HC Deb 03 February 1848 vol 96 cc7-79

Sir, if I consulted my own wishes, aware as I am that the Motion I am about to propose will receive no opposition from Her Majesty's Ministers, I should much prefer to make no statement on this occasion; but I believe I should not be consulting the general wish of the House, or the wishes of those who are deeply interested in the produce of the sugar-cane, if I were to make this Motion for a Committee of Inquiry without some preliminary observations. It has been represented to me by many of those who are interested in Her Majesty's colonies in the East and West Indies—it has been represented to me, from those colonies, and from persons in this country who are interested in them, that the course which I am proposing is not consistent with the necessities of this case; that there is something pusillanimous in the Motion which I am going to bring before the House; that, in point of fact, the West Indian interest and the interest of the Mauritius and the East Indies, connected with sugar and coffee planting, are in extremis, and that while the question of their redress is being discussed in a Committee up-stairs, these great interests will perish. They say to me that a Committee of Inquiry will be to them of the nature of that comfort which— Like cordials after death, comes late; and that before the Committee shall have reported, the West Indian interest will be altogether past recovery. But, Sir, it is for me to consider what my power is to obtain any substantial relief by a direct vote of this House; and when I remember that in July, 1846, I moved a resolution of this House, the purport of which was to maintain the protection for the West Indian and East Indian free-labour colonies, which they now seek, and that I had but 130 Gentlemen to support me, whilst 265 votes were recorded against me in favour of the measure of Her Majesty's Ministers admitting slave-labour sugar, I feel that it is hopeless for me to endeavour in this House—where I have no reason to suppose any addition has been made to the Members acquiesing in my views of protection—to convert that minority to a majority; and more especially when I recollect that on that occasion but five Gentlemen connected with the West Indian and East Indian interests recorded their votes with me, I think the West Indian interests have not a good case against me when they blame me for not taking a more resolute step on this occasion. I need not say for myself—I doubt not I may say for those 130 Gentlemen who supported me in the year 1846—that they require no Committee of Inquiry to convince them of the necessity of some immediate and some substantial relief to the sugar-planting interests under the British Crown; but in proposing this inquiry I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not seek to preclude either myself or any other Member—if any substantial measure for immediate and effectual relief should be brought forward—from supporting that measure, or from pledging themselves to support any such proposal. But, Sir, looking as I have done at the deplorable state of the West Indies, the East Indies, and the Mauritius, and holding as I do in my hand a list of forty-eight great houses in England—twenty-six of the first commercial houses in London, sixteen in Liverpool, and six elsewhere—which have failed, and whose liabilities amount in the whole to 6,300,000l. and upwards, none of which, I believe, would have fallen if it had not been for the ruin brought upon them by the change in the sugar duties, and the consequent reduction in the price of their produce—I do hope that through the intervention of a Committee of this House, I may be able to prevail upon the House to change its policy with regard to this great question. The right hon. Member for Manchester, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, has stated elsewhere that he considers the account between this country and the West Indies to have closed in 1833, when this country made a grant of 20,000,000l. of compensation money to the slaveholders in our colonies. I hope, however, to be able in the course of this discussion to show, that, though this compensation does appear on the first blush to have been most liberal, it has in reality proved to be no compensation at all for the losses which the proprietors in the West Indies and the Mauritius have sustained. And, Sir, it must be borne in mind that this compensation, accompanied by the measure of emancipation, was in a manner forced upon the proprietors of slaves in our colonies, and was not the result of any compact or bargain with them. I am well aware that the feeling against slavery has very much subsided since the time when the whole nation was in a state of excitement against the continuance of slavery in our colonies. I am well aware that that high sentiment of Christianity and religion which inspired the nation almost as one man for many years previous to 1833, has comparatively become dead, and the desire for cheap sugar has overcome all regard for freedom and abhorrence of slavery. I cannot, for one, be blind to the fact, that at the last general election not one single word was uttered in any quarter against slavery and the slave trade; and that those parties who were omnipotent in the election of 1832 had become altogether silent and powerless in the election of 1847. Though I retain my opinion that we are bound in honour and good faith to exclude from this country slave-grown sugar, I feel it would be useless for me to propose any measure for that purpose; yet if such a measure should be proposed, I shall be ready and willing to support it. There is another measure which I have supported on former occasions. I mean the measure for the admission of foreign free-labour sugar, to the exclusion of slave-grown sugar, with regard to which I think the House now stands in a position far different from any in which it has hitherto stood. In that case the dispute was, whether or not we could, consistently with our treaties with slaveholding countries, and with Spain in particular under the Treaty of Utrecht, admit foreign free-labour sugar, and exclude slave-grown sugar. I shall not now rediscuss that question. I retain my opinion, that we were fully justified by the Treaty of Utrecht in making the distinction between the two kinds of sugar. When, however, the Ministers of the Crown—when the noble Lord opposite the Member for London, and the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, proclaimed that, in their opinion, that distinction could not be maintained, consistently with good faith or the honour of the Crown, I knew that such a distinction could not be enforced without the dismissal of those Ministers from the service of the Crown who had maintained, in the face of foreign Powers, that such a distinction could not be made consistently with the honour of the country. Whatever, therefore, may be my opinion on this point, I, for one, am not prepared, on so trifling a ground as the admission of some 20,000 or 30,000 tons of free-labour sugar, to attempt to force a change of policy, which must, if I were successful, overthrow the Government.

Sir, the West Indian proprietors ask, in all their petitions, for several things. They ask for the exclusion of slave-grown sugar—for differential duties—for the free admission of molasses into the breweries and distilleries of this country—for the admission of rum on an equality with British spirits—for the repeal of the navigation laws—and for free access to the coasts of Africa, and elsewhere, for the purpose of obtaining free labourers wherever they think fit.

With respect to the navigation laws, I shall state at once that I cannot go along with them in supporting their repeal; and I must further take leave to say that, in my opinion, it is most inconsistent on the part of the West Indian and East Indian interest to ask protection for themselves, and to deny or seek to deprive other interests of the protection they enjoy. I recollect when the noble Lord opposite introduced his measure for the alteration of the sugar duties to the House, he said that protection must travel in a circle—that the circle was a vicious one—and that protection to the West Indies was a part of that vicious circle which he was disposed to recover. I agree with the noble Lord, that protection must go in a circle—that you cannot give protection to one and refuse it to another; but, so far as the West Indies are concerned, I am at a loss to understand how they can expect to derive any benefit from the repeal of the navigation laws. I know that a letter has been written by one "Jacob Omnium," who has now, however, cast off his disguise; and in that letter it is stated that while freights from St. Croix to this country were only 3l. 10s. a ton, the freights from Demerara were 6l. a ton. Assuming that the navigation laws could create such a difference, which however is not the fact, I want to know what benefit it would be to the West Indian interest if the navigation laws were repealed, unless they mean that they are to be repealed only so far as they themselves are concerned, but to be enforced as regards the rest of the world? But suppose the repeal of the navigation laws would reduce freights from 6l. to 3l., as between Jamaica, Demerara, and Great Britain, I ask, would not their repeal have exactly the same effect as regards Cuba and Brazil? Six-sevenths of the whole trade between this country and Brazil and Cuba are carried on in British vessels; and to all intents and purposes—so far as the navigation laws are concerned—therefore the trade to Brazil is as much a close trade, and as much of a monopoly, as the trade with any British colony. If the repeal of the navigation laws would reduce freights from 6l. to 3l. between Jamaica and England, and between Demerara and England, would it not equally reduce freights from Brazil and Cuba to England? The repeal of these laws, therefore, might possibly cheapen freight, but it would do so equally with regard to the slave-grown sugar of Cuba and Brazil as with regard to the free-labour sugar of the British colonies. As this cry has come from the West, and not from the East Indies, let me remind them that the freight to this country from Demerara has never been 6l. a ton, as stated by "Jacob Omnium," except for a moment when the "times were out of joint But supposing the freight from the West Indies to be 6l., the freight from the East Indies, from Java, and the Mauritius, at corresponding rates, would be at the least 12l. If the West Indian interest, therefore, imagine that the repeal of the navigation laws would reduce their freights to England 3l.—than which supposition nothing can be more, ridiculous—I must remind them that the repeal which reduced their freights 3l. a ton, would at the same time reduce the freight from the East Indies and Java 6l. a ton; and I should like to know what the West Indies would gain by a change which would reduce the freight from Brazil, Cuba, Mauritius, Calcutta, and Java, in the same proportion that it would reduce freights from Jamaica to this country, whereby the Eastern hemisphere would gain 6l. per ton where the West Indies gained but half that sum? I have, however, a number of statements by me from those most qualified to give correct information on this subject, and I find that freights in the early part of the year from Jamaica were from 3l. 10s. to 4l. 4s.; from Demerara, not 6l., as alleged, but from 2l. 10s. to 3l; and from Barbadoes and Trinidad, 3l. 10s. to 3l. 15s. By the last advices from Pernambuco and Bahia, I observe that the freights by English vessels were lower than those of other vessels. True it is that freights from Cuba are lower than from Jamaica; but at Cuba the ship runs up alongside the wharf, and there is no droggerage to pay. In Jamaica the sugar is brought to the port of shipment in small boats at the charge of the shipowner, the freights on the north side of the island ranging much higher than those on the south side—generally 15s. a ton. At Demerara the freights are as low as from any other sugar-growing country in the world. I think, then, I have disposed of the question of the navigation laws so far as the West Indian interest is concerned.

I come now to the question of the admission of rum on an equality with British spirits. Upon this point I hold the same opinion which I maintained last year. If the West Indian interest can prove that an equality in name is an equality in equity and justice, I am quite ready to admit rum at the same duty as that laid on British spirits. But my opinion is, that when the justice of the claim comes to be inquired into, the British distillers will be able to show that, so long as Excise restrictions are imposed upon them, from which the rum distillers are exempt, the present differential duty is no more than equity and justice require. That is my present opinion; but I will go into the Committee with an honest desire to come to a just decision on the question. With respect to the introduction of molasses into breweries and distilleries, that is an affair between the West Indian interest and the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer; though I do not know whether the admission of molasses which they claim would very much benefit the West Indian proprietary.

