to our soldiers, of the diminution of the number of our army. Their services are so hard that the reliefs ought not to be less frequent; they are exposed to services such as no other army has to perform; and, considering the state of our trade and Colonies, I do not think it possible that we can materially, or at all, reduce the number of our army. Has the House, however, pressed for a reduction? Quite the contrary. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster asks for changes which will involve an expenditure of 100,000l., and the hon. Member for Tavistock, when he is anxious to put down corporal punishment, is of opinion that this 67 will necessarily lead to an increase in the pay of the army. With regard to the navy, with which I am better acquainted, it is impossible not to see that the introduction of steam ships and that the other increase in the number of our large ships will make calls which will not cause any diminution in the expenditure for that service. The hon. and gallant Officer (Sir C. Napier) wishes now to increase the retiring allowance to worn-out officers, and there would be, in case of war, a necessity perhaps for increasing the pay. In the Ordnance also the increase of the heavy guns, and the supply of guns of a greater calibre and weight to our artillery and our fortifications, will prevent any reduction. A large expenditure must also take place to provide increased harbours of refuge for the steam ships of this country. I had hoped that more would have been already done; but it is impossible to conceal from ourselves, or from the House, that a large expenditure must take place for these purposes. The right hon. Baronet also reminds me of the state of the fortifications on our coasts and in the Colonies. The use of steam has no doubt involved the necessity for a large expenditure; our coasts are no longer in the same security as formerly; inroads and attacks may be made upon them which make it absolutely indispensable that they should be in a fit state for defence. I do not mean that we may anticipate any invasion; but attacks and inroads may be made to which it is impossible this country may be made to which it is impossible this country can submit without having the means of defence. With respect to the Miscellaneous expenditure, increased charges have been pressed upon the House which I am far from saying are unjust. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) has pointed out some small matter for saving; but if I look at Education, I find that the House has complained of its inadequacy, and has already granted an increased amount. I am sure the House will willingly consent to taxes for such a purpose; and there are many other objects for the improvement and the gratification of the public which have been pressed by hon. Members upon the House, but all involving an increase of expenditure. There is another subject which has weighed much upon my mind—the power of providing adequate secondary punishments so as to obviate the necessity for transportation. In my opinion we ought, in some way or another, to provide the means for inflicting 68 secondary punishments, by the enlargement of prisons, or by some other mode. I cannot, therefore, look to any reduction of the Estimates. I look rather to an increase; and it becomes then absolutely necessary that we should provide an adequate income. In a recent discussion, Mr. Gladstone met my noble Friend's Resolution against the reduction of the Sugar Duties, my noble Friend having declared that by the mode in which they were dealt with the income tax would not come to an end in three years, by saying that he was utterly at a loss to know what my noble Friend saw to render the reduction unlikely, and the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—
Estimates. 1835. 1845. Increase. £ £ £ Charges on Consolidated Fund, other than Debt 2,106,000 2,598,000 492,000 Army, Navy, and Ordnance 11,657,000 15,664,000 4,007,000 Miscellaneous Services 2,144,000 2,726,000 582,000He was also prepared to deny that the present measure would render the renewal of the income tax at the end of three more years inevitable. He would not then go into the question as to the continuance of the property tax; but he could not help observing that it must excite some curiosity as to what made the noble Lord suggest, three years beforehand, such a strong opinion as to the non-removal of the property tax at the end of three years.Now, my noble Friend showed no extraordinary foresight in saying that the income tax would not be removed in three years. That declaration was made a year and a half ago; the year's surplus on ordinary revenue is calculated at 70,000l. only, and unless the revenue be increased by some means, there will be in the next year a probable deficiency of 350,000l.; whilst the income derived from the income tax forms no less an item than 5,000,000l. My noble Friend was amply justified, therefore, in supposing that it would not be taken off at the end of the three years. How far the development of the industry, increased by the commercial measures of the last few years, and still more, of the present Session, will still further improve the revenue, I will not pretend to say; but looking at the present amount of income and expenditure, and the removal of the income tax, if any one is sanguine enough to entertain such a hope—we must find some other source of increasing our income, in order that we may uphold the credit of the country by the payment of the interest on the debt, and maintain those establishments which are absolutely necessary for our honour and security. I do not know whether I can state the probable amount of income to be derived from sugar, because it depends very much upon the supply; but if we take the supply of Colonial sugar at 240,000 69 tons, with a duty of 14s., we shall have an income of 3,460,000l.; if the supply of free-labour sugar be 15,000 tons, at 21s., the duty will amount to 315,000l.; or the duty on the two will produce 3,775,000l.; but then we shall have only 255,000 tons for consumption. If, however, as I expect, we have at least 20,000 tons of slave-labour sugar, they will raise the revenue to 4,195,000l.; or if, as I hope, we shall have 30,000 tons beyond the colonial and free labour sugar, we shall have a revenue of 4,405,000l. from sugar. I hope now that I have disposed of the two first branches of my noble Friend's argument; and both with reference to an adequate supply of sugar and the amount of revenue, I think I have shown it to be indispensably necessary to adopt the measure which Her Majesty's Government now propose; I think that our proposal will attain both objects, and I do think that it would have done so if we had not gone so far. By the present measure retaining the differential duty, we not only provide for the admission into this country of a large supply from the sugar-producing countries, but we also provide a larger income than we could have formed by any other measure. I know that some hon. Gentlemen wish that we had at once reduced the duties to 10s. on colonial and 15s. on free-labour sugar, keeping up the same differential duty of 50 per cent; but we should not have been justified in making any such rash proposal. I do not believe there is sugar enough in the world to come into consumption at such a rate of duties, so as to give anything like the requisite amount of revenue. When the time shall come that there shall be a supply adequate to the consumption of this country, we may hope for a reduction of duty, and no one will be more happy than myself to see that day; but in the present state of the supply we should not have been justified in going beyond what we have now done. My noble Friend then comes to his last topic—the encouragement which he supposes this measure will give to slavery and the Slave Trade. It is, Sir, impossible not to admire and respect the opinions and the feelings of those who take that view of the subject. Nevertheless, notwithstanding his harrowing description of the mode in which the Slave Trade is carried on, and of the hardships suffered by the slaves in Cuba and elsewhere, I think my noble Friend failed to show how this measure will promote the Slave Trade, or how if you reject it we shall not still be liable to a charge of 70 that kind. Anxious though he be to clear this country from such an imputation, can he say, even if we refuse to sanction this measure, that we are exempt from the charge of encouraging slavery and the Slave Trade, so far as measures of this kind could affect either? My noble Friend says that he would abstain from the use of sugar grown by slave labour, but that he would not deny himself the use of other articles the produce of slave labour. Where he would draw the distinction I cannot say. Other nations do use the produce of slave labour, and though he objects to this measure, we do take slave-grown produce ourselves in many ways. It is notorious that this country derives taxes and revenue from the produce of slave labour of various kinds; from slave-grown tobacco, from slave-grown cotton, and from slave-produced copper. I apprehend there is no way in which greater cruelty is practised than in the working of the slave-produced copper of Cuba; yet we have increased considerably the importation of slave-produced copper. In 1840 the inportation was only 26,000 tons, and in 1845 it was 41,000. With regard to slave-grown sugar itself, we do import slave-grown sugar, and keep it in bond to export, not only to the rest of the world but even to our own Colonies. Last year we exported 273,000 cwts. of slave-grown sugar refined in bond in this country; and the colonists in the West Indies, not condescending to eat their own free-labour sugar, sent to this country to obtain the slave-grown sugar refined here, and last year there were exported to the West Indian Colonies 50,000 cwt. of slave-grown sugar; and to suppose that, provided we abstain from the use of the sugar ourselves, we shall be free from the imputation of encouraging slavery and the Slave Trade, is a delusion almost too gross to be palmed upon the people of this country. Nay, further, what is the whole of our trade with Cuba and with the Brazils, but an encouragement of the Slave Trade? The Brazilians take annually 2,500,000l. of our merchandise: how is it paid for? What have the Brazilians wherewith to pay for it except their own slave-grown produce? What does it matter whether they pay for this merchandise directly or indirectly? No country can pay for what it receives except by what it produces. All the produce of the Brazils is slave-grown: we as effectually encourage the slave-grown produce when we receive a payment indirectly, as when we receive it directly; 71 and, unless hon. Gentlemen are prepared to put down all trade with every country in which the produce is obtained by slave labour, they cannot lay their hands upon their hearts and say that they are free from the imputation of encouraging slavery and the Slave Trade. I hope, notwithstanding its length, that the House will allow me to read a letter from a Brazilian on this subject. He is speaking of the commercial measures of his own country:—I should wish to see this subject better explained, because, for my part, I do not see what difference the entry or non-entry of our sugar for consumption in England would make to us Brazilians. I do not see that at the close of the crops any remains to be sold; but, on the contrary, there are always more purchasers than sugar. If, therefore, we have foreign and English capital in our ports always ready to buy our sugar, what need we care where we carry it? Naturally, they will take it to the best market; and if English legislators do not wish the English people to consume sugar so cheap as the other nations of Europe, what is that