The great question of immigration comes next. Some of the West Indians, who live in Demerara, Berbice, and Trinidad, imagine that by the free immigration of labourers they can compete with all the world; and I am disposed to say, that the British planters should have every facility afforded them for obtaining labour wherever they can get it, so long as they do not trench upon slave trading; but if the Demerara people can, as they say, by the importation of some 100,000 or 150,000 labourers, produce 400,000 tons of sugar yearly, the effect will be, that they will altogether swamp the old colonies of the Crown. But though I think that no unfair advantage should be given to one colony over another, I doubt very much whether any free labour can enable the planters to compete with slave labour; or whether any amount of free labourers will so beat down wages as to enable the free-labour sugar planters to compete with those who employ slave labour. I would ask the West Indian how it is that in Barbadoes, which is more thickly populated than China—which has 750 persons to the square mile, and whose population is three times as dense as that of Ireland, and nearly three times as dense as the population of England—which is more dense than any other spot in the habitable world, unless it be Malta—I want to know how Barbadoes by any importation of Africans can be made to compete successfully with the slave-grown sugar of Cuba and the Brazils, on even terms, when with a 6s. duty in their favour it is unable, notwithstanding its dense population, to compete now? I believe there is no example of any country being able with free labour to compote with the labour of slaves. I have heard it said, that Porto Rico is an example of this kind. But the sugar planting in that country is almost entirely done by means of slave labour. The exports of sugar annually from Porto Rico have never exceeded 49,000 tons; but such as it is, the business is carried on by the labour of slaves. I am aware, indeed, that Colonel Flinter, writing at Madrid eighteen years ago, gives a different account; but since that we have had very contrary opinions expressed on the subject. I know that what Colonel Flinter wrote in 1830, was constantly quoted as an authority in this House in the debates of 1833. He stated— That for one shilling sterling of daily wages, free labourers would work in Porto Rico from sunrise to sunset, and on a moderate calculation would perform more work during that time than two slaves would perform. When Colonel Flinter wrote, the exports of sugar from Porto Rico only amounted to 20,000 tons. Now, the exports from the same place, for the year 1847, up to the 10th of December, amounted to 49,000 tons. But how has this been arrived at? Is it by free labour that these results have been obtained? No such thing. I hold in my hand an extract from a work, the truth of which, I believe, will be confirmed by a Gentleman now in this House; it is an extract from a work written by Mr. Macgregor. That Gentleman states— That in the year 1828, 1,437,285 acres of land in Porto Rico, were hold by 19,140 proprietors. At the same time, 423 individuals were proprietors of estates worked by slaves. Of these 275 were devoted to the production of sugar, and 148 were other plantations. In 1822, there were but 29 sugar estates, and the value of the sugar exported annually amounted to 57,000 dollars; but in consequence of the liberal conduct of Governor Le Tone, great encouragement was given to sugar planting under his administration, and a considerable immigration took place into this island. Mr. Macgregor further says— That the planters from the neighbouring islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas brought their slaves to Porto Rico, and that in consequence of the introduction of these slaves, and the capital possessed by their owners, the island had continued to prosper since 1828, and had been, and still continues to be, a very considerable source of revenue to the mother country. So far, therefore, from this being an island whore the cultivation of sugar has advanced by free labour, this rapid increase in its prosperity has been the result of the encouragement given to slave-owners in other places, to induce them to settle at Porto Rico. But if this evidence which I have referred to be not sufficient, I have another authority which may prevail even much more at the Colonial Office than that of Mr. Macgregor. That to which I am now going to refer is an extract from a lecture on political economy; and regarding the island of Porto Rico, the lecturer says— So long as the fertility of the land remains unexhausted, it is probable that the slovenly labour of the small free proprietors may continue to raise a considerable quantity of export produce; but it cannot be doubted that most of its surface is no longer in this condition. It is becoming less practicable to cultivate it every day, excepting on larger estates, with the aid of much capital, and with numerous gangs of slaves. And the same authority states— The enormous importation of slaves has caused increased production of sugar, as I said before, from 20,000 tons in 1838, to 49,000 tons in 1847. The author of this statement is Mr. Merrivale, the Under Secretary for the Colonies; and I hope he will instil into the mind of his noble Chief the conviction that nothing can he more illusory than to suppose that free labour could ever compete with slave labour. But I want no better authority than that of the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies himself (Earl Grey) on this point. I recollect, in the debates of the year 1833, when the noble Earl, taking very much the same views as those which I now take, and resisting the apprenticeship scheme, urged upon this House, with great eloquence and great power, that an apprenticeship for seven years was only another species of slavery, and that it was robbing the free labourer of fourteen-fifteenths of the value of his labour. Lord Grey maintained that it was proved beyond all doubt, before Committees of both Houses of Parliament, that the highest estimate of the expense of the support of a slave was 45s. a year. At a later period of the same discussion, Lord Stanley said that 50s. was the highest estimate of the expense of a slave's support for the year. Now, during the period of mitigated slavery in our colonies, what number of hours were the slaves obliged to work? They were only bound to work five days and a half in the week, and in the Crown colonies nine hours a day. What is the state of free labour now? In the West Indies—in Jamaica particularly—it is with difficulty that people can be got to work for four days in the week; and when they do work, they barely average seven hours a day; and the wages paid, including provision grounds, are about 1s. 3d. a day. I have a statement, also made by a noble Lord high in office in the Government (Lord Howard de Walden), that during the last year, on an estate of his on which 1,500 free labourers were employed, the person who worked the greatest number of days in the course of the year worked 164 days, and that labourer was a woman. The man that worked the greatest number of days worked but 154. So that three days a week on this estate was the utmost obtained from the male free la- bourers. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Where is this estate?] In Jamaica. I can assure the House that the noble Lord is not an illiberal master towards his workmen. He paid half a dollar a day for work, though he could only get that work for from six hours and a half to seven hours a day. How, then, I ask, is free labour in Jamaica ever to compete with that of slaves in Cuba and the Brazils, where the slaves, I presume, can be maintained as cheaply as they were under slavery maintained in British colonies? And let it not be forgotten that slavery in the British colonies, after the year 1823, was of the most mitigated description. The slaves had twenty-six days by law allowed them, exclusive of Sundays, and also exclusive of the usual holidays of Christmas and Easter; and this was not only the case in the Crown colonies, but in all others. In the Crown colonies the time of labour was limited to nine hours a day; but this is not the case in Cuba or Brazil. In Cuba the slaves are worked sixteen hours a day, and during crop time twenty hours a day. It is said, that a negro upon a sugar plantation lives, upon an average, for about ten years. A noble Friend of mine was in Cuba lately, and he stated that he had visited for a single day an estate of a planter in that country. He saw these wretched negroes driven to their work. There were 100 men and 8 women on the estate, and on the day that my noble Friend was there, the agent informed him that two of the men had hanged themselves; but the planter told him that such a matter was not one of rare occurrence, and if a negro hung himself, his place was soon filled up. How, then, was the slavedriver in that country prepared to enforce discipline? I remember the horror which used to be excited in this House at the idea of a slavedriver in the British colonies having in his possession a whip, though but as the emblem of his power and authority. But a whip is not enough for the slavedriver in Cuba. No driver ventures among the slaves there unless armed with his cutlass, dagger, and pistols, and closely followed by his bloodhounds. On being asked what the bloodhounds were for, the driver answered that it was to keep the wretched negroes in order, they being more afraid of those animals than anything else; and, in fact, the dogs were used to keep them in order as sheep-dogs are used in this country. An unfortunate negro was marked out, and the dogs set after him, and they pinned him to a tree until the driver came up. This is slavery in Cuba; this is the system with which you think free labour can compete, and this the slavery you are stimulating. I see the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) takes a note; and I am sure he will not contradict me when I say that the admission of slave-grown sugar must stimulate slavery, for I well remember to have heard the right hon. Gentleman use the same argument himself. Notwithstanding all the animadversions cast upon the severity of the British colonists, how could they get as much labour as was got out of the slaves in Cuba and the Brazils? What free labour could compete with those places? I hold in my hand a statement of the wages paid in British Guiana made by Governor Light. By that statement it appeared that 25,000 free labourers in that colony received wages amounting to 300,000 dollars a month. If any attempt is made to excite sympathy for these free labourers, I hope the people of this country will think upon what they have been doing for the negro in the West Indies. The people of this country were willing to make a great sacrifice, in order that the slaves in the West Indies might be emancipated; but, I apprehend, the people of this country never intended that those slaves should be raised to a condition far beyond their own. They did not intend that when the slave was emancipated, at a cost of no less than 20,000,000l., he should repay their generosity by idleness, and refuse to compensate them for that measure by his labour. The wages of field labourers in British Guiana, as stated by Governor Light, were for navigators, working from seven to eight hours, 4s. 6d. a day; digging small drains, seven to eight hours, 4s. 6d.; cutting and carrying canes, five to six hours, 4s. 6d.; shovel ploughing, five to six hours, 1s. 10½d.; relieving and supplying, five to six hours, 2s. 8d.; hoeing cleaned lands, five to six hours, 1s. 8d.; weeding and moulding young canes, five to six hours, 1s. 6d.; clearing trenches and grass, five to six hours, 1s. 6d.; weeding and thrashing, four to six hours, 1s. 6d.; making on an average five hours and fifty-four minutes of work done per day, at average wages of 2s.d. There are also in-door labourers engaged with the mills, who are not so well paid, but these are the wages which the field labourers get. There are those in Demerara who think that if they can get 100,000 or 150,000 free labourers—though, where they are to be procured I cannot tell—they will be able to beat down competition; but it must be recollected that there are but 25,000 labourers in British Guiana at present, whilst the coast extends about 200 miles. In a country, therefore, where food can be grown so easily, what possibility is there of beating down labour by competition to the point at which slaves can work? But it must be perfectly clear that, although there is a great desire to immigrate into the West Indies, especially in Madeira, where the Portuguese Government is obliged to have a steamer of war in order to prevent Portuguese subjects from going to the West Indies, as soon as wages are beaten down to the point desired, the wish of the Portuguese, as well as of all other emigrants, to get there will be pari passu diminished. I am one of those who think that this beating down of wages cannot be further attained by immigration, at all events, into Barbadoes or Antigua, though perhaps something may be done in Jamaica, but not enough to enable free labourers to compete with slave-grown sugar produced by slaves maintained at a cost of 50s. a year. While a free labourer in Demerara costs 311. a year, and the subsistence of a slave can be procured in Cuba for 50s., the slave is driven to do three times as much work, and not only so, but the work done is done when it is wanted. One great cause of loss to the sugar planter in the West Indies is this, that when the crop is ripe the negroes do not choose to work; and if the cane is not cut when ripe, the cane becomes sour and the sugar is injured. But I do think that as regards immigration much might be done in removing restrictions and facilitating and cheapening the conveyance of immigrants. I confess I cannot understand why any fear of encouraging slavery and the slave trade should prevent us from allowing British planters to obtain immigrants from the coast of Africa, provided they go free on board, with the security of being free on their arrival in our colonies. It is impossible to doubt that the condition of Africans, Chinese, or Hindoos, would be greatly improved by their transport to those colonies. I hold in my hand a speech delivered by Sir C. Metcalfe in the year 1840, only two years after emancipation had been completed, in which he describes the condition of the negroes in Jamaica as most comfortable and prosperous. He says— The easy and independent circumstances of the peasantry, as compared with those of our own countrymen at home, is very striking. Probably no peasantry in any other quarter of the globe have such comforts and advantages. He does not, however, speak in such high terms of the prosperity of the cultivators of the soil. He says— The deterioration of properties proceeds from the want of continuous labour, which is the natural effect of an insufficient population, and the means possessed by the peasantry of rendering themselves in a great degree independent of going to labour as servants for hire. It is satisfactory to reflect, that whatever number of immigrants is likely to come from any part of the world, there is room for all, and spare land of the greatest fertility and abundance, so that any probable multitude can be provided for without a diminution of the comforts of the present population. But we have later evidence of the prosperous condition of the labourers in our West India colonies. That evidence is to be found in the report which accompanies the subscription which was made in the British colonies for the relief of the destitute Irish. At a public meeting, open to all the members of the labouring class, the colonial receiver-general spoke of British Guiana as —"a land of plenty—a field fitted for raising abundance of food, and, he might add, with a promising sugar crop. The Rev. Mr. Forbes used the following language on the same occasion:— In a country like this food is plentiful, and little covering suffices for the labouring classes. Even the dearth of last year did not produce much effect on those classes. No case of destitution has ever or could ever occur here. But, perhaps, the most remarkable statement of all in these papers, is that which is to be found in the letter of Mr. Holmes, addressed to Governor Light, when transmitting to him a subscription of l,200l. for the relief of Irish distress. He says— Almost all persons, without exception, have subscribed, although it has been a very difficult task to explain to the labouring men of this fortunate colony the meaning of starvation and intense cold. Now, I cannot conceive anything more expressive than that statement, that the great obstacle to be overcome in endeavouring to obtain subscriptions from the black labourers, arose from the difficulty of making them understand what was meant either by starvation or cold. I think, therefore, that there need be no delicacy about encouraging, in every possible way, the immigration of labourers into the West Indies. But it is entirely a question of cost. The restrictions imposed by successive colonial governments on the free immigration of labourers, have created a burden and expense which are too heavy for the colonies to bear. Hampered as they are with all sorts of restrictions; enabled only to make contracts with labourers for a single year; not allowed to make any contract except in a British colony; obliged to send back the labourers at the end of five years, subject to the cost of carriage backwards and forwards—our colonial proprietors find that those charges eat up all the advantage of importing labourers. What I want to know is this: why are we to be so delicate about Africans, Coolies, and Chinese, only going from one hot and congenial climate to another; who leave a climate certainly not more congenial than that to which they immigrate; why are we to say that no immigrant is to be hired for more than five years, when in this country Her Majesty's troops heretofore were expected when they entered Her Majesty's service, to serve at all events ten years in the colonies for every four years they served at home? And, practically, our army has served in time of peace fourteen years in the colonies for four years at home, and many of our Indian regiments have served twenty-three years in India without coming home at all. I am aware that we made some alterations in the system last year. But if it is not to be held a hardship towards the flower of the British army that it is sent from a congenial climate to climates destructive to their health, where they are to serve ten years, or a longer period if required, why are we to limit the immigration of Coolies, Africans, and Chinese, to our colonies, to a period so short that they do not repay the speculator who takes them out? I must add, that in my opinion there ought not to be imposed on the colonies or on the importer of immigrants any obligation to take them back. They should be left to their own resources—they should feel that they were free in the colonies; but they should also feel that they must rely on their own industry and exertions to pay for their passage home. And more than this; they should not, as I think, be permitted to return home until they had repaid the expense of their importation. Those are matters that will properly come under the consideration of the Committee for which I move. There are other restrictions that seem to be very unnecessary as regards the West Indies. But I shall now pass to the case of our East India colonies. Those colonies certainly have not the same claim on us that the West India colonies have—namely, that of their property having been taken from them, and their having received as compensation but a very small portion of its value. But, in my opinion, they have the same claim on the good faith of Parliament that the fundholders or any other interest have. When you emancipated the slaves, you invited British capitalists to exert themselves in the production of sugar by free labour. You induced them to invest their money on the banks of the Ganges; and, in my opinion, the faith of Parliament is as much pledged to them to enable them to repay themselves for the outlay of their capital, as it is pledged to repay the fundholder the debt that is due to him.