to us? The English admit Brazilian and American cotton because they want it; and yet it is planted and collected by slaves. What inconsistency in human nature! At one time wishing to appear humane, at another disregarding humanity when self-interests are at stake! Who, therefore, has reason to complain of the non-admission of sugar for consumption? It is the English themselves, through their legislators not consenting that they should purchase sugar so cheap as other nations. According to what I see also, the people to be benefited in case of the admission of the sugar, would be the English themselves alone; because they would save the commissions and freights, &c., which they now pay to the foreign vessels for taking the sugar to the ports of Europe; the returns of the sales of their merchandise would go direct to them; they would profit a great deal by the employment of their shipping, by store, rent, &c. Sugar would go to the ports of Europe and even to England, without any necessity for a misunderstanding upon a point really so imaginary for us, and which would only benefit manufacturers themselves, the English merchants and their shipping; and in course of time, perhaps, if sugars should be admitted, England might become the depot for ours, and the European nations would go there to buy it, instead of coming to Brazil. Hence, perhaps, we should lose that concurrence of foreigners in our markets which we now have; and, therefore, I am doubtful whether we should gain anything by the admission of our sugar for consumption in England. For a long time I have wondered how it is that England has consented that the transport of Brazil sugar should be monopolized by foreign vessels, when the capital employed for loading the same is, for the greater part, English, she being so watchful in affairs regarding her commerce and navigation; but the blindness of that party to whom the English islands are mortgaged is such, and their influence so great in the English Legislative Chambers, that the Executive Government does not dare to propose the admission of sugar; and the manufacturers and merchants have not sufficient influence in the Chambers to obtain it. 72 I do not see, therefore, that the 'non-admission' of our sugar in England does us any harm.It is English capital that buys the Brazilian goods, it is Brazilian exports that go to pay for our produce; if they are sent to foreign and European markets, the product is brought over to pay us. The produce of Brazilian sugar and coffee grown by slave labour go to pay our merchants as much as if they were sent directly to them, and so we do encourage the slave-grown sugar of the Brazils. But the question does not even stop here. A few years ago we admitted free-labour sugar into this country. What was the state of things before that? We were supplied from the produce of our own Colonies, but the continental countries were supplied partly by free-labour sugar, and partly by slave labour; the foreigner made no distinction; and is it not self-evident that if we take from the Continent a portion of the supply, and the consumption does not decrease, the deficiency will be supplied by slave-grown sugar? We take the free-labour sugar, but we encourage the slave-grown, because the Continent makes up its supply from the latter. You may as well say, or fancy, that you can lower the liquid in one vessel having a communication with another without affecting the liquid in that other, as that you can secure the Continent from using slave-grown sugar to fill up the vacuum caused by your taking the free-labour sugar. You may see the converse of this in what took place last year. The supply of sugar to the Continent fell short in consequence of a failure of slave-grown sugar in Cuba, and the consequence was that the free-labour sugar was exported from this country to supply the deficiency. The right hon. Gentleman opposite stated at the beginning of this Session that such had been the effect upon the continental market. He stated that he was disappointed in the supply of free-labour sugar which had come to this country; and that the reason of it was the short supply of slave-grown sugar in the continental markets? Does the noble Lord suppose that when we take free-labour sugar out of the continental market, slave-grown sugar will not be introduced there to supply its place, just as free-labour sugar was introduced to supply the place of slave-grown? In an indirect mode, therefore, it is the same as if we took the slave-grown sugar ourselves. The right hon. Gentlemen the late Secretary for the Colonies admitted that such 73 was the tendency of the present system; but, after the experience of the last year, would any man doubt that what that right hon. Gentleman admitted was the tendency has been the actual fact? We have attempted to lay down a principle which cannot be carried out; whilst at the same time we deprive the great body of the people of that which has become an actual necessary of life. I do not think my noble Friend is supported by the universal authority even of those most opposed to slavery in the opinion he has expressed, that this measure is necessarily and certainly an encouragement of the Slave Trade. We must remember that a considerable change has come over the opinions of the most honest and sincere men who have hitherto been the foremost of the Anti-Slavery Society. I hold in my hand an account of the proceedings of the Liverpool Anti-Slavery Society, at a recent meeting, and I find that they take a very different view from that of my noble Friend of the effect of this measure. They declare their conviction that free labour will be as cheap and as effectual as slave labour, and they express their anxiety that the measure proposed by Government may pass into a law, and they conclude with a resolution to this effect—That this society cannot but express their decided impression that by the maintenance of the course of policy hitherto pursued, the influence of the British Government over other nations will be ineffectual for the objects in view, and that the measures proposed by the Ministers of the Crown, which are in harmony with the general principles of commercial policy pursued by the late Administration, taken in connexion with friendly negotiations with other Powers, and, as this society believe, with the successful issue of the experiment about to be made by the West India Colonies, will be more effectual to put down slavery and the Slave Trade than any other means.I entirely concur in that opinion, and I believe that the successful result, which I look forward to most sanguinely, of this experiment about to be tried in the West Indies, by extending the cultivation by free labour, and by other means within our power, will tend more effectually to put down slavery and the Slave Trade than the abstinence from such measures as this, and refusing to the people of this country an adequate supply of sugar, and to the Exchequer the means of making up the deficiency in our revenue. I will only say a very few words with regard to the West India colonists. No one would regret more than myself that this measure should inflict upon the West India colonists a permanent injury. No Government can 74 be insensible to the great interests involved in the West India Colonies, and I believe that if permanent and irremediable injury were to be inflicted upon them, we should inflict not a benefit but an injury upon the consumer of sugar; for I look to them as the great source whence this country will obtain a permanent supply; but I believe that with their means and capital they will be able to cultivate upon more advantageous terms than any other country, even those that use slave labour, and that it is to them we shall in time be indebted for the larger supply of our sugar. Just as I believe the landlords of this country will not suffer permanently by the measures already passed this Session, so do I believe that the West India planters will not suffer from this measure, but that, by increased skill, and energy, and capital, they will so far increase their produce as to make up for any loss they might otherwise sustain from a diminution in the price of sugar. They have had the benefit of a reduction of 10s. per cwt. in the duty on their produce. They will now have the advantage, and I believe it to be a great one, of the permanent settlement of this question. All they require is, as my noble Friend said, though I say it in a sense different from that which he intended, to be let alone. They wish to be saved the annual discussion of this question, and the possibility of this House, year after year, reducing their protection, and altering their position. What they look to as a greater benefit than anything else is the permanent settlement of this question, and that advantage at least they will have from this measure. But my noble Friend says that slave labour is infinitely cheaper than free labour; and he quotes, as a proof of it, a comparison between the labour of Louisiana and the Mauritius; but I remember stating last year, on the authority of an hon. Member who had the means of knowing himself, that free labour in Mexico was quite as productive as the slave labour of Cuba; and I can hardly believe that free labour, with the inducement of good wages, will not do more than the listless work of slave labour. Further, I understand that at this moment the people of Cuba are so dissatisfied with the result of slave labour, that they are importing no less than 3,000 free labourers. There may be, and I believe there is, in many Colonies, a deficiency of labour. They have asked to be permitted to import labourers from other parts of the world. To a certain 75 extent that permission, has been given to them by the late Government, and the present Government are willing to extend that permission further. They are willing to permit them to procure from any British settlement free labour, imposing no other restriction than that which is necessary to provide against the possibility of anything approaching to the Slave Trade. All that the Government insists on is, that special precaution be taken that the labour shall be really and truly free. More, I believe, the West Indies could not ask—more certainly the Government could not give. And during the time that this experiment is being carried out, no meagre show of protection is afforded to them. In the first year they are to have a protection of 50 per cent over the duty imposed on their own produce; in the next year it is to be 43 per cent.; in the third year, 32 per cent.; in the fourth, 21 per cent.; and in the fifth year 10 per cent.; at the end of which it will expire. In the third year, which is said to be the most critical period, they will have a protection on the amount of duty; and I do not think, with that share of protection, which I do not say is too much, but is such as they are fairly entitled to, and using that skill and energy which is required so to improve their mode of agriculture as to make up for any diminution in price, they are likely to fail in the experiment. But I hope they will not be contented with importing labour. It will not do in this country to cultivate undrained land and to adopt merely the old system of cultivation. Farmers here are obliged to drain their land, to import manure, and to improve their land in every way. The West Indians must do the same; they must adopt all the improvements which modern science and skill can suggest; and with that I sanguinely hope that during the next five years they will maintain that position which they have hitherto held, of furnishing the large supply of this country. At this time I will not go into the details of those accompanying measures which they have requested should be brought forward at the same time with the measures for