I shall next advert to the case of the Mauritius. I believe that if any Member of this House was ever justified in moving for a Committee of Inquiry, and in asking Parliament to revise its previous judgment, such a justification is to be found in the language used by the Under Secretary of the Colonies, on the last day of the last Session of the last Parliament, with respect to the condition of that colony. I am sure that it is in the recollection of my noble Friend opposite (Lord J. Russell) that on that occasion, when I gave notice of an inquiry upon this subject, in presenting a petition from the British West Indies, Mr. Hawes, with an air of great triumph, said— The noble Lord had confined his attention to the West India Islands; but let him turn to the Mauritius, and he would find that there the greatest prosperity was manifest, and that the production of sugar had immensely increased. He would ask, if it was for a moment to be supposed that these petitioners could be favoured by the admission of their produce free of duty? [Lord G. BENTINCK had not made any proposition of that kind, but simply that an inquiry should be entered into.] He was drawing the attention of the House to the petition, and he found that one of its prayers was, that the petitioners should be permitted to have their sugar imported duty free. But, at all events, the noble Lord was in favour of at least 50 per cent being imposed as a protection to the West India planters. Now, if they were to refer to the entire history of the West India colonies, they would find that more complaints were made in that House on the part of the planters during the most palmy days of protection, than had been heard of late years; and the noble Lord might rest satisfied that a system of free trade and open competition would be most beneficial for all parties concerned; that it would lead to greater economy of production, be the means of embarking more capital in the growth and manufacture of sugar, and tend to the general prosperity of the whole population."* Now, I think that when the Colonial Office, on the 23rd of July last, was so entirely in the dark—so entirely ignorant of the true state of Her Majesty's colonial possessions—so totally uninformed of the real state of this question—a complete justification is afforded for the course I now take in moving for this Committee of Iniquity—not that I may teach my hon. Friends—the 130 Members who supported me, and foresaw all that has happened since 1846; but that Her Majesty's Ministers, and the free-traders in general, may have an opportunity of becoming more perfectly acquainted with all the branches of this subject. I am inclined to hope that this Committee may be the means of persuading Her Majesty's Ministers that they have thus far taken altogether an erroneous course, when, instead of finding the Mauritius in a manifest state of prosperity, they shall find that, out of six great firms in the Mauritius, but one unfortunately remains standing; that the liabilities of the houses that have failed in the Mauritius amount to no less than 2,900,000l.; and that the Government has found it necessary to advance 450,000l. to enable the colony to go on, as well as to send out orders to India to supply the people of the Mauritius with rice, in order to save them from starvation, in consequence of their policy having reduced the price of sugar 11s. per cwt., and as a sequence knocked up the cultivation of the sugar cane in that island. When they learn all this, they may, perhaps, be disposed to pause, and to consider whether the free-trade system can work in the British colonies. When I ask for a Committee of Inquiry on this subject, I ask for a bridge for Her Majesty's Ministers and the free-traders to pass over. But I must say that I have too much respect for the abilities of those Gentlemen, to imitate the example of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden), by attaching to that bridge the epithet applied to a well-known proposition in Euclid. The bridge we must find for those Gentlemen is not a bridge "for the blockheads," because we, who have been represented by the hon. Gentleman to be the "blockheads," foresaw all that has occurred; but a bridge for the "men of brains," over which the hon. Member for the West Riding and his fraternity may * Hansard, Vol. xciv. (Third Series), p. 695. be able to retreat—not with colours flying or drums beating, and bands playing "See, the conquering hero comes," or "King Richard Cœur-de-Lion," the tune that greeted the hon. Gentleman at Berlin. They may pass with arms reversed, and muffled drums, perhaps muttering between their teeth, "If our doctrine is from God, it will live; if not, it is doomed to perish." But what are the difficulties of the Mauritius? Do they arise from any want of labourers? The people of that colony, at an expense of 800,000l., have had an importation of 93,000 labourers. The difficulty in the Mauritius is not to get labourers, but to make those they have do work. The licence given to those labourers as soon as their first yearly contract is at an end, enables them to run loose over the country, and prevents their employers from getting any work from them. The state of the Mauritius is grievous indeed; and if we cannot but rejoice at the great prosperity and the great happiness that have accompanied the emancipation of slaves in the British West India colonies, we must deplore a very different state of things in the French colony. In this colony, I believe, out of 60,000 negroes emancipated, not more than 8,000 work in the fields; while no less than 26,000 have died. That, I am informed, has arisen from the demoralised and drunken life into which they have fallen. So also as regards the Coolies—I hear that the moral state of the Coolies is most painful to contemplate. I understand that the emancipated negro women consider themselves far too high a class to have anything to say to the Coolies; and the consequence has been, that the Hindoos have indulged the most unnatural and beastly propensities.

But I hope I may be allowed to say a few words in defence of the merchants connected with the Mauritius. It has been too much the fashion to condemn those merchants as wild, rash, and unpardonable speculators and gamblers. It appears to me that a more unjust charge could not well be made. I cannot give the details of the business of individual merchants trading to the Mauritius. But I recollect that the quantity of sugar consigned to the merchants connected with that colony was 28,000 tons; which, at 10l. per ton, would give a sum of 280,000l. It is charged against the merchants that they have rashly and improvidently advanced money on those estates far beyond their value; but it should be remembered that the annual produce of those estates was that by which that security ought to be measured. The reduction of 10l. per ton, caused by Act of Parliament on the 28,000 tons, the average annual produce of the estates on which the capital of these individuals was hypothecated, represents an annual revenue of 280,000l., and at ten years' purchase would, within 100,000l., equal the sum total of all the liabilities of all these merchants together. And yet, whilst a great portion of them have had so large a proportion of their property rendered almost valueless, they will honourably meet the larger portion of their engagements. But it is not only the value of the property upon which they have lent their money that has been diminished in value, at ten years' purchase, to the extent of 2,800,000l., but it has been made altogether unsaleable. A harder measure was never dealt out to any body of men in this world than to the merchants of the Mauritius, of whom but one out of six, their entire number, has escaped destruction. They have been ruined—not by their rash speculations—not by any mistaken calculations in trade—the only mistaken calculations they have made being in the honour and good faith of the British Parliament. They could not reckon on the measures of versatile minds. It is all very well for Gentlemen holding seats in this House to come down and say they have changed their minds; but when the commerce of England hears the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth declare in 1841, "that the faith and honour of the British Parliament, the faith and honour of the country itself, are concerned in the maintenance of the exclusion of slave-grown sugar," and when they find a majority of this House affirm that proposition, and find on an appeal being made to the country at a general election, a majority of ninety returned to Parliament to maintain that principle—I know not what men engaged in trade or commerce are to do, or where they are to look for security, if not in such pledges as these. It cannot be doubted that these frequent changes in our commercial regulations are highly injurious to the welfare of this country; and it is no wonder that our neighbours in the United States should observe that "no country in the world can stand such constant change and vacillation of commercial policy." Why, it is plain that there must be waste—there must be loss—in such a state of things. You can- not shuffle over these commercial tariffs, impositions, and reductions of duties from one Cabinet to another: you cannot impose commercial regulations one year, and abolish them the next, without bringing about such disastrous results as have recently occurred in the East and West Indies. You cannot change a trade of 100,000,000l. sterling from one channel to another without producing that which is now happening in the East and West Indies, whether the trade be in sugar or anything else. The consequence of such vacillation must be as we have seen—meetings of creditors—windings up under deeds of inspection, estates thrown into the Court of Bankruptcy—and balance-sheets with liabilities on one side and assets on the other, where the stock on hand will ordinarily be found set down at one-third of its original cost. That is the state of trade here. I see the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Wilson). It was only in July last that Mr. Hawes pointed to the Mauritius as the example of the greatest prosperity; and I think it was in September that the Economist, the preceptor of my right hon. Friend opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) put forth a most triumphant article, proclaiming "cheap sugar the triumph of free trade." And how was it to be a triumph? Not only was the revenue to be increased—not only had the consumers gained something like, I think, 2,000,000l. sterling—but see, we were told, what a glorious fiscal change! At the rate of 45l. a ton, 100,000 tons of sugar additional had been imported, representing 4,500,000l., of which the profits, as the Economist told us, must necessarily be divided amongst merchants, brokers, shipowners, grocers, and shopkeepers. This was in September; and yet we do not arrive at the end of October before we find these great mercantile houses, the Reids, the Irvings, and the Barclays—men of the greatest wealth before free trade came to interfere with their prosperity—involved in ruin to an extent, not of 4,500,000l., but of 6,300,000l.

But how has this benefited the cotton interest? How have they fared in Lancashire and in Manchester, where the cry was raised, "Oh, let us have cheap sugar—cheap sugar for the poor man—now no longer a luxury, but a necessary of life. Give us cheap sugar. Open to us the trade of the Brazils."