the reduction of the duty upon sugar. They have said, that forasmuch as protection for them is to cease, it is fair that protection against them should cease also. We have admitted that principle; but they must remember that, till protection does actually cease for them, they cannot fairly claim 76 that protection against them is to cease either. All I can say is, that those measures shall have my fullest and best consideration, and that no claim they can make, shall be withheld, provided they can be in justice and fairness granted. They asked that I should give in some measure an earnest of that disposition; and I have been able to give them one measure as such earnest, without any apprehension, viz., the reduction of one-third of the differential duty on rum; that difference not being imposed for protection, but to equalize the duty on British and colonial spirits when they come into consumption. This has been done for them; and I can assure them that I promise with the utmost sincerity to treat with fairness every claim they can make. I believe they will ultimately triumph in the great experiment they are about to try. With all that skill, energy, and power, which belong to the merchants and planters of those Colonies, it will be a measure of benefit and not of injury: to all other the merchants and manufacturers of this country, I entertain the most sanguine hope that it will be most beneficial; and there is one class of merchants in this country whose interests my noble Friend on a former occasion advocated—the British shipowner, to whom I believe it will be most advantageous. At present the carrying trade of sugar from Cuba and Brazil is carried on mainly in foreign bottoms. I trust that the result of this change will be that it will be almost entirely carried on in British ships. Under the navigation laws of this country, sugar from Brazil and Cuba, for consumption in this country, can only come hither in British, Brazilian, and Spanish bottoms. It will be an advantage, therefore, that the sugar should be brought home in vessels which will admit of its being entered in this country; and if not wanted here, may go on to continental ports; exactly as was formerly the case when the chief supply of Northern Europe come from our West India Colonies. It is the practice for ships bringing home sugar to call off Cowes for orders, and to land it here, or convey it forward to such continental port as they find orders for at Cowes. I trust that the sugar will, after this measure is carried, come home in British vessels; and those vessels will not only have the benefit of bringing the cargoes here, or carrying them to the other ports in the north of Europe, but they will have also the benefit of the back carriage. But, after all, that large body of 77 whose interests I think we are bound to take the greatest care, I mean the great body of the labouring population of this country, are those who will derive the greatest benefit from this measure: whatever we may do for others, they are the persons whose welfare and comfort we are bound most attentively to look to; and I do not think that we can confer upon them a greater benefit than that which I believe will be the result of this measure—a cheap and abundant supply of that necessary article of life, sugar.
§ SIR R. INGLIS
thanked the noble Lord the Member for Lynn for the practical and temperate Resolution which he had proposed for the adoption of the House, and he thanked him equally for the speech with which he had introduced it—a speech so comprehensive in details and abounding in facts—in which, too, every fact was an argument in itself—a speech on which, for his own part, he could have been content to have rested the decision of this question. But as it was not the custom of that House that battles should be decided by single combatants, he trusted that, considering how long he had taken a warm interest in this subject, he might be permitted to say a few words upon it on the present occasion. He must say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to him to be, during the great portion of the speech, a Chancellor of the Exchequer anticipating the budget of the next year. He could not help fancying, while he was speaking, that they had arrived at about the 10th of May next, and listening to the very melancholy statement, he feared it would be the right hon. Gentleman's duty then to pronounce. He said that they wanted 350,000l.—that they would be deficient to that extent—and that, per fas aut nefas, that amount they must have; but whether by legitimate commerce, or by the sufferings and torture of the poor Africans, the right hon. Gentleman did not, he was afraid, seem much to care. He wished to say a few words in regard to the question of the obligation of treaties with reference to this subject; because, if they were bound by treaty to grant the concession of which the noble Lord the Member for Lynn had now spoken, and that they were to give to Spain an advantage that Brazil could not claim, it was pure concession so far as Brazil was concerned; and he could not, in such a case, come to the conclusion at which the 78 Chancellor of the Exchequer had arrived, because that at which the noble Lord had arrived was by far the most obvious. There were two Members of the present Cabinet who knew more of the Treaty of Utrecht, for one of them had written upon the subject, and the other was writing; but he would venture to ask a right hon. Friend of his opposite, whose eye he now caught, whether any Spanish merchant could have thought of claiming the concession given under that Treaty, when no Englishman was ever permitted to approach the colonial possessions of Spain. The Treaty of Utrecht was limited to the persons of the two nations in Europe itself. But if his own convictions were different from what they were; and if he admitted that by the Treaty in question that could be granted which had been asked by the Duque de Sotomayor last year, he should still say with the noble Lord that that obligation ought to be remitted, which placed Spain on the footing of the most favoured nation. The tortures to which the noble Lord had called the attention of the House, were tortures they were prepared to sanction and revive, if they agreed to the proposition now under consideration; because every ton of slave-grown sugar which they introduced into Christian England was a ton of sugar purchased by the blood and suffering of the African slaves; and every three African slaves were in all probability the remains of nine unfortunate slaves exported from their native homes. If they multiplied those by twenty the number of individuals they deliberately wronged—they, a Christian assembly, professing humanity and an abhorrence of everything bearing the name of slavery, would be 180,000 a year. Holding such opinions, and making such professions, were they to encourage such a system? No. He most deliberately exclaimed, "God forbid that they ever should!" He sincerely hoped that those at least who had ever been in that House the antagonists of the Slave Trade, would not now be found wanting, but that they would, to the utmost of their ability, resist this measure. He maintained it was not a party measure. It was as little a party measure as any that could be conceived; and the noble Lord who sat behind him (Lord George Bentinck) had a few evenings before stated as emphatically as he (Sir R. H. Inglis) did now, that the party occupying the protection benches were not influenced in the vote they were about to 79 give by any party consideration whatever. They only wished to obtain greater time for consideration, and that more time might be granted to those whose interests would be affected by the measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that the amount of free-labour sugar imported into this country during the past year, had been very small. The fact that the experiments now in progress had not had time to be duly developed, was one of the principal considerations which induced the opponents of the measure to urge the necessity of delay. They had heard of the enormous increase of the free-labour sugar of India, and had been informed that the actual produce was 500,000 tons. Was it too much to suppose that when the markets were thrown open, a great quantity of it would find its way into the markets of England. Was it not clear that within the last year 35,800 tons had been exported from the Mauritius, and that the quantity calculated for the years 1846–7 would exceed 60,000 tons, and all for the English market. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to read returns from various estates in the Mauritius, to show that the annual produce, and the exports to England, had been considerably on the increase. There was one estate in particular, called the Great Manner Estate, the returns from which showed an extraordinary increase—the production in 1844, being 100 tons; in 1845, 200 tons; in 1846, 800 tons; and the amount exported in the ensuing year was calculated at 1,000 tons. By these and other returns which he held in his hand, he was prepared to prove that one of our Colonies alone could supply us with one-fourth of the entire quantity required for home consumption. If, then, one Colony alone could produce one-fourth of the whole amount consumed in this country during the past year, need they despair but that by continuing encouragement to the native industry of their fellow subjects in the East and West Indies, and in the Mauritius, those places would be able to furnish an abundant supply of sugar without throwing open our markets to slave-grown sugar? They ought to bear in mind that in some of the Colonies they had an unlimited command of soil, upon which they could raise sugar to any extent the wants of the country could require. All that would be necessary to secure this end would be to give the British proprietor that encourage- 80 ment which, as a fellow subject, he was unquestionably justly entitled to expect; and all that the opponents to the present measure asked was, that the House would not anticipate the result of a great experiment, so fatal as to destroy all prospects of succeeding in such object; but, on the contrary, to extend to their fellow countrymen such a fair and equitable preference—he did not mean an exclusive preference—as would have the effect of reimbursing them for their industry and the outlay of their capital. So much consideration, at the least, they were entitled to receive at our hands. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had stated that the rejection of the present proposition for the settlement of this question would deprive a great body of the people of that which could not but be regarded as a chief necessary of life. This was probably too poetical a form of speech for a Chancellor of the Exchequer now-a-days, to use; but he begged to say that nothing contained in the Amendment of the noble Lord would deprive the people of a pound, no not even an ounce of sugar. It would only prevent their morning or their evening meal being, if he might so speak, tainted with the blood of their fellow creatures. This, he apprehended, was a matter of the soberest truth. It had been stated, he believed, by the Government, as explicitly as words could convey the meaning, that the effect of this measure would be to encourage slave labour. If such should prove to be the case, undoubtedly all the consequences would be on the heads of those who so encouraged it. But it had been said, on the other hand, "You are heartless, inconsistent wretches—you encourage slave labour now—the very clothes you wear are produced by the labour of slaves, and the cigars and snuff which you use are also produced by their exertions." His reply to this would be, "Is it because I cannot do all the good I wish, I am to be persuaded to do as much ill as my neighbour may tempt me to do?" He would take the question up as he found it, and would not voluntarily add to the amount of evil, or increase by any action of his the amount of human suffering. He believed that the proposed measure of the Government, unless checked by the Amendment proposed by his noble Friend, would increase to a lamentable extent the sufferings of the African population, and entail upon that inoffensive people more misery than this country could bear to dwell upon. He 81 was glad to perceive the feeling with which the House had listened to the address of his noble Friend. They had listened to it with deep but silent emotion, that did honour to them as an assembly, and well befitted a British House of Commons. He hoped, however, they would not be contented with an exhibition of silent feeling, but that they would second those impressions by practical results. He, at least, would not be a party to the perpetration or the continuation of horrors such as those which the noble Lord had so feelingly recited. Those horrors were of a most fearful description. The slave ships engaged in this most odious traffic carried at the present time larger cargoes (if such we might call a freight of human beings) than at any previous time. One vessel alone was known to have taken out 1,500, another 700, another 800, and another, in three voyages, made within thirteen months, landed 1,820 slaves. When they considered that the prime cost was but from 8 to 18 dols., and that when landed they sold for 300 dols., they could not wonder, that educated, as unhappily the great body of slavedealers were, without either the love of God or the fear of man, they could forego a traffic, the enormous profits of which proved so gainful to them. He trusted there would be found in that House, and in the country, those who would refuse to purchase the luxury of 20,000 tons of sugar on such terms; and they would rather be content to pay a fraction, which at the utmost could not amount to more than three-halfpence in the pound, to encourage the industry of their own countrymen; and, if such were not deemed a privilege, to avoid the course of encouraging slave-grown sugar produced at such a fearful sacrifice of human life. Under these circumstances, and holding such opinions, it was needless for him to say how cordially he concurred in the Amendment of the noble Lord, and how ardently he hoped it might be adopted by the House. As Englishmen and as Christians, he believed they would be best discharging their duty to their country and their God if they refused to give further sanction or support to a system so injurious to man, and so dishonouring to his Creator.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
should not feel himself entitled to follow any other course than that which his hon. Friend (Sir R. H. Inglis) had chalked out for himself, if he took the same view of the proposition now before the House. The position of 82 things was now entirely different from what it was in 1841. The House, about a year and a half ago, had taken steps for the admission of foreign sugar to the British market; and such being the case, the question for consideration now was, whether the admission of slave-grown foreign sugar in addition to free-grown foreign sugar did practically give any appreciable encouragement to slavery? From the very first moment when the proposition was started, he had expressed doubts on the subject. He had expressed a doubt whether it were wise to introduce into the Tariff a new distinction—a distinction between slave and free-grown sugar which had never before been recognised. But, under the circumstances, he had with that sort of general protest, followed the lead of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel). A proposition was now made by Her Majesty's Government which compelled the House to reconsider the question in all its bearings. Following out the theory applicable to the subject, and referring to the experience of merchants, he could come to no other conclusion than that, when once they entered the foreign market, they practically entered the foreign market for slave-grown as well as free-grown produce. He would take Hamburgh as representing under one name the whole markets of the Continent, Java as representing the places which supplied free foreign, and Cuba as representing the places which produced slave sugar. He would take the supply required by Hamburgh arbitrarily from both sources at 100,000 tons. He would suppose each of these could supply one-half of that quantity, and that they did so upon equal terms at the price which the inhabitants of Hamburgh would give. But England had opened her market to the sugar of Java; and as long as there was one shilling of difference between the market of Hamburgh and the market of London, making the latter more advantageous, the whole of the Java sugar would come to England. How was the void to be filled up? Why, the market of Hamburgh was open to the sugar of Cuba; and it would be found that the encouragement given by this country to Java was in the Hamburgh market an encouragement given to Cuba sugar. The distinction of free and of slave-grown sugar was a fallacy, by adopting which they might gratify their feelings; but they would not obtain their object, and would interfere with their own commerce. If it were a mere protest 83 in which they might indulge without harm, let them have the benefit of that fiscal protest. But such was not its character; for it operated as a discouragement on the British merchant. He had taken every means in his power to ascertain whether it were considered that the measure proposed by the noble Lord opposite would have the effect of encouraging the Slave Trade. He had applied for information to disinterested parties, as well as to persons who had taken a most decided part in opposition to the Slave Trade and to slavery in every shape; and the opinion distinctly expressed was, that this measure was not viewed as in any way likely to promote or encourage the Slave Trade. Under these circumstances, he must say he thought it was time that this fallacy should be dispelled, for though it was a fallacy, it was not altogether innocent in its results. It had produced a great degree of irritation in Brazil, Spain, and other countries; it had inclined those Powers to throw every possible obstruction in the way of our commerce; and had placed English merchants trading with those countries in such a position, that not only their property, but even their lives, had been in jeopardy. For these reasons, then, he could not concur in the position which had been assumed, but not proved, by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the effect of this measure would be to give additional encouragement to the Slave Trade. It was an important question to consider in what manner they could deal with that odious traffic. He confessed that, in his opinion, every Government which had been in power since the passing of the Emancipation Act, had failed most decidedly in dealing with this subject. When they passed the measure of emancipation, they thought the work was done, when, in fact, it was only begun. The free labour of the East Indies had competed successfully with slave labour in the European markets; and he could not conceive what peculiarity there was in the position of our West Indian Colonies which should excite any apprehension with regard to the effects of this measure. Attempts to introduce free labourers into those Colonies had always been viewed with great jealousy; but he thought those apprehensions should be disregarded, and that they should boldly say, "We are making a great experiment, and we only seek to substitute one kind of labour for another." They should fairly explain the precautions they intended to take, and then they should encourage the importa- 84 tion of free labour from any quarter from which it could be obtained. The jealousy with which every step in this direction had been viewed, the readiness with which every failure in the experiment had been seized upon as a reason—not for remedying abuses, but for altogether withholding the practice, had left them, at the end of twelve or fourteen years, nearly in the same position in which they were before. He hoped, however, that the Government of his noble Friend opposite (Lord J. Russell), who, he thought, on the question of a supply of free labour to the Colonies, had shown more courage than most Ministers, would deal boldly with this subject, regardless of the imputation that, in carrying such a system into effect, they would be encouraging the Slave Trade. They knew such an imputation was not true. They knew it was totally false that any Slave Trade, or the shadow of a Slave Trade, could be established or encouraged, by introducing free labourers into the Colonies under a system of apprenticeship. They had been told of the miserable condition of the East Indian Coolies and of the West Indian labourers. Those representations, unfortunately, were true; but they ought to endeavour to use the resources of this vast Empire for the benefit of its subjects, and to place their East Indian fellow subjects in a position equal to that of those who, in this portion of the Empire, enjoyed higher advantages. Of course if such an experiment as he suggested were tried, it would be necessary that proper securities with regard to engagements and the rate of wages should be adopted. He considered that the postponement of this question for a year, and the uncertainty which must in the meantime prevail as to the intentions of the Government and the decision of Parliament, would be most injurious to our colonial interests. How could any one, interested as he might be in the East or West Indies, honestly advise any man to embark his property in those Colonies, while so much uncertainty clouded their future prospects? He thought that our Colonies ought to possess some advantage in the markets of this country over foreign nations. He considered, however, that it was most desirable the Colonies should know upon what they could rely; and upon nothing, perhaps, could they now more certainly rely than upon this—that the total abolition of all discriminating duties, at one period or another, was inevita- 85 ble. Entertaining these views, he rejoiced that the question was now brought to an issue. He thought it most important, for the prosperity of our East and West India markets of supply, that they should know, as early as possible, the conditions by which they were hereafter to be bound. It was certainly impossible to doubt, after the statement of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), that our East Indies Colonies were perfectly able to compete, in the production of sugar, with any foreign producers in the markets of the world, without protection. If the accounts read by that noble Lord were correct, if a man was able to realize 24,000l. by one year's crop, after an expenditure of 8,000l. during two years, there could be no doubt on this subject. He considered it most unwise to retain the present discriminating duties between free-labour and slave-labour sugar. That system of duties had failed to accomplish its object, and it had created great irritation on the part of all those nations to which it had applied. Considering, then, that that had been a mistaken system of legislation, he did not feel warranted in acceding to the proposition of his noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck); for he did not believe, from the best consideration he had been able to give the subject, and from the opinions of shrewd and sagacious persons, that the measure of the Government would give that additional encouragement to the Slave Trade which the noble Lord supposed would be the case.