I do not see the hon. Member who moved the Address, but I received a friendly chal- lenge from him to show him that Lancashire had not been benefited by the improved trade with the Brazils. I accept that challenge. How has it fared with Lancashire? Open wide the portals of trade with the Brazils, we were told, and the mills do not exist—the bricks are not made to build the mills—which will be required to supply the enormous trade which will be created with the Brazils, Cuba, and Porto Rico. In vain we said, "Deluded men! do not change your old customers for new ones. You may get new customers in Brazil; but depend upon it your old customers in India, the Mauritius, and the West Indies, are far preferable to any you may fancy you have in prospect—keep the substance, and do not grasp at the shadow." Those who raised a warning voice were ridiculed. I have got, through the favour of Mr. Richard Burns of the Commercial Glance—an authority on these matters whom nobody will doubt—a statement of the comparative exports to the sugar-growing countries for sixteen months previous to the passing of the Bill of my right hon. Friend, and the sixteen months subsequent. What does this show? The Bill passed, I think, late in August, 1846—this account takes date from the 12th September. It is true the trade with Brazil has improved:— In the 16 months from the 12th May to the 12th September, 1846, the exports of cotton to the Brazils were 1,981,620l.; in the 16 months after the passing of the Bill the exports increased to 2,264,386l.—showing an increase of 282,766l. But those who are acquainted with the Brazilian trade know that it is carried on at eighteen months' credit, and that the exports are still unpaid for. I have a letter here from a great Brazilian merchant at Liverpool, who informs me that there has been great speculation, and that the trade is carried on chiefly by British money. My correspondent says— From about the middle of 1846 to the same period of 1847 our exports to Brazil were heavy, and considerably in excess of the demand. To Bahia, particularly, they were stimulated, owing to the prospects of a large crop and consequent increased means of the natives to pay for them; all this resulted in accumulation of stocks; so much so, that in July and August of the past year the public stores were full to overflowing, and British ships had to remain, in many instances, for several weeks, without being able to discharge their cargoes for want of storage and room ashore in the custom-house, where all goods must go. I need scarcely tell your Lordship that the dealers in Brazil are sagacious enough, when the markets are so overstocked, to purchase sparingly, and the anxiety of importers to effect sales must have the result of depressing prices. Your Lordship is correctly informed that large quantities have been got rid of by forced sales on very long credit, in proof of which I may state that the principal exporters are scarcely in receipt of any returns for their exports of 1847, whilst not less than probably a fourth, or a third, of the exports of 1846 are still unpaid for. My correspondent further informs me, that I may not perhaps he aware that there is an export duty on Brazilian sugar and cotton of twelve per cent ad valorem; so that all this encouragement of Brazilian sugar, as in the case of the United States, only tends to fill the Exchequer of the Brazils. But what has our liberality to Brazil done? Has she reduced her duties? No; she raised them in 1845, and maintains them; and, through raising her duties, she has increased her revenues from 7,000 contos in 1845, to 16,000 contos in 1847. Has she shown any favour to our shipping interest? Quite the contrary. She has selected the United States, France, Bremen, Norway, Sweden, and Prussia, and has conferred new privileges upon them; but not so England, who has been fool enough to part with her advantages without asking for any return. Speaking of the slave trade, my correspondent says— Several thousands of both sexes are annually imported from Africa into Brazil. I have heard the number estimated at 30,000 and upwards. In October last several cargoes of slaves were landed in Bahia, or on the coast in the neighbourhood; and in a letter from Bahia, written about three months ago, I saw it stated that the assortment was not considered very suitable, there being too many old women amongst them, which were a drug in that market. Comparing the sixteen months antecedent and the sixteen months subsequent to the Act for the admission of slave-grown sugar, there has been to Brazil an increased export of cotton goods amounting to 282,766l. For the period from the 12th of May, to the 12th of September, 1846, the value of the exports was 1,981,620l.; for the period from the 12th of September, to the 12th of January, 1848, their value was 2,264,386l. But the exports to Cuba have fallen from 322,488l. in the first period, to 210,732l. in the second, showing a decrease of 111,756l.; and the exports to Porto Rico have fallen from 4,820l. in the first period, to 1,892l. in the second, showing a decrease of 2,928l. After all, this grand Brazilian, Cuban, and Porto Rico trade furnishes on the balance an increased export to the value of only 168,082l., the goods exported in 1846 not having yet been paid for. So that it is not a very profitable trade. How does the matter stand as regards the British colonies? The exports to Bombay have fallen from 1,643,515l. to 1,179,763l.; to Calcutta, from 2,816,585l. to 2,174,008l. There has been a trumpery increase of exports to Madras—from 102,490l. to 107,494l. The exports to Mauritius, as might well be supposed, have fallen from 89,782l. to 41,189l.; and to the British West Indies, from 827,483l. to 638,175l. The result of the whole is, that upon our own colonial trade there has been a decrease of 1,339,244l., while to the foreign slaveholding countries there has been as a set-off, this miserable increase to the extent only of 168,082l., which is still unpaid.

I have a statement as to the raw material of cotton in 1845 and 1846. It was dear in the end of 1846 and in 1847; the price having advanced from twenty-five to forty per cent on the value of the exports. The balance which remained for wages of labour and profits, comparing these two periods, has declined by 1,871,000l. And for this we are told the poor operatives of Lancashire are to be compensated by the cheap sugar which they are to get; that the reduction of 10s. a cwt. or 1d. a pound, is to be ample compensation to the manufacturers and operatives of Lancashire and the west of Scotland, for a loss of 1,800,000l., the greater part of which would have fallen to their share in the shape of wages and profits of manufacture. By a return moved for by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton), it appears that there were engaged in the factories 307,000 persons, of whom I think above 100,000 were under eighteen years of age. If I add 193,000 as dependent on these, it will make the number in Lancashire and the west of Scotland amount to about 500,000. I grant you that in a consumption of 290,000 tons of sugar among 20,000,000 of people, the consumption of each person amounts to between 23lb. and 24lb. a head. Whether or not the unemployed manufacturers of Lancashire have got their due share, I will not pretend to say; but I will assume that every one of these 500,000 persons depending on the cotton trade for their existence consume their share of 231b. of sugar. The whole will amount in the course of the sixteen months of which we are speaking to about 6,904, say 7,000 tons, and by your policy they have saved 10l. a ton on that. You have given them, then, 70,000l. on the one hand, whilst you have robbed them, on the other, of trade to the value of 1,871,000l., the greater part of which consists in the wages of labour. I am sorry the hon. Mover of the Address is not here to meet his own challenge, and show to me, if he is able, that the exchange of your colonial trade, of your "old lamps for new," has answered its purpose.

I have not quite done with this question of trade. I have been furnished with a circular, which came by the last mail from Calcutta, which contains an account of the trade to that place, which is very remarkable. We altered our sugar laws, as regards the East Indies, in 1835, when we admitted East Indian sugar to compete with the colonial. In the year ending the 1st of May, 1835, the whole trade of Calcutta amounted to 1,574,182l., of which about 735,687l. consisted of cotton manufactures. The entire exports of Calcutta to Great Britain in the same year were 1,523,475l., and in that year but 134,226l. consisted of the produce of the sugar cane. Well, after that the Legislature let the sugar of the East Indies into this country; and what was the result of that? In 1846–7—before the recent free-trade law came into practical operation—the sugar trade had increased from 134,226l. a-year, in 1834–5, to 1,690,032l.; while the general trade had increased from 1,526,475l. to 4,459,422l., being an increase on the general trade of 181 per cent, and upon sugar alone in the same period of 1,159 per cent. Well, is this increased export trade requited by increased imports to the niggardly extent I have shown from Spanish West Indies and Brazil amounting to a miserable balance of 168,000l.? Far from it; our exports to Bengal had increased from 1,574,182l. to 4,241,072l. Of this Lancashire and the West of Scotland had gained an increase upon cotton goods alone, jumping up from 735,687l. to 3,087,135l., an increase of 2,321,447l., almost double the entire trade of Great Britain to Calcutta before we opened the sugar market to the East Indies.

Well, the sugar trade has now been cut off from Bengal. It is well known, and admitted on all hands, that while Bengal can supply any quantity of sugar so long as prices keep up, when the export price falls below 11 or 11½ rupees, 22s. or 23s. the cwt. at Calcutta, the export of sugar ceases. Well, you destroy in pros- pect the trade of Bengal; and what is the effect? Instead of having in the last half-year an export amounting to half the sum of 3,087,135l., or an export of upwards of a million and a half in the six months just concluded, the exports to Calcutta have fallen down to 424,549l. Now, Sir, there are the effects of free trade—there is "the triumph of free trade, the greatest fiscal achievement on record"—as we have been told.

Has this diminished export been confined to cotton goods? No, Sir, I have here a statement—although it is hardly sufficiently full—of the exports of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman near me (Mr. Goulburn), moved for a return of the increased amount of machinery exported to Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Brazils, showing a very great increase to those countries; and I know, too, that the Champion, which went out the other day, took six or eight mills and engines to Porto Rico. I find by this return that the export of machinery to the Mauritius, in consequence of sugar works being discontinued or abandoned, has been gradually falling off. In 1845 all the exports to the Mauritius were 333,192l., and that of machinery 41,138l.; in 1846 the whole exports had been 323,590l., machinery 17,151l.; in 1847 the whole exports were 223,240l., machinery 10,039l. To the East Indies and Ceylon the exports of millwork and machinery in the seven years ending 1846 inclusive had been 482,243l., British West Indies 258,820l., Mauritius 121,913l., making a total of 862,976l. During the same period the export of machinery to Brazil had been 156,316l.; to Cuba 74,887l. The total exports of British and foreign goods from the United Kingdom to Mauritius for the years 1845,1846, and 1847, were—in 1845, 333,192l., in 1846, 323,590l., in 1847, 223,240l.

The carrying trade with Cuba and Brazil in the seven years from 1840 to 1846 inclusive, was as follows:—

Ships. Tonnage. Ships. Tonnage.
Cuba 878 271,701 297 68,046
Brazils 1,188 284,267 109 22,693
2,066 555,968 406 90,739
Thus the aggregate tonnage, British, Brazilian, and Cuban, amounted to 646,607— the joint Brazilian and Cuban constituting less than one-seventh of the whole. It is said that the West Indian proprietors should have resided on their properties; but I think no want of zeal, energy, or enterprise, can be fairly brought against them; for, upon looking at the returns, we may see that their imports of English machinery were very large indeed, and were on the increase up to the period when the present law was passed. What is now the case? Why, the machinery which they erected at so much cost is, in many instances, lying useless and idle; whilst foreign countries are increasing their stock of machinery, and purchasing it, not merely from this country, but from the United States, and even out of our own West Indian colonies. But we are told of the costliness of putting down slavery and the slave trade. I acknowledge it at once. I know these noble exertions have cost this country more than 100,000,000l. sterling. There is a sum of 29,000,000l. for putting down the slave trade; for blockading armaments; slave trade commissions; subsidies of 400,000l. and 600,000l. to Spain and Portugal to induce them to put down the slave trade—to induce them to enter upon treaties that have never been fulfilled; then the charge of maintaining military establishments on the coast of Africa. You paid 20,000,000l. as compensation for the slaves, and 1,000,000l. to the commissioners for distribution to the stipendiary magistrates.

You prophesied—you the advocates of emancipation—that the free labourers would do more than twice the work of the slaves; and you said that the planters were entitled to no compensation, because, instead of being injured, they would be absolutely benefited by the abolition. I remember well the argument often used, especially by the hon. Member for Dumfries, "the day that makes a man a slave takes away half his worth;" and this was held to apply to the slaves in a tropical climate. But what was the state of the produce of the British colonies at that time? Why, with the mitigated slavery that then existed, there was imported every year an average, as stated by Lord Stanley, of 50,000 tons more sugar than this country could consume. The consumption was kept down by the war duties of 30s., and, till very lately, of 27s. the cwt. on sugar the produce of the West Indies. You took off taxes from your own shoulders—you relieved yourselves of 15,000,000l. of a pro- perty tax, and 3,000,000l. of a beer tax, and I know not how many millions more of house taxes, salt taxes, and leather taxes—but you took off none of those taxes which pressed so heavily on the West Indian interest; and it is recorded by Mr. Marshall, that while the value of sugar alone imported from the West Indies amounted during the period of the war in 1814 to 12,484,714l. sterling, by the change in the currency, and other causes, the entire produce of the West Indies had fallen, in 1830, to 6,758,084l. the customs duties on which exceeded 7,150,000l. Such is the way the West India islands have been treated by this country; and then you are surprised that there should be a cry of distress when a duty of 30s. the cwt. is charged upon their sugar—a duty levied when sugar was selling for 80s. per cwt., and continued when the price had dropped to an average of 29s. the cwt. The advocates of emancipation predicted for us a greater produce of sugar. Were these predictions fulfilled? Sir, the produce of sugar had so fallen off that it occasioned a rise of 10s. the cwt. on an average of the twelve years ending 1846, as compared with the twelve previous years. Sir, I think it is clear that taking the enhanced cost of the sugar to the consumer that has been occasioned by this measure, and the corresponding enhanced cost of molasses and rum, consequent upon diminished production, the result to the consumer in this country has been that instead of being benefited by the substitution of free for slave labour, he has paid in the course of these twelve years between 30,000,000l. and 40,000,000l. sterling more for his sugar than during the previous twelve years of slavery.

Was this a benefit to the sugar planters? I shall show you presently that they have gained nothing. I have said that 50,000,000l. was spent in putting down slavery and the slave trade. To this may be added 35,000,000l. as the increased cost to the consumer here, at 10l. per ton on 2,500,000 tons of sugar, and on its corresponding and due proportion of rum and molasses entered for home consumption in twelve years from 1834 to 1846, inclusive; and it will make a total of 85,000,000l. sterling; and then if you further add the duty which you would have received upon the quantity of sugar, molasses, and rum, that had been previously produced and consumed under the slave system, and which the free-labour system did not produce, you will find that the falling-off in the revenue amounted to not less than 30,000,000l. more, calculated upon the deficiency in the same twelve years of sugar to the amount of 1,000,000 tons, and of molasses and rum in duo proportion. So that I do not exaggerate at all when I say, that the abolition of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery—of the mild form of slavery that existed in our colonies—cost this country, from first to last, within forty years, not less than 115,000,000l. sterling.

And yet after we have made this immense sacrifice, we have undone it all by the admission of slave-grown sugar to compete with free-labour sugar; for I believe it cannot be denied that it has stimulated the slave trade and increased its horrors.

It has been asserted that the West Indian interest has no claim upon us, and that the Mauritius has no claim; but I beg to differ from those who hold that argument. There would have been no claim if the price paid for their property had been decided by arbitration, and settled in the way that these matters usually are in the case of private property. But did the West Indies appoint an arbitrator? No—this country first said, "We will take your property, and having taken it, we will decide what we will pay you for it. You, the people of England, set your own value upon that property. You valued it at 45,000,000l. sterling, having first lowered its value by several measures which the West Indian planters cheerfully assented to. Having lowered the value of the property, by forbidding the transport of the slaves from one island to another; having prohibited the separation of families, even in the case of men and women living together without being married—having put all these restrictions on the sale of transfer of slave property, by which its value was considerably reduced—in fact, having by your acts reduced it to half its worth—you then came forward and appointed your own valuers—set down the value at 45,000,000l. and paid them 20,000,000l., being on an average about 25l. 14s. for each slave. In the course of the war with the United States we captured 3,601 slaves. By the Treaty of Ghent we bound ourselves to make the owners restitution. How did we deal with the citizens of the United States? Arbitrators were selected by both parties, and those ar- bitrators came to a unanimous verdict; and what was the price that they assessed against England for the payment of these American slaves?

Maryland 717
Virginia 1,722
Mississippi 22
Delaware 2
Alexandrina, Colombia 3
Total 2,466 at £58 6 4
South Carolina 8
Georgia 833
Alabama 31
Total 872 at £81 5 0
Louisiana 203 at £120 16 8
Grand total 3,601 £266,197 10 0;
being an average of 73l. 18s.d. per head, while we only paid to our own colonies 25l. 14s.d. per head! I want to know whether this is fair dealing between our own colonies and the citizens of a foreign country?

There is another example to which I beg to refer—it is the case of French Guiana, with regard to which negotiations are at present going on for the emancipation of the slaves. The arrangement that has been come to is, that they are to receive a sum of 55l. for each slave, coupled with the condition that the slaves are to be bound to serve their present masters fifteen years after their emancipation. We know that so long as the apprenticeship system lasted in the West Indies there was no great difficulty in procuring the necessary amount of labour, the only drawback being the fourth part of the day allowed to the apprentices; and then, whether we look at the French colonies or the arrangement made with the citizens of the United States, it cannot be said that the compensation was set down at too high a sum for our own colonists.

But perhaps the simplest way of showing how small a compensation it proved to be will be to show the comparative average cost and profit of cultivation in the island of Jamaica for four years ending 1834, and four years ending 1845. I will take Lord Stanley's estimate of the cost of subsistence, and also Lord Grey's, the first being 2l. 10s. and the other 2l. 5s. per head per annum. I have charged the planters during slavery with the payment, not only of effective labourers, but of all the prædial slaves of every age and sex. I find that in the island of Jamaica there were, during slavery, 287,895 prædial slaves, which, according to Lord Stanley's estimate of 2l. 10s. per head for subsistence, will cost 719,737l. per year. It appears that there are now working on the sugar plantations of Jamaica, 165,954 free labourers, whose wages, at four days a week and 1s. 3d. a day, provision grounds, &c, included, will amount per annum to 2,153,502l., being an increase on the annual charge amounting to 1,435,765l.; add to this loss the decreased value of produce, 786,315l.; and we have a loss to the planter, through increased wages of labour, aggravated by diminished value of produce, of 2,222,080l. Against this I must set off the interest received upon the compensation money at the rate of 6 per cent., which upon 6,161,927l. would amount to 369,715l., showing a balance against the present system of 1,852,365l. a year, lost by the change to the Jamaica planters!

But how will the matter stand without protection? How will the matter stand this year, considering the reduction of 10s. per cwt., or 10l. per ton, in the price of sugar, through the competition which now exists with sugar grown by slave labourers? That circumstance had increased, in 1847, and will henceforth increase, the annual loss by 812,335l. Thus the planters of Jamaica will be losers, altogether, to the amount of 2,662,700l. a year at present prices, by the change from slavery to emancipation, after giving you credit for your compensation money of 20,000,000l.

But does this not show at once what I am endeavouring to prove to you, that the cost of free-labour sugar is so much increased, that the colonies cannot go on much longer when they are placed in competition with slave-labour sugar? I have before me a return from Guiana and Barbadoes. As the latter was said to have suffered less by emancipatien than our other colonies, I shall take the return of that island first. In making the calculation as to Jamaica, I have taken Lord Stanley's estimate. If I had taken that of Earl Grey, the loss would have been considerably greater. In Barbadoes labour has been cheaper than in any other colony. There were 70,695 slaves; and I will take Lord Stanley's estimate of 2l. 10s. per head, and allow 177,085l. for their subsistence per annum. There are 41,661 free labourers, and their wages, four days week, at 1s. 2d. a day, will amount to a 506,847l., being an increased annual charge of 330,110l. Then the share of interest upon the 20,000,000l., at 6 per cent, will be 103,251l., leaving a very considerable loss as the result of emancipation. I take the case of Barbadoes because it affords the only instance in which a greater amount of sugar has been produced after the Emancipation Act, compared with its produce before the passing of that Act. The annual value of the produce of Barbadoes has been greater by 148,035l. since emancipation than before. But even the planters of Barbadoes have lost 78,791l. per annum, according to Lord Stanley's estimate, and 96,812l. according to Lord Grey's, by emancipation, as compared with the expenses of slave-labour cultivation; and supposing the price of sugar reduced 10s. per cwt., that will show a net annual diminution of profits of 266,376l. in Barbadoes alone, according to Lord Stanley's estimate, and 284,379l. according to that of Lord Grey.

The result of all the West India islands, together with the Mauritius, is this—that the wages in 1846, of the whole, amounted to 6,219,077l. I have taken them at 1s. 3d. in Jamaica, 2s. 2d. in Guiana and Trinidad, 1s. 2d. in Barbadoes and the minor West India islands, and 10½d. in the Mauritius. Now, the subsistence of all the prædial slaves during slavery, cost only 1,629,540l. The average annual value of the produce of all the colonies, including the Mauritius, has been only 39,000l. less since emancipation than it was during the existence of slavery. The whole difference has gone, not into the pockets of the planters, but into those of the negroes. According to Lord Stanley's statement, the annual increased cost of production is 3,520,229l.; according to Earl Grey's it is 3,683,111l. a year. After taking credit, then, for the 20,000,000l. compensation money received, and the interest of 6 per cent, the planters were losers upon the aggregate twelve years of apprenticeship and freedom by the bargain, according to Lord Stanley, to the amount of 42,242,748l. I ask you, then, whether it is at all surprising that the colonies and the sugar planters of the British empire should have been what are called "grumblers?" I think I have proved that there is no pretence whatsoever for saying that the sugar planters have received full or adequate compensation for the loss they have sustained, and that the bargain was closed against their interests altogether in 1833. Why was it closed in 1833? Was it not part of the bargain made in that year that they were to be entitled to seven years' apprenticeship of their former slaves at all events? And did you not deprive them of the last two years of that term in all these colonies, and in the Crown colonies sooner even than the others? Was there no other bargain entered into than that? Can any one read the debates that then took place in this House and elsewhere—can any one reflect upon the expenditure that the country has from time to time made to put down slavery—could any person remember the extraordinary elections that then took place, when the country was raised, and no man could hold up his hand in a public assembly except in favour of the emancipation of the slaves—can any body fail to recollect that negroes were at that time dragged about to elections with golden chains upon them, and chimney sweeps when negroes could not be obtained, to rouse the feelings and passions of the people? Can you forget that there were placed before half the hustings in the kingdom full-length pictures of white planters flogging negro women? Who that remembers the excitement that existed in the early period of my political life, but must have felt very confident that the British public would never change its feeling on the subject of slavery? Who could have then ever dreamed that the public would have consented, for the saving of one penny in the pound of sugar, to admit slave-grown sugar—sugar produced from colonies where slavery was carried on with more cruel severity than in any other portion of the world? Could any one have believed that they would consent to supply a new stimulus to the slave trade? It appears, however, now that the expense of their philanthropy has somewhat cooled the feelings of the people.

In introducing his measure of emancipation, when the West Indians said that there would be at least a reduction of two-thirds in the produce as compared with that under slavery, Lord Stanley held out this encouragement—"Don't tell me that that will be an injury to you; on the contrary, I think that it will be greatly for your benefit." Lord Stanley did not accuse them then of want of enterprise. He did not say that they required something to stimulate their production. No; on the contrary, he said— The distress of the colonists may be traced to one plain and undeniable cause—they have overstocked the market. Though they possess the undisputed monopoly of the markets of this country, they have gone on increasing the extent of their produce until they have far outdone the demand for sugar in the markets of Europe. The quantity of sugar now imported annually, exceeds the demand by 1,000,000 cwts.; and the consequence necessarily is, that the monopoly is practically, and in effect, a dead letter."—"New land has been brought into cultivation—new colonies have been added to our possessions—the cultivators of the old land have been compelled to adopt new and improved modes of increasing the productive powers of their estates; and all for the purpose of contributing to swell that vast amount of excessive production which, beyond all dispute, is the great source of the present difficulties of the West India interest. The owners of property in the West Indies proceed with enterprises not warranted by the circumstances of the colonies, or the demand for sugar in the European markets."* His Lordship said, that if their production was decreased they would have a better price, and one that would fully repay them. Was it not part of that bargain, when your own valuer valued their interest at 45,000,000l., and you paid them but 20,000,000l., that you were to give them the monopoly of the sugar market? I recollect the evidence given at that time by the late Sir Fowell Buxton, on oath, before a Committee of the House of Lords—evidence that was not made more valuable because it was taken on oath, for he was a high-minded and honourable man, whose simple word was as good as his oath. When he was asked, however, what security the planters were to have for their monopoly, he answered in these terms:— Who could ever believe, when the British people had emancipated for conscience sake so vast a number of these unhappy beings, at so heavy a pecuniary expense, that they would ever consent to admit the produce of the slave planter again into this country? Sir F. Buxton was an honourable man, and when it was proposed to grant 20,000,000l. to effect this object, he stated it to be his conscientious though mistaken belief, that with perfect freedom much more sugar would be produced than had been by slavery. He would not listen, however, to the dishonest proposal that this great act of national justice should be done at the exclusive expense of the colonists. Deputation after deputation came up when the 20,000,000l. grant was in question to resist it; but Sir E. F. Buxton refused to listen to them. But many there were who reminded him of the lines in Hudibras— For saints themselves will sometimes be— Of gifts that cost them nothing—free. And such was the case with certain Quakers and Dissenters of the present day. I have it here stated in a letter from Bristol, that the first cargo which arrived in this country of slave-grown sugar, after the Act of 1846 was passed, * Hansard, Vol. xvii. (Third Series). P. 1210. was brought by the Unity, Havannah, to Cowes, and consigned to a Quaker house at Bristol; and not long after a second cargo was received by another Quaker house. I could never before appreciate fully the anecdote told of a Quaker grocer in Manchester, represented to have said to his apprentice, "John, when thou hast done sanding the sugar thou wilt come down to prayers." Too many of those who, when they thought it was to cost them nothing, were most anxious for the abolition of slavery, when they found that it was likely to cost themselves money, became very cool in their ardour; but when they saw that there was a likelihood of driving a good trade in slave-grown sugar, they very soon put aside their religion and morality, and are now looking sharply after their own interest.