§ MR. G. F. BERKELEY
said, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had maintained that the supply of sugar from our West Indian Colonies had failed; but what had been the cause of that failure? It arose from the circumstance that the labour which would enable the colonists to produce a supply of sugar for this country had been taken from them, and it was totally impossible for them to obtain an adequate supply of labour. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that it was necessary the price of sugar in this country should be as low as possible. What, then, was the most legitimate mode of reducing the price of that article?—by admitting the produce of slave States, or by enabling the West Indian body to produce a supply in our own Colonies? His right hon. Friend had also stated that he did not expect any large importations of sugar from our East In- 86 dian Colonies this year, or at least that his anticipations did not equal those of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. He thought it was the duty of the Legislature to adopt measures for increasing the supply from our own Colonies, before they granted any boon to slave-trading states. His right hon. Friend had also said, that the price of sugar in this country at the present moment was excessively high. High as the price of sugar was here, however, so great was the deficiency of labour in British Guiana, that it was impossible to produce sugar in that Colony which could be exported to this country at any reasonable profit. There were estates in the Colony which, if they only produced a hogshead of sugar per acre, would supply half Europe. It was labour that was required. In 1836, the sugar crop of Berbice was 13,000 hogsheads. Between that year and 1841, it fell to 4,500 hogsheads; but since that year there had been a gradual increase, occasioned by the location there of captured Africans. To prove the good effect of African labour, he mentioned that on the estate of Everton the increase of produce between 1841 and 1845 was from 450 hogsheads to 786; on another, it was from 135 to 510; and on a third, from 90 to 436. He quoted a letter, stating that on the islands whole bodies of labourers frequently left by ship without any notice whatever. In one case, in the height of the season, sixty labourers left Trinidad in this manner by a sloop that was seen one Sunday morning in the offing, the whole being a previously arranged plan. He cited this as a proof of the disorganization of the West Indies, which was so great that proprietors were driven to traffic in each other's labourers to supply the necessities of their estates. A gentleman, well acquainted with West Indian affairs, had asked him why the English Government did not place agents at places on the west coast of Africa, where the Slave Trade raged, to promote voluntary emigration to the West Indies? The Gallinas and the Bight of Benin would be proper localities for this purpose; and their presence there would keep slavers off the coast. The present measure was said to be a measure of free trade. The Government intended to carry out free-trade principles; then, if that were the case, what right had they to restrict the Colonies as to the localities from whence they should seek their labour? If they gave this country access to all the markets of 87 the world, they ought to permit the Colonists to go where they could obtain the best and cheapest supply of labour, in order to cultivate their estates; nor ought they to be restricted only to places within the British dominions. Give them the labour they required, honestly obtained — they contemplated no underhand proceedings; they did not wish to trench even upon the borders of slavery—and it would be a greater check to the abominable traffic in slaves than all their cruisers, let them be placed wherever they chose. If the Government would give them this supply of labour, he would support the measure; and in so doing he believed he should be backed by the great West Indian body.
§ SIR J. W. HOGG
wished to explain his reasons for supporting the Resolutions of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). When he saw the Resolutions, his desire was to afford to the people of this country an abundant supply of good and cheap sugar, and at the same time to adopt measures calculated to discourage and perhaps lead to the discontinuance of slave-grown sugar. That was his intention in 1841, and it was now his desire. Five years had since elapsed, and the question he asked himself was this—had his intention been carried into effect?—had his anticipations been realized?—had the measure which wes then passed been attended with the success which was contemplated, and did it produce the results they desired? If he found that this measure had failed in producing the results then contemplated, he should be ashamed to rise in his place in that House to urge upon that assembly the adoption of measures which had been tried, and which had signally failed. He asked, did the measures then adopted afford to the people of the country an adequate supply of sugar? He need not argue the point. The calculation of the noble Lord opposite—the medium calculation of the noble Lord as to the sugar expected to arrive in this country, was almost totidem verbis the same calculation he (Sir J. W. Hogg) had ventured to indulge in five years ago. He had ventured to say that in the following year, the year 1842, that India would yield 100,000 tons; but the population of India was dense, they were preeminently a sugar-eating people, it was almost their only luxury, and according to their means they indulged in that luxury. Not that they indulged in the luxury of manufactured sugar, but that they consumed it in sweetmeats, made from the juice of 88 the cane in an unmanufactured state; and he therefore admitted that India did not supply 100,000 tons. Now, when he and others fell into this error, they did not allude to or make allowance for the improvement in the social condition of the people of India. In point of fact, there had been an increase in the produce of sugar in the East Indies; but the increase had been but little more than was required for the increased consumption of the people of India. He was afraid that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment had been misled as to the productiveness of the Indian soil, and still more as to the extent of Indian capital. The noble Lord would fail in his anticipations in proving this. It ought to be seriously considered that there had been no serious diminution in the price of sugar since 1841. There had been no reduction in prices, he repeated, exclusive of that resulting from the reduction of the duty; but in the price of sugar in bond there had been no serious reduction in price. In the first six months of 1846, the delivery was much less than for the corresponding six months of 1845. He did not think, however, that this was a circumstance to create alarm. It was generally stated that the consumption of sugar throughout the world was 840,000 tons, while it appeared that the produce of sugar in the tropics was only 770,000 tons. A certain quantity was also produced from beet-root and the maple tree. The consumption of sugar in Europe might be taken at 675,000 tons. If this was so, what was the quantity left for consumption at the end of a year? Experience showed that at the end of each year little more than a month's consumption of sugar was left on hand. If they looked at other articles, such as cotton and indigo, they would find that the circumstances were very different. For instance, it was almost uniformly the case that a year and a half's consumption of indigo was on hand. He had seen no calculation which gave more than six pounds a head consumption of sugar for the whole population. By the changes which had been made, they had reduced the revenue of the country, while they had done little or nothing for the consumer; therefore he said they must do something to increase the supply. Then came the question of protection. He was not induced to dwell on the subject of protection. Having voted for the gradual removal of the Corn Laws, and for the removal of protection from the native Indus- 89 try of the country, he should be ashamed to stand up for the protection of the sugar of the East or West Indies. He was speaking individually, and he begged to state this emphatically, holding as he did an influential office connected with the East India Company. This question had not and was not likely to come before that body, but he spoke merely as an individual Member of Parliament. He had, however, taken the opportunity of asking the opinion of those connected with the community of India, for he had long been connected with that class. The East Indians had not expressed themselves against protection. They said that they would like it if it was given them, and they would keep it as long as they could; but when they looked to that House as a branch of the Legislature—when they looked to the interests of the people at large, they stated that they would not authorize any one to remonstrate against this proposed change in their behalf. He should be sorry to be misunderstood. There was an association in London, called the East Indian and Chinese Association, which consisted of almost all, if not all, the most eminent firms in London trading with that part of the world. Now, did the House wish to know the feeling of that body? The Committee had sent a circular to every Member, to obtain his opinion as to the measure of the noble Lord. That body had considered the Resolution of the noble Lord, and what was the nature of the resolution to which it came on the subject? It was no fallacy that, although the meeting was of opinion that the protection proposed to be afforded by the Resolutions just laid before Parliament, was not adequate to the just claims of the sugar producers; yet that under existing circumstances it was not expedient to press for an alteration therein. He was bound to say that there was much doubt and difficulty as to West Indian sugar. The East Indians had an abundance of labour, and no one interfered with its employment; but it was not so in the West Indies. What was said by Mr. Deacon Hume on this subject? That gentleman said that the Legislature had taken the West Indian Colonies from the category of free trade, and that they could not call upon them to compete with the sugar of the world, as you prevented them going into the same market for labour. It was impossible not to admit the force and urgency of this statement, and he was sure that the noble Lord would do all that he 90 could to give aid to the West Indians in this respect. He should support the Resolutions of the noble Lord; but he wished that some arrangement for a supply of labour for the West Indian Colonies had had preceded them. He conceived that it would have been more desirable if the West Indians had had two or three years before they were called upon to come into competition with the producers of slave-grown sugar. There was no indisposition on the part of the Coolies to go to the West Indies: they had been extensively introduced into three of these Colonies, and the arrangements had been perfectly satisfactory. It was, however, a great mistake to suppose that the labour of these Coolies was at all equivalent to that of Africans. When they talked of free labour he would say, "Do not let us have one-handed free trade." A year was not a very long time to wait, and before that time elapsed he hoped that the result of the