I have here a letter on the subject of this slave trade, accompanied with a plan of one of the slave vessels, from an officer of Her Majesty's Navy, Captain Pilkington. [The noble Lord held up the sketch of the slaver.] I could hardly believe it possible that human creatures could be packed up in the way they are seen in this sketch. Here they are seen sitting as close together as they can be packed. They are placed longitudinally in rows sitting crossways in the ship, so as to enable their masters to stow as many as possible within a given space. On receiving this letter with its accompaniment, I wrote to know whether I could rely upon the truth of this statement. The answer I received through the Duke of Richmond, is as follows:— Swanage, Dorset, Jan. 31, 1848. My Lord Duke—I received your Grace's note yesterday. Lord George need not be afraid of the authenticity of the picture. I saw the counterpart of it at Rio; the only difference was, that the deck was four feet nine high (these were pronounced by connoisseurs superb accommodations). I never served on the coast myself, but have seen and boarded many vessels from there, after they arrived. If you will do me the favour to peruse the few incidents I have hastily committed to paper, and send them to Lord George, he may perhaps glean something, although the whole system is too notorious to be contradicted. What I have said is true. There are many of our officers can furnish a tale of horror and disgust. THE ARRIVAL in Brazils or the West Indies is the time to see it in its worst and most brutal form." The sketch came into Captain Pilkington's hands in 1823 and 1824, and was similar, he writes, to that of a schooner taken by Her Majesty's ship Slaney (Captain O'Brien), off the Isle of Pines. Captain Pilkington says— When captured, several of the slaves were dead, others dying, and when the remnant was removed into the Slaney, their flesh was found to be mortified and crawling with maggots, owing to the long confinement and sitting posture. I have seen subsequently slaves recently imported, brought into Havannah, with similar marks upon them. I was never employed on the coast of Africa; but the atrocities of the slave trade can be fully detailed by hundreds who have witnessed them in that locality. I may, however, here remark, that slavers, when captured on the coast, their cargo is comparatively fresh to what it becomes on arrival at Brazils or Cuba. It is here that the effects of the 'middle passage' and its horrors are developed; and any one who has visited the slave market at Rio Janeiro or Havannah, as I have done, can bear testimony to such scenes of brutality as revolting as they are disgraceful to the whole Christian world… A deep and sworn confederacy exists. Whilst we are lopping off the branches on the coast, the root is flourishing anew, and cherished in the Havannah and Brazils. Enterprise is not dormant. Funds are not wanting. The cultivation of sugar now demands more labour, since the late tariff …We have not 'hit the right nail on the head.' We must strike deeper and harder than our beautiful little brigs are capable of striking. All the skill and ingenuity of our shipbuilders—all the horse-power of London and Glasgow—the lives of our best and bravest officers and seamen—will evaporate and disappear in the pestilential tornado, without advancing one single step towards accomplishing an object which is continually vanishing like a phantom before our eyes. It is to Rio Janeiro and Havannah, Lisbon and Madrid, we must turn our attention, and break down these hitherto irresistible barriers by compulsory treaty and guarantee. They have too long frustrated the feeble endeavours of civilization and humanity. Sir, I agree with Captain Pilkington that you never can put down this slave trade by such means as you are resorting to. You will ruin the country in your endeavour to put down the slave trade, by the fruitless attempt to blockade 10,260 miles of coast. How, then, are you to go to work? I would do, Sir, as Captain Pilkington advises, I would strike a blow at the head instead of the hand. Instead of sending a whole army to destroy these individual hornets, I would smother the nests themselves that now exist in Cuba. I have seen, in a late number of the Times newspaper, an extract that was taken from a United States' paper; and what did it say? It said that there is a great feeling arising in the United States to possess themselves of Cuba:— 'If we do not take it,' they say, 'England will. Mr. President Polk has justified the invasion of Mexico, in order to demand from them the payment of a debt. England has a hundred-fold greater claims upon Cuba than ever we had on Mexico: 45,000,000l. are owing to British subjects, and to Spanish bondholders in that country, and Cuba is hypothecated to their bondholders to the amount of that debt.' And why does America think England likely to take possession of Cuba? Because the existence of slavery is in question, and slavery cannot be put down while Cuba exists as it does. Let England then seize upon Cuba, and she strikes at once a death-blow to slavery and the slave trade. No slave market remains but Brazil, whose coast you may easily blockade. Take possession of Cuba, and that will settle the question altogether. You will only be distraining for a just debt, long due and too long asked in vain from the Spanish Government. You would then put an end to all slavetrading, and you would of course emancipate the slaves of Cuba. If the people of this country have thought it right to spend 115,000,000l. in putting down slavetrading, at the cost of the ruin of the British colonies, will it not be a far cheaper policy to put an end to slavery for ever by seizing Cuba, and paying ourselves thereby, at the same time a just debt? [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Would you seize the Brazils too?] I am not aware that Brazil owes England anything. The case of Cuba stands upon its own merits, and upon the debt of 45,000,000l. due to British subjects from the Spanish Government. Let Great Britain again possess Cuba, as she did in 1762, when she held it for about a year, and then exchanged it for the Floridas; she will then have the power to cut the trade of America in two; and then, depend upon it, no more boasts will be heard of the United States' aggrandisement in the direction of British territory, such as was lately uttered by one of her military officers:— The continent—the whole continent, and nothing but the continent, is our motto; and Uncle Sam will not be satisfied until, putting his hat on the British colonies, resting his right elbow on the paradise of California, with his left hand on the eastern seaboard, he can throw his leg like a freeman over the southern continent of America, with his heel in Cape Horn, and Cuba for a cabbage-garden. This would be the most effectual course to put an end to slavery and slavetrading; and then no obstacle will remain in the way of the British planter going to the coast of Africa, and obtaining, not by purchase, not by war, but by the inducement; of freedom and good wages, any number of Africans he may require for the cultivation of the soil. I thank the House for having so long listened to me. As I said before, if any one should choose to take a more decisive and immediate course for affording relief to the British planters—a course which I should think most desirable—I shall not consider myself precluded from supporting such a proposition; but feeling myself without the power of carrying such a resolution through the House, I am prepared to go into this Committee, resolved to examine into all the different modes by which relief can be afforded; and, if I cannot obtain all I can desire, I will accept all I can get for the planters in our East and West Indian possessions. The noble Lord concluded by moving that— A Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present condition and prospects of the Interests connected with and dependent on Sugar and Coffee Planting in Her Majesty's East and West Indian Possessions and the Mauritius; and to consider whether any and what measures can be adopted by Parliament for their relief.


From what has been said by the noble Lord who has just sat down, the House will already have inferred that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to oppose his Motion; and I do not rise, therefore, for the purpose of objecting to the appointment of the Committee for which he has moved. My noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, early in the month of November, intimated to the noble Lord, that if he wished to move for a Committee with the objects which he has now explained to the House, Her Majesty's Government would not oppose the proposition. The noble Lord has stated several points in which relief may be afforded the West India interest, with reference to some of which Her Majesty's Government, as well as the noble Lord, think some inquiry may be advantageous; but I should deceive both him and the House, and, what is still more material, the West Indians themselves, if I led them to suppose that in consenting to the appointment of this Committee, Her Majesty's Government meant to imply the slightest doubt of the propriety of the course which they adopted in 1846, or the slightest intention of departing from the provisions of that Act. I think it but fair to all parties that this statement should be made as decidedly as possible, and as early as possible, because I believe that upon a subject of this description uncertainty is the worst of evils; and, as I remember well the hon. Member for Bristol to have said on a former occasion, the greatest kindness which can be shown towards them is to state distinctly and explicitly what the views of the Government are. I propose at the same time to state what are our intentions as to various points of a minor description, on which we do believe that effectual relief to a certain extent may be given to the West India interest, whose present state of distress is, I am afraid, undeniable, and which we most sincerely lament. In the many interviews which my noble Friend, myself, and other Members of the Government, have had with deputations from that body, we stated that this would be the occasion on which the views of the Government would be fully and explicitly stated; and I propose, therefore, to avail myself of this opportunity of doing so. I shall not follow the noble Lord through many of the topics upon which he has addressed the House this evening. I do not think it necessary to follow him in the general statement of trade for the last twelve months; for I think the peculiar circumstances of last year are such as not to lead to any sound inference generally as to the prospects of the future. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord into the extraordinary proposition with which he closed his speech, namely, that we should foreclose on the island of Cuba, and take possession of that dependency of one of our allies, to satisfy the claims of the Spanish bondholders. I shall confine myself to the question which is fairly brought before the House this evening, namely, the state of the West India interest—what we propose to do for them—what we do not propose to do for them—and the reasons that induce Her Majesty's Government to take the course which I shall more fully explain in the observations which I am about to address to the House. Sir, the statement -which my noble Friend has put forward on the part of the West India interest, and the statements laid before the Government by that body itself, amount to this, that at the present low price of sugar they cannot maintain their cultivation; and that low price of sugar they attribute nearly exclusively, and my noble Friend also almost exclusively, to the Act of 1846; and in order to avert the evils arising from this low price, they propose, and state distinctly, that nothing less than a permanent protection of at least 10s. per cwt. will enable them to maintain their cultivation and preserve them from ruin. Before I go into the subject, I may be permitted to say that I trust Gentlemen connected with the West India interest will believe I am anxious not to say a single syllable justly calculated to give them offence; but in resisting their demand for protection, I must and ought to state the arguments which have induced Her Majesty's Government to take the measures which they propose to adopt. I am bound to state the argument fairly, and it is possible that in doing so I may use expressions which may be misunderstood. I intreat them, however, to believe, that the Government are anxious to meet their claims, so far as is in their power consistently with the duty they owe to the community at large. Individually I should be happy to relieve them in any way that I can, and the Government are actuated by the same feelings; but they are bound to consult, in the first place, the interests of the great body of the people of this country, and not to favour any particular class. In the first place, it will be desirable to separate, in our consideration of this question, that temporary depression in price which is owing to other circumstances, from that depression which may have arisen from the competition of foreign sugar, because it would be exceedingly absurd to argue that a depression of price which has occurred in other commodities of foreign and colonial produce as well as in sugar, is in the case of sugar entirely to be ascribed to the operation of the Act of 1846, to which those other commodities were not exposed. It is notorious that other articles of produce have been subjected during the last few months to an extraordinary fall of price, as large as that which sugar has experienced, if not larger, owing to the depressed state of commerce which prevailed in autumn, and which affected a great many other articles besides sugar. I find on referring to the price of sugar, and comparing its price at the beginning of the month of January, 1847, with the price at the beginning of the month of January, 1848, that in the beginning of January, 1847, it was 34s. 2d., in the beginning of the last month it was 23s.d.—that is, a fall of about thirty per cent. But the same fall in price is to be remarked in other articles. Take indigo, for example, a commodity not exposed to any competition under this Act of 1846—in indigo there has been a fall in the same period of twenty-five per cent; in rice, there has been a fall of twenty-six per cent; in sago, a fall of fifty-one per cent; and in the better sorts of tea the fall has been forty-eight cent. In these articles the fall has been generally nearly as great, in some greater than sugar. Upon comparing the price of sugar last year with that which prevailed in former years prior to the Act of 1846, I do not find that the price was unprecedentedly low. The average price of sugar in the last year was 28s. 5d.; in 1829 the average price was 28s. 7d.; and in the three years immediately preceding the abolition of slavery in our colonies, the three consecutive years, ending in 1832, the prices did not range as high as in the course of the present year. In 1830 it was 24s. 11d., in 1831 23s. 8d., and in 1832 27s. 8d. If hon. Gentlemen are not satisfied with the yearly averages, I will take the monthly averages. [Lord G. BENTINCK was understood to intimate that it was unnecessary to refer to such returns. If the noble Lord is satisfied that the present low price is not attributable to the Act of 1846, or the Act of 1844, or that of 1833, I will omit any statement of this kind; but if he does say it is so attributable, he must not be surprised if I refer to the prices of years previous to 1833. If it be admitted on all hands that the fall of the price last year had nothing to do with the Act of 1846, it will be unnecessary for me to rebut that proposition; but such is not the statement which has been laid before us by persons representing the West India interest, for that body contended that the present low price of sugar is entirely owing to the Act admitting foreign slave-grown sugar; and with reference to that assertion, it is not unimportant to show that for years during the continuance of slavery the price was quite as low as it is now. But have hon. Gentlemen looked to the entries of foreign sugar for home consumption, and compared the quantity and price with those of colonial sugar? It will be found that at the time when there were large entries of foreign sugar, the price did not fall; and when the entries had considerably fallen off, the price was more depressed. In January, 1847, when the price was 34s. 2d., the entry of colonial sugar was 22,543 tons, while that of foreign sugar was 6,924 tons. The price of sugar rose after this large entry of foreign sugar. In September, with the price at 26s. 10d., the entry of colonial was 25,288 tons, and of foreign; 3,174 tons. It was after this that the most rapid fall took place. In November, with the price at 22s. 9d., the entry of colonial sugar was 19,579 tons, while that of foreign sugar had fallen off to 1,774 tons. In December the price was 22s. 10d.; the entry of colonial was 18,309 tons, and that of foreign 1,969 tons. Of course I am not standing here to deny that a large supply of sugar, of whatever description, naturally brings down the price. The avowed object of the Act of 1846 was to reduce the price of sugar. But it is apparent, that while these large importations of colonial sugar were going on, the importation of foreign slave-grown sugar had! fallen off in a most extraordinary manner from what it had been in the beginning of the year; and therefore the great depression in price which took place at the close of the year, can hardly be altogether im- puted to the competition of slave-grown sugar. The noble Lord has gone into a great number of cases, and recapitulated a great number of circumstances connected with the general depression of our trade and the export of cotton goods; but the noble Lord has not alluded to that particular fact which no one doubted has had the most material effect upon the latter branch of our trade, namely, the high price of cotton itself.

The noble Lord has accused Mr. Hawes, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, of gross ignorance of the state of the colonies, in consequence of his having said last summer that the trade of the Mauritius was then in a flourishing state; and has attributed to the present low price of sugar the recent apprehensions of distress in that colony, and the necessity for the step which the Government has taken of insuring supplies of rice being sent from Bengal to that island. He has also spoken of the failure of the houses connected with the Mauritius as having been caused by the fall in the price of sugar. The noble Lord has said nothing to show that the trade of the Mauritius was not in a healthy state last summer; and surely, Sir, it is notorious enough that the failure of those great houses, connected with the Mauritius, which we have had to lament, arose from causes utterly independent of the price of sugar. It was in consequence of the risk to which it was too probable that the interests of that island would be exposed from the impossibility of their obtaining the advances on which they have always been in the habit of relying, from their London correspondents, that fears were entertained of serious injury to the planters, and that the necessity arose for the measures of the Government, in regard to the supply of rice. My noble Friend has mistaken cause for effect, and has in fact reversed the order of things, and has attributed the failure of these London houses to the low price of sugar, whilst the great depression of price did not take place until after those failures had occurred. Is it not also notoriously the fact, that in several parts of the West Indies distress to a considerable extent has been caused by the failure of the West India Bank? Without going into the management of that bank, I believe I may say that it failed from causes unconnected with the low price of sugar. The circulation in the island of Barbadoes has been almost annihilated in consequence of the failure of this bank; and much of the distress there as well as in other islands has arisen from the impossibility of obtaining the usual banking accommodation. In Tobago great distress has been caused by a hurricane which has desolated that island. These causes, together with the general prostration of commercial credit, have caused great difficulty amongst West Indian proprietors, as well as others, and have contributed in no inconsiderable degree, to depress the price of the great staple of their produce. There has certainly been an increased importation of sugar in the course of the last year from foreign countries, and there is no doubt that a large supply of any article generally lowers its price; but the noble Lord, in the case of the low price of sugar, ought not to attribute to one exclusive cause that which many other causes have tended to produce. It is indispensable if we wish justly to appreciate the present circumstances of the sugar-growing colonies to take into account the depression which arises from general causes, and not to attribute the whole of it to one single cause applicable to sugar alone.

The noble Lord, although he stated in the beginning of his remarks that he was not prepared to maintain the total exclusion of slave-grown sugar from the British market, yet in the latter part—


The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I said I was not prepared to make a proposition to admit foreign and exclude slave-grown sugars, because I did not think after what had fallen on a former occasion from the noble Lord opposite (the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs), to the effect that such a distinction could not be made, I could succeed in that proposition without depriving Her Majesty's Ministers of their offices, and I was not prepared to make it on that account. But I was prepared to exclude slave-grown sugar, and foreign with it, if the one could not be excluded without the other.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon if I have, though unintentionally, misstated his argument; and I must return him my thanks, on the part of my Colleagues and myself, for the forbearance which he is disposed to show towards Her Majesty's Government.

My noble Friend has stated at great length the injustice with which he considers that the West Indians were treated in the amount of compensation awarded to them at the time of the abolition of slavery, and has stated also the greater liberality which this country has shown in giving compensation for slaves in other cases. Indeed, the peculiar claim which the West Indian body prefer for protection, and the groundwork of their case, as stated by themselves, is this—that they are entitled to further compensation from this country in consequence of the injury which they sustained by being deprived of the compulsory labour of their slaves. In the last Report of the House of Assembly in Jamaica it is to the Act of 1833, and not to the Act of 1846, that their distresses and sufferings are attributed. The position of the West Indians is, that they were at that time the owners of a large body of slaves, by whose labour they manufactured sugar much more cheaply than they are at present able to produce it, and that inasmuch as this country, without consultation or arrangement with them, by the Act of the Imperial Legislature, abolished slavery—deprived them of their property, and the means of producing sugar cheaply—we are bound to compensate them for the injury thus inflicted. The principle of compensation was, indeed, admitted by this country. But the noble Lord and the West Indian body represent the inadequacy of the amount awarded to them by Parliament, and that we are therefore bound to grant them further compensation. This compensation they claim in the shape of protection, by which the price of sugar is to be enhanced to the consumers of this country. On this point of the principle on which compensation was awarded, and of the adequacy of the amount, I will refer to the authority of Lord Stanley, who was the organ of the Government in bringing forward the measure of emancipation; and to that authority, although it may not weigh so much with the West Indians, my noble Friend will be inclined to defer. Lord Stanley, in proposing the measure for the emancipation of the slaves, referred to the papers presented by the West Indian proprietors to the Board of Trade, in which the net profits arising from the cultivation of sugar were estimated by themselves at 1,200,000l. a year; and he estimated from somewhat similar data the profits from coffee and rum at from 250,000l. to 300,000l. a year; making the total net profit of West Indian property 1,500,000l. a year. Assuming then ten years' purchase to be not far from the usual rate for West Indian property, the sum of 15,000,000l. did not very inadequately represent its total value. The sum which the West Indians actually received considerably exceeded 15,000,000l.; and after a payment higher than what might have been con- sidered a fair compensation for the whole of the West Indian property, I do not think that any strong claim can be made out for further sacrifice on the part of this country. The calculations upon which Lord Stanley's statement was founded were furnished by the West Indians. The people of this country submitted cheerfully to the heavy sacrifice which was then imposed upon them for the sake of these West Indians; and, in my opinion, they ought not to be called upon to submit to the further burden which the protection now demanded would entail upon them. The noble Lord has spoken very strongly of the grievance occasioned to the West Indians by the term of the apprenticeship originally contemplated having been subsequently shortened. Some parties may have been, and undoubtedly were, injured by the abrupt termination of the apprenticeship; but I believe that it is pretty generally admitted in the colonies that the value of the system of apprenticeship was not so great as had at first been estimated; and in one, if not more, of the islands, the local legislature anticipated the period first fixed by Parliament for its termination.

Whatever opinion, however, may be entertained of the claim of the West India colonies on the ground of their having been deprived of slave-labour, it is obvious that this claim does not apply in any way to the East Indies. It may be doubtful how far the Mauritius is entitled to much consideration on this ground. About four years ago a very able pamphlet was published, entitled, The Ministry and the Sugar Duties. Whether truly or not, it was supposed to have been written by a right hon. Member of this House; but however that may be, it was written in no unfriendly spirit to the colonies, and is well deserving attention, not only from the ability with which the writer maintains the principles which he advocates, but from the intimate knowledge which he displays of the whole of the subject. He considered the island of the Mauritius to be overflowing with labour after an importation of about 40,000 labourers, which has now amounted to upwards of 60,000; and he therefore places the Mauritius and the East Indies on the same footing, and excludes them both from any claim to consideration on the ground of the abolition of slavery. If, then, the ground upon which we are to proceed, is that which is put forward by the West Indians, how are we to deal with the sugars of the East Indians and the Mauritius? Are we to reimpose a differential duty upon the produce of the East Indies as against that of the West Indies? Or are the East Indies to have the benefit of a protecting duty, to which they have not the slightest claim; and are the people of this country to be taxed 10l. a ton on their sugar in order to compensate parties for a loss which they have not sustained? Not more than half our consumption of sugar comes from the West Indies, and with a protecting duty of 10l. a ton, the tax which we should have to pay on this account to the East Indies and the Mauritius, would amount to about 1,200,000l. a year.