reconsideration of the matter would be that the Government would allow sugar and molasses to be consumed in the distilleries in this country, and also that it would assimilate the duty on rum, and the home-made spirits in England, as well as in Ireland and Scotland. He saw no reason why the people of this country should not have a good and a wholesome spirit on equal terms with a bad and deleterious one. In conclusion, he would say only a few words on the Slave Trade and slave labour. He would ask the noble Lord who spoke so feelingly on our endeavours to put down the Slave Trade, what had been the result of these measures? He would ask whether those measures tended to ameliorate the condition of the slaves, or to diminish the Slave Trade? Look to the lamentable picture drawn by the late Sir Fowell Buxton, who stated that all that had been done for the suppression of the Slave Trade had been a magnificent failure. Had it stopped the cultivation of sugar by slaves? Look to the state of Cuba, in which this species of produce had sprung into existence since the steps this country had taken to put down the Slave Trade. Let the House regard the extraordinary fact he was about to relate. Thirty years ago Cuba imported sugar, as it did not produce nearly sufficient for its own consumption; and now it produced one-fourth of the consumption of the whole world. It formerly produced little or no sugar: it now produced 200,000 tons a year. Had it diminished the Slave Trade? They heard a good authority say 91 that at the present time not less than 30,000 slaves a year were conveyed from Africa. We had tried these measures, but they had failed. It might be difficult to say what measures should be adopted; but if measures were tried and failed, it was clear that they were wrong. No man could tell à priori what would be the effect of legislation in a particular way; but it was clear that it was absurd to persevere in measures which were clearly wrong. He would in one sentence give his opinion as to the civilization of Africa. They had had expeditions into the interior of Africa with the view of promoting civilization; but he was convinced that the only chance that existed of introducing civilization into that large division of the world, was by the extensive introduction of Africans into the West Indies, and then returning them to Africa, carrying with them the blessings of civilized life.
§ MR. G. W. HOPE
had no interest either in the West or East Indies, and the only information he had on the subject was obtained when he held his late official appointment. But having seen the working of emancipation in the West India Colonies, and the exertions lately made by the planters there, he felt bound to declare his belief that they were not fairly open to the reproaches made against them of want of energy; for nothing could have exceeded their activity during the last three years, in their endeavours to overcome the difficulties of their position. The hon. Baronet who had just sat down had truly stated the position in which the planters had been placed by the effects of our legislation. Holding such opinions, he could not but wish that the hon. Baronet had declared he would follow them up by a corresponding vote. He (Mr. Hope) meant to vote against this measure, believing that towards the West Indian Colonies it was one of great severity, not to say of extreme injustice. It came, too, at the very time when the reviving energies of the colonists appeared likely to produce the most favourable results. It should be remembered that the Emancipation Act created one of the most remarkable revolutions in the history of society. It did not merely convert the slaves into free men, it at once made them masters. The immediate consequences had been such as much to interfere with the prosperity of those islands. But of late there had been much activity. It was a remarkable fact, that an increased rate of wages had gone on with an 92 increasing population. The Creole population in the West India Islands had increased 100,000 since the last census. It appeared to him (Mr. Hope) that the important subject of the immigration of free labour had not been enough considered in the course of the debate. He denied that the modified assistance given by the late Government to immigration deserved to be described, in the words of the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University, as the foundation of a new kind of Slave Trade. With regard to immigration, it must be remembered that in Africa there were only masters and slaves, and the difficulty was to find free men, except just in our settlements. Purchasing slaves, and emancipating them, would but lead to the seller's making war upon his neighbours to get a fresh supply. The noble Lord's proposal of permitting contracts for a year would be altogether illusory; no employer could make a contract for one year that would remunerate him for the cost of the labourer's passage. In India it was very different: there was there an abundant supply of labour, though the hon. Baronet (Sir J. W. Hogg) could not be complimented on giving much help to render facility to that object. But there was no value at all in the noble Lord's proposition of contracts for one year. [An hon. MEMBER: Five years would be better.] That would be a very different thing. Meantime an extensive immigration was going on upon the bounty system. But now, when those exertions were making, it was proposed to take away the inducement to continue them, and the reasonable profits of those who had begun them. Immigration, indeed, was not to be looked to as supplying the total labour of the West Indies; but by introducing a certain number, an amount of labour might by emulation and excitement be obtained from the negroes there, which wages alone were not found to procure. With regard to the Slave Trade, a stimulus would be given to it by this measure if the noble Lord was right in saying that the price of slave labour sugar would rise 25 per cent; and though the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed greatly inclined to depart from that statement, it was borne out by others. He did not pretend to look upon the status of slavery with the horror that some persons did, or to regard it as utterly inconsistent with the Divine law; but he considered the Slave Trade as now carried on from Africa, and the stealing of men by which it was 93 supported, to be as iniquitous as anything that could be conceived in human transactions.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, the House will probably recollect—it has indeed been adverted to by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck)—that at an early period of the present Session I announced the intention of the late Government to propose a measure with reference to the admission of foreign sugar, based on different principles from that which the noble Lord has proposed. The proposal which I intended to make on the part of the Government, was intended to give greater facilities and encouragement to the admission of free-labour sugar; and I have no hesitation in saying, that had that Government remained in office, the proposal which I should have made would have been identical with that which I announced in the early part of the Session. That measure, so proposed on the part of the Government, would have continued the exclusion from the markets of this country of sugar the produce of slave labour; but it would have admitted at lower rates of duty than the present, foreign sugar which is the produce of free labour, in competition with sugar the produce of our own possessions. And, Sir, having made that announcement, it is not without the greatest hesitation that I have come to a conclusion as to the vote which it will be my duty to give on the present occasion. I and those with whom I acted, always felt this question of slave labour, and the produce of slave labour, to be an exception from the principles which ought to govern our ordinary commercial policy. I thought we stood in a peculiar relation to our West India Colonies. The case of the East Indies differs materially in respect to the supply of labour from the West India Colonies. In the case of those Colonies you had emancipated from slavery the negroes on whose labour, in former years, the colonists had mainly relied for the supply of this country with West India produce. You had given to the holders of slaves a liberal, and, estimating it as to pecuniary amount, apparently a munificent compensation for the sacrifice of their property; but, however large that sum may have been, whether it was an adequate compensation for the eventual loss sustained, is a matter open to considerable doubt. Be that, however, as it may, you did subject the West India Colonies to great disadvantages in competing with those countries where slavery 94 is still maintained. That peculiar relation in which you thus stood to the West Indies, appeared to us to justify a departure from ordinary rules, and to require in justice to those Colonies that at least a considerable interval should be allowed to elapse before they were required to enter into competition with countries placed under very different circumstances. Such also was the opinion entertained by one of the most strenuous and able advocates for the general application of the principles of free trade—I allude to Mr. Deacon Hume—who, as my hon. Friend who spoke last justly observed, always professed to consider the condition of the West Indies as forming an exception to the general rule. On that account, considering the difficulties under which they laboured, considering the great advantage to this country of promoting the welfare of that great portion of the Empire, considering the great importance of retaining the affections of that portion of our colonial empire, I deemed it to be perfectly justifiable to permit a considerable interval to elapse, in order to enable the West Indian proprietors to prepare to meet that formidable competition to which they must be exposed in the supply of sugar and other articles the produce of slave labour. We thought, also, that we stood in a peculiar relation to other countries with respect to the abolition of slavery. We had undertaken to constitute ourselves the police of the seas, for the purpose of suppressing slavery; we had departed from all those principles which generally govern our international relations; we had formed treaties with other Powers, by virtue of which they consented to abolish slavery, and to submit themselves to certain regulations with respect to the management of their own concerns, so far as slavery and the Slave Trade were concerned; we had established the right of search, and on foregoing the right of search in the case of France, we had stationed, in concert with France, an immense fleet on the coast of Africa for the purpose of preventing the transfer of the natives of Africa to other countries, in order that they might there labour as slaves. All this was a departure from the principles which ordinarily govern our international relations. We had a perfect right to abolish slavery for ourselves; but, influenced by the purest dictates of humanity, we had gone further—we had desired that our example should influence other countries, inducing them also to abolish slavery 95 and the Slave Trade; and for the purpose of giving effect to our wishes, we did not merely rely on the force of international engagements, but we applied our physical power—we employed our navy for the purpose of destroying, if possible, the Slave Trade.