If we are prepared to say that we will admit no sugar except that from the West Indies, to give to the West Indies a complete monopoly of the English market, we should be acting consistently at least with a view to the discouragement of slave-grown sugar. We should then at least have a position which would be tenable. The position was most materially changed when we admitted East Indian sugar; but it become utterly untenable as soon as we admitted free-labour sugar from other sources than our own possessions. As soon as this was done, we found ourselves compelled to admit also the slave-grown sugars of all those countries with whom we had treaties containing the "most favoured nation" clause, and thus the ground and indeed the possibility of the exclusion of slave-grown sugar was completely cut from under our feet. We should only involve ourselves in difficulty, and draw upon ourselves the ridicule of the whole world, by attempting to maintain a position which is in itself utterly indefensible. In 1844, the proposition was made by a Government not unfavourable to West Indian interests, and comprising within it West Indian proprietors, for the admission of free-labour sugar from foreign countries. In common with my noble Friend near me, and other Gentlemen, I contended at the time that the distinction between sugar the produce of free labour, and slave-grown sugar, could not be maintained. I argued, that in spite of the attempt to keep up such a distinction, the admission of foreign free-labour sugar must operate as a certain and positive encouragement to the production of slave-grown sugar. It would obviously do so by creating a demand for more slave-grown sugar in the European market, because if the free-labour sugar then disposed of on the Continent was brought to England, it was not to be supposed that the people on the Continent would go without their usual supply of sugar; and the deficiency occasioned in that supply by transferring free-labour sugar to England must necessarily be supplied by sugar the produce of slave labour. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford then stated his opinion that the measure would not have that effect; but, drawing a distinction which I confess I have never been able to understand, admitted that it possibly might have that tendency. This question, however, was completely set at rest by the reason which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth afterwards assigned for the disappointment which was experienced at the small supply of free-labour sugar to this country, under the operation of this Act of 1844. He accounted for it by the fact, that the crop in Cuba having failed, and the usual supplies to Europe from thence having consequently fallen short, the free-labour sugar which would otherwise have come here was diverted to the Continent. I think it will be conceded to me that if a deficient supply of slave labour to the continent of Europe was made good by free-labour sugar diverted from this country, the converse of this must be equally true, and that free-labour sugar being withdrawn to this country from the Continent, the vacuum must be filled by an increased supply of slave-grown sugar. The ground upon which the admission of this foreign sugar was resolved upon, was the admitted insufficiency of the supply of colonial sugar. It was stated by the Government, in answer to the protestations of the West Indians, that their monopoly could not be longer maintained, because the supply which they could afford was inadequate to our wants. The probable importation of free-labour sugar in the year 1845 was estimated at 20,000 tons: the actual importation only amounted to 4,000; and in the last year ending 5th of January it is under 12,000 tons. Experience has not been found to confirm the anticipations entertained in 1844, that there would be a large increase of the production of free-labour sugar. I have had a statement put into my hand this morning from a large house in the city, stating that the exports from Java were in the year 1840, 60,900 tons, whilst in the year 1847 they were only 55,600 tons. I will not now go into the question whether Java sugar is really the produce of free labour or not: it is enough for my purpose to show that the expectations of considerable supplies from that country have not been realised. Indeed, when the Act of 1846 was introduced, I recollect that the supply of sugar from all free-labour sources was a good deal exaggerated. The noble Lord opposite anticipated that the East Indies would send in the then current year 100,000 tons. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire actually laughed when I estimated the probable importation from the East Indies at 75,000 tons. I do not think that the passing of the Act of 1846 could have produced much effect upon the importations from India previously to 1847; but the quantity imported in that year was actually below my estimate, being only 73,000 tons. Of course I can claim no great credit for this, my estimate having been formed from data supplied by other persons well acquainted with the subject; but the result showed that the conclusion from their data was very nearly correct.

The House will also remember the effect of the measure of 1844 was to encourage directly the produce of slave-grown sugar, because when we had consented to admit the free-labour sugar of some countries, we were bound by the obligation of the treaty to admit even the slave-grown produce of many foreign countries. On referring to the imports of sugar for the last year, I find that we imported no less than 3,000 tons of sugar from countries where slavery exists; but which we should have been bound to admit under treaty, even if the Act of 1846 had not been passed. But I do not think that the consequences of the measure of 1844 can be considered to have stopped even here. According to the views of the authors of the Act of 1844, no sugars could be excluded, except those of Cuba, Porto Rico, and Brazil. But my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated very distinctly his opinion, that under a fair construction of existing treaties with Spain, we were bound to admit the produce of her colonies on the same terms as those on which we admitted the sugar of any other foreign country. I think that the arguments which were used against my noble Friend entirely failed in disproving his position; and I entirely concur in the opinion which he then expressed. The slave-grown sugars, therefore, of Cuba and Porto Rico, must have been admitted on the same terms as those of Java and the Philippine Islands. The Danish, and the Dutch colonies in the West Indies could all claim the same privileges under treaties which entitled those countries to the advantages of the most favoured nation. I believe, therefore, that when we once consented to admit foreign sugar of any description, there was no country in the world, except Brazil, whoso slave-grown sugar could be excluded. It was obviously absurd, therefore, to attempt to pass laws for the admission of free-labour sugar only, maintaining a distinction against the produce of slavery, when such was the condition in which the country was placed by our commercial treaties. The position in which we were placed was indefensible on any rational ground: it was impossible to legislate against a single country, and it was infinitely better to do away with all exceptions, and legislate upon an uniform and intelligible principle, when we could no longer maintain the exclusion of sugar from the greater part of those countries in which it is produced by slave labour. It seems to me, therefore, that any question of slavery and of dealing with slave-grown sugar, differently from other sugar, on the ground of its being the produce of slave labour, must be omitted from the present discussion; and the point upon which we have to decide, is simply protection or no protection.

We are called upon now to determine whether we are prepared to re-enact a system of protection which will impose a heavy and what I consider to be an unjust tax upon the consumer. The protection asked for by the West Indian body is 10l. per ton. The object is distinctly and avowedly to enhance the price of sugar, and to make it 10l. per ton dearer to the consumer. No persons can state their case more fairly than the West Indians have done; they consider themselves entitled to this premium of 10l. per ton at the expense of the consumers. Nor would this amount to any inconsiderable sum. The number of tons entered for home consumption in the last year was 290,000. The increase of price, therefore, would have been 2,900,000l. Taking the quantity of sugar consumed annually in England in round numbers at 300,000 tons, the increased tax upon the community from this source, would be no less than 3,000,000l. annually. This estimate is not one which I alone have formed. Mr. Porter, in his Progress of the Nation, states that the increased cost to the country from protecting duties on sugar in the year 1840, putting it however as an extreme case, was 5,000,000l. The author of the pamphlet to which I have already referred enters into a calculation to show the additional cost of sugar to this country, above what it would have been if the importation of slave-grown produce had been permitted. He calculates that in the five years preceding 1844, we paid on an average 3,200,000l. yearly more for our sugar than we should have done, if there had been no protecting duty—16,000,000l. n the course of the five years. This is no slight burden upon the community; and before we consent to impose it we may well pause, and inquire what the grounds are upon which the West Indians propose to maintain their claim. There is one objection which, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I may be excused in making—and that is the loss to the revenue which would result from the imposition of a protecting duty. A protecting duty is invariably injurious to the revenue. It is most objectionable, as taking so much more from the consumer than it produces to the Exchequer. A protecting duty is a clear loss and no gain. I objected on this ground to the scale of differential duties, which were contained in the Tariff of 1842, which have since been so wisely abandoned; and I have frequently pointed out on former occasions the evils of duties of this class. The only duties with which, since the present Government came into office, I have had to deal, have been dealt with on what I believe to be sounder principles, namely, by reducing differential duties; and I am happy to say that, whilst the result has reduced the price to the consumer, it has at the same time added largely to the revenue. It is a remarkable and satisfactory circumstance, that at a time when almost all the other duties have fallen off, those upon sugar, molasses, and rum, have experienced a considerable increase. In 1845 the produce of the duties on sugar and molasses amounted to 3,745,000l.; in 1846 to 4,050,000l.; and in 1847, great as was the depression in all branches of our commerce, those duties have produced 4,596,000l. With regard to the question of protection, I think it must be taken as I have seen it stated in some of the publications which have appeared upon the subject; and that we must simply decide whether we are prepared to continue in the course which for some years we have pursued, or to revert to the former system of protective duties. The claim for protection put forth by the West Indians is, after all, the same as that which is put forward by the farmer in this country. The West Indian asks for protection in order to enable him to compete with the cheaper produce of Cuba and Brazil. The farmer asks for protection in order that his produce may compete with the cheaper corn of the United States. They both advise the imposition of a heavy tax on the people for their own especial benefit. Her Majesty's Government cannot admit any such proposition. They consider that taxes should be levied for the purposes of revenue alone; and that to impose a tax for the purpose of enhancing the price to the consumer, is a policy based on erroneous principles. I am ready to admit, that, in removing protection, parties should be considerately dealt with; but the colonies have no right to complain of the sudden withdrawal of protection. It was diminished in 1844; it was diminished again in 1846; but it will not be finally withdrawn until 1851—no less than eighteen years after the passing of the Slave Emancipation Act. In the discussions of 1846, the wisdom of abolishing protection was admitted. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth said that the principle of permanent protection could not be maintained. The hon. Member for Leominster, the eloquent advocate for the West Indians, was for free trade; he would give free trade for as well as against the West Indians; he objected to the scale of duties; he thought that the protection should have been higher and for a shorter period; but he made no objection to the main principle of the Bill. No amendment of the scale was suggested, and the measure passed into law. Her Majesty's Ministers feel that any interference with that law would now be exceedingly mischievous, and they are not prepared to consent to any alteration whatever in its provisions.

I will now apply myself to some of the other questions which my noble Friend has raised, and take notice, at the same time, of some of the points upon which the West Indian interest is entitled to consideration. I find by the papers laid before the Board of Trade by the West Indians in 1830, that they estimated the restrictions to which they were then subjected as a charge to the amount of 5s.d. upon every hundredweight of sugar. On looking back to what these restrictions were, I find them thus stated: the first of the disadvantages to which they referred, was the necessity of obtaining their supply of lumber and provisions from the North American provinces. This has been entirely removed. The second restriction consisted in the differential duties on foreign goods imported into the islands for the benefit of the English producer: these duties the various colonies were empowered themselves to remove if they chose, by an Act passed at the end of the Session of 1846. The third disadvantage is that arising from the navigation laws. The noble Lord states that the repeal of those laws will be of no advantage to the colonies; but the House of Assembly in Jamaica have attached the greatest importance to it. Without entering at any length into that question, I may state that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose such an alteration of the navigation laws as will remove that ground of objection, and put an end to any disadvantage to the West Indians arising from that source. The next disadvantage complained of on the part of the West Indians was, that their produce, which consists principally of sugar, was not freely admitted into the breweries and distilleries of this country. That cause of complaint has, I conceive, been substantially removed by the Act of last Session. The admission of sugar for these purposes has by no means been inoperative; and although the recent fall in the price of barley has checked the consumption of sugar for these purposes, yet a considerable quantity has been used both in breweries and distilleries in the course of last year. The sugar used in brewing amounted to 72,364 cwt., and that used in distillation to 20,632, making together 92,996 cwt., being equal to 52,078 quarters of malt. The fourth cause of complaint was the high differential duty on rum for the protection of British spirits. By the Acts of 1846 and 1847, I have reduced this duty one half—viz., from 1s. 6d. to 9d. I need scarcely remind the House that rum forms an important portion of the produce of the West Indies. Now, what have been the quantities of that article imported into this country during the last three years? In 1845, it was 2,496,000 gallons; in 1846, the importation amounted to 2,653,000 gallons; and in 1847 it had further increased to 3,329,000 gallons. The greatest increase, of course, has been in Scotland and in Ireland, where the former rates of duty were nearly prohibitory. In Scotland, the importation has increased from 49,264 gallons to 382,888 gallons; and in Ireland from 14,598 gallons to 176,637 gallons. I am happy also in being able to state, that, as far as I have been able to learn, the distillers in neither of those countries complain of having been in any way injured. I refer with pleasure to these facts as proofs of the advantages of the measures which have been passed for reducing the differential duty upon rum to 9d., both to the consumer and to the West Indian producer.

The opinion which I individually expressed last year that a differential duty of 6d. would fairly meet the justice of the case, remains unchanged; and I was glad to hear from what fell from the noble Lord that he is prepared to go fairly into that question. I now come to the last disadvantage complained of—the want of a sufficient supply of labour; and the statement which I am about to make, will, I think, show that, in the last twelve years, a very great amount of active and useful labour has been introduced into the West Indies, and that the immigration has been very extensive. The number of efficient slaves for agricultural purposes in the Mauritius at the time of emancipation was 28,000—since then, 63,000 immigrants have been received; and although the colonists do not estimate their labour very highly, they reckon the increase of agricultural labour which they have received as equal to that of 23,000 good labourers; so that even upon this estimate the amount of labour in the Mauritius has not been