It did appear to us that there would be great inconsistency in taking these vigorous measures for the repression of a trade which we ourselves carried on under the sanction of the law but a few years since, and at the same time in giving, by any act of ours, encouragement to that trade; and with these impressions, had we remained in power, it certainly was our intention to have given a farther period to the colonists of this country, particularly to the West India Colonies, in order that they might be enabled to bear the competition with slave-labour sugar. From all that was said by the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) with respect to the abominations of this traffic, I think it is impossible that there can be any dissent. Sir, it is utterly impossible to review the state of public feeling and public opinion in the Brazils, on the part of the proprietors of land, and on the part also of the Government of that country, without being shocked at their indifference to the monstrous evils and wrongs of slavery. The noble Lord gave, from one of the Papers laid on the Table of this House, a specimen of the horrors which accompany the Slave Trade. The House sympathized with the noble Lord in the observations he made with respect to these abominations; and if it could be shown that by raising the price of sugar to the amount of 1d. or 1½d. a pound, an effectual stop could be put to the horrors of that traffic, I agree with the noble Lord, that this country, which made a sacrifice of 20,000,000l. for the purpose of purchasing a right in the liberties and lives of their fellow creatures in the West Indies, would willingly submit to that further sacrifice. And I do not deny that, having apprehensions which many do not entertain with respect to the possible effect of the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers, fearing it may at first at least give a stimulus to the Slave Trade; it is not without great reluctance that I have come to the conclusion to give my support to the proposal of the noble Lord.
I do so on this ground: I am forced to consider other than the mere abstract merits of the question. I am forced to consider the position of political parties, 96 and the prospects of forming another Government, in the event of the overthrow of the present. I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, that there ought to be no sham and delusive opposition to the measure of the Government. If there be opposition, it ought to be an opposition disregarding the possible consequence of it, namely, that it might be fatal to the Government. I believe it might be possible by a combination of parties to displace the noble Lord; at least I believe it might be possible by such a combination to prevent the present success of the measure the noble Lord has proposed. I think it would be possible, by the union of different parties, by appeals to the feelings and passions of the people of this country, to raise a decisive but a temporary impediment to the success of the noble Lord's measure; but I feel bound to ask myself the question, "Is it consistent with my duty to sanction and be a party to that combination?" I think it is not. Sir, the Government with which I was connected, has been very recently displaced by a vote of this House, tantamount to a withdrawal of confidence. I yielded respectfully to that decision. The noble Lord was called on by Her Majesty to form an Administration, apparently with the general concurrence of this House. As one of the first acts of that Administration, the noble Lord has made a proposal for the final adjustment of this difficult and long-debated question. Surely we must have been prepared for such a proposal on the part of the noble Lord. I, for one, did not expect that the noble Lord would assume power without making a proposal for the settlement of this question. How could I have any doubt on that head? Last year, in the month of February, when I proposed, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, that foreign free-labour sugar should be admitted into consumption in this country at reduced duties, the noble Lord moved an express Resolution that the attempt to discriminate between free-labour sugar and slave-labour sugar was deceitful and illusory; that no distinction could in justice be maintained; that the attempt to maintain it would be injurious to the revenue, would confer no benefit on the consumers; and that therefore it should be given up. That was the purport of the Resolution which the noble Lord, in the month of February, 1845, submitted to the House. In the course of the present year, after the statement which was 97 made by me as to the policy of the late Government on the sugar question, the same noble Lord, before the Whitsuntide recess, gave a distinct intimation that he would move a resolution to this effect, "that the distinction between the produce of slave labour and free labour ought not to be maintained." The noble Lord gave also a distinct notice that, in the event of that principle being affirmed, he would make the very proposal which is now under debate, namely, that at a period to be fixed, all discriminating duties between foreign sugar and sugar the produce of British Colonies should be abolished. Nor is this all. In the course of the last year, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston), acting in concert with his party, placed a construction upon the Treaties with Spain different from that which the Government placed on those treaties. In the opinion of the noble Lord, not only considerations of good policy, but considerations of good faith, prevented us from excluding the produce of the Spanish Colonies, sugar among the rest, from the markets of this country. Could I then doubt that when these noble Lords were called to power, one of their earliest acts would be a proposal to the House of Commons to follow that course which they had uniformly advocated, not merely on the ground of public policy, but of national good faith? It was for the noble Lord to determine on his accession to power whether he would at once adopt that course, or take time to consider and adjust all the parts of a very complicated question. The noble Lord resolved to proceed at once; but whether he proceeded at once, or delayed his measure till next Session, was a mere question of time, not a question of principle. I distinctly understood that on the accession to power of the noble Lord, he and his friends were pledged to bring in a measure for the abolition, of the discriminating duties between foreign free and foreign slave-labour sugar. And it is perhaps better that this question should be met at once, than that the country should be left in uncertainty as to the course which is to be adopted. In some respects there would be advantage, no doubt, in delay, because there are parts of this measure that require very serious consideration, and which I hope will yet receive it from the noble Lord. There is the question of the admission of sugar and molasses into distilleries, and there is also the adjustment of 98 the spirit duties in the several ports of the United Kingdom. These are points which require very full deliberation, and to which I trust the noble Lord will apply his mind. There is also the still more important subject of supplying additional labour to our Colonies. I confess I have less sanguine hopes than many as to the extent to which this can be done. Give every encouragement you can to the immigration of free labour; disregard, as I think you ought, imputations that you feel to be unfounded, such as that you are encouraging the Slave Trade by so doing. Place the free labourers resorting to your Colonies in an advantageous position, and treat them with every regard to justice. But with all the encouragement you can give, I am afraid there are many difficulties to surmount. Speaking in the first place of the West India Colonies, the expense of bringing there the natives of Africa is very great; and observe, unless you accompany the immigration of the males with a proportionate supply of females, you encounter the risk of appalling evils. For the purpose of promoting the ultimate success of the experiment, it is of the utmost importance that there should be a due proportion of females to the males introduced into your Colonies, increasing considerably the expense of immigration. Therefore it is that, entertaining less sanguine expectations of the effect of the introduction of free labour than others entertain, I hope the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government will maturely consider whether there are any equivalent advantages which they can give the West India proprietors which, on the abolition of protecting duties, may enable them to enter into competition with those who have slave labour at their command.
I return, however, to the question—Am I justified in entering into a combination for the purpose of displacing the noble Lord from the Government within six weeks from the period at which he acceded to it? Gentlemen seem to think that they may safely enter into that combination, for that the noble Lord will retain office notwithstanding defeat on this measure. I know not how the noble Lord would act; but I think the noble Lord, under the circumstances in which he accepted power, being defeated in so important a measure as the present, would be fully justified in resigning office. Those who would, through a party combination, compel him to abdicate power, 99 are bound to ask themselves whether, in the event of success, they are prepared to undertake the Government. There are circumstances in the history of every country when that question must be answered by those who enter into combinations to subvert a Government. Two Governments have existed within the last six weeks. Shall we have a third? If so, on what principle is it to be formed? Shall it be the restoration of the late Government. ["No, no!"] I entirely concur in that sentiment. I think with you who cry "No," that if the late Government, having withdrawn from office in consequence of a vote which proved that it had forfeited the confidence of this House, were now to take a course by which at the end of six weeks it might be restored to office, it would be doing that which would be altogether discreditable. What prospect is there that that Government would have increased facility for governing this country? I believe none; and therefore I will not be a party to the displacing of the Government of the noble Lord, with a view to the restoration of the late Government. Well, then, with respect to a Government to be constituted of others, the advocates of protection, I mean to speak of them with the respect that is due to their consistent and conscientious advocacy of their own opinions; but they cannot be surprised that I refuse to lend myself to a measure which might have the effect of placing in power those who are not merely the advocates of protection, as an abstract principle, but who avow their desire to recall and revoke the great change in our commercial policy which has lately been made.
Seeing, then, no prospect of establishing an efficient Administration on any principle of which I could approve, I will be no party to an act which might and, in my opinion, ought to displace the noble Lord after a few weeks' tenure of power. I see nothing to be gained by it, so far as the general interests of the country are concerned. Still it may be contended that the defeat of this measure, and a change of Government in consequence, will at least effect one great object—it will prevent the admission of sugar the produce of slave labour. Now if it could be shown that after the defeat of the noble Lord and his retirement from power, a Government could be formed which would be enabled permanently to resist the introduction of slave-labour sugar 100 into this country, then I should admit that the Member for the University of Oxford, and those who sincerely concur with him in thinking that at all risks slave-labour sugar should be excluded from this country, would be justified in adhering rigidly to their principle. But I greatly doubt whether in the present state of public opinion, in the present state of parties, and after the recent changes in our whole commercial policy, any Government that could be formed would be able permanently to resist the introduction of slave-labour sugar? The Resolution proposed by the noble Lord (Lord George Bentinck) does not affirm that slave-labour sugar shall not in any case be introduced into this country; it does not even lay down the principle that we will maintain the status quo as to foreign produce, and continue to take cotton and tobacco the produce of slave labour, but that we will go no further. In fact the Resolution is very much the same in substance as that of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, in 1841. It leaves the continued exclusion of slave-labour sugar into this country mainly dependent on the supply there may happen to be of free-labour sugar. The noble Lord's Resolution is this—That in the present state of the sugar cultivation in the British East and West India possessions the proposed reduction of duty upon foreign slave-grown sugar is alike unjust and impolitic, as tending to check the advance of production by British free labour, and to give a great additional stimulus to the Slave Trade.Observe the words: "In the present state of sugar cultivation." If, then, a change should take place in that state of cultivation — if the produce should fall greatly short of the demand, and prices become in consequence greatly increased, the noble Lord's Resolution does not exclude the introduction of slave-labour produce into this country. What confidence can the colonists have in this proposition? What assurance can you give them of the permanency of such a system? There might be a complete change of circumstances. The estimates of the supply of sugar which the noble Lord has formed for this year might not be justified; the actual production of our Colonies might be much less than he has anticipated; and whenever that result shall follow, the colonists must have reason to think that the country would not bear the consequent high price of sugar, but would inevitably seek some reduction of that price by the admission of slave-labour produce. As then, you do 101 not venture to affirm the principle that under no circumstances will you admit slave-labour sugar—as you merely make the exclusion of slave-labour sugar dependent on the "present state of the cultivation of sugar" in our colonial possessions; you do not give to the colonists any assurance that they may safely rely on the continuance of their present amount of protection. Now, all parties, both West Indian and East Indian, attach great importance to a permanent law on this subject; and the proposition of the Government has this advantage over the proposition of the noble Lord, that it guarantees to them, at any rate for a certain period, a qualified protection for their produce; providing at the same time that there shall be a free importation of all sugar into this country at an equal rate of duty at the expiration of that period. Now to that consideration of certainty I apprehend they attach the greatest importance. But, unless you are willing to consent to something of this sort—to something like the measure of the Government in principle—can you expect to establish a permanent law in the place of that law which at present is only of annual duration? I did not expect to pass a permanent law this year had I remained in office. I only contemplated a measure for continuing the Sugar Duties for a year; and I greatly doubt if any Government that could be called to power could pass any other than the usual annual Bill—if they did not attempt the permanent adjustment of the question. We cannot deny that there is great evil in the uncertainty that must attend annual legislation on such a subject—great evil as regards the Slave Trade, and the condition of the slaves themselves? What would be the natural consequences if the slaveholder of Brazil and Cuba, observing the state of public feeling in this country, should find that the question was yearly made the subject of bitter controversy in this and the other House of Parliament? He would never cease, as long as that state of things remained, to cherish the hope that his produce would at length be admitted into this country, and that the price here must, sooner or later, rise so high that the Legislature must admit his produce in deference to the wants and wishes of the public. But if that would be the feeling of the slaveholding States and Colonies, what would be the feelings of our own colonists? They would always be oppressed with the fear that 102 they might at an early period be subjected to competition with foreign slave-labour produce; and they would, in consequence, never know when they might invest capital or enter upon fresh enterprises with security. The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) has great expectations of the large importations which are to come in from the East Indies; but surely those expectations of the noble Lord's would be confirmed by the salutary operation of a permanent measure. That particular species of cane of which the noble Lord spoke would be cultivated with greater security were the intentions of the Legislature on the subject of the Sugar Duties finally made known. So with the West Indies, the application of capital, the extended use of machinery, must labour under great discouragement so long as, owing to the nicely balanced state of parties in Parliament, and the state of the supply of sugar in this country, it is always uncertain whether slave-labour sugar may not be introduced to compete with their produce. I think, then, the hour is come for a change of the law in respect to the Sugar Duties, and that those of us who are the most anxious to discourage slavery and the Slave Trade, must consent to the effort to beat slave labour and the slaveholders' capital not by prohibitory duties, but by means of competition with free labour. I believe, upon the whole, in the present state of opinion in this country, and in the present state of parties in this House, there may be a better chance of controlling slavery, by giving to free labour other encouragement than prohibitory duties. I will not enter into the details of the noble Lord's plan. My earnest hope is, that the noble Lord will consider that the great object to be aimed at is to make a final and satisfactory settlement; and that he will listen with attention to any proposal which, insuring the abolition of distinctive duties at an early period, and therefore preserving the great principle of his measure, will enable free-labour sugar successfully to compete with slave-labour sugar. I give those opinions without any party motive. Being resolved to support the noble Lord's measure in substance and in its general outline, I do not intend to embarrass him by vexatious opposition on details. The advice I give is bonâ fide advice—that, aiming at the ultimate abolition of distinctive duties, the noble Lord will at the same time do ample and liberal justice to those who have for- 103 midable competition to contend with. This will be the most certain method of ensuring the ultimate success of the great principle for which the noble Lord contends. Entertaining these opinions, entertaining also the sincere belief that at no remote period this measure, if it be obstructed now, must be ultimately carried, and that the period of uncertainty and suspense will be fraught with great evil—believing if the measure is to be finally carried, that there is no one better entitled to the credit attaching to success than the noble Lord, I have come to the resolution, though not without reluctance and doubt, to give my support to the principle of his proposal.
SIR T. ACLAND
expressed his extreme regret that the right hon. Baronet should have placed the question now before them solely upon consideration of the state of parties in that House, and the way in which Government would be affected by their particular vote—the very last consideration which ought to influence them. He (Sir T. Acland) begged to disclaim, in the strongest manner, any wish to give a vote which would imply hostility to his noble Friend opposite (Lord J. Russell) or his Government. He believed their intentions, as regarded their general course of policy, were moderate, and he was prepared to give them a fair trial; but he thought it unfortunate that his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) should have placed the decision of this particular question on party grounds. He admitted that the considerations to which his right hon. Friend had referred in the latter part of his speech, always entered more or less into the decision of every great question; but this might be carried too far. If no adverse vote ought to be given for fear of affecting the existence of a Government, where was the use of their sitting there in deliberation at all? He took leave to say that this applied to both sides of the House, and that it applied, and had applied, with much greater force since the passing of the Reform Bill. They took the mass of the public into their confidence, when by that Act they made a wider constituency; and after that, was it to be expected that the leaders of parties were to dispose of their general policy or party principles in the way they used to do in former times? And if they consulted public opinion, it would never do for that House to govern their proceedings by considerations of displacing this or that Government. For himself he would give his vote upon the whole consideration of the 104 question; and that should be against opening the English market to sugar, obtained at the price of all the evils which it had been the policy of this country for the last thirty years to put down at every cost, excepting that of character.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past One o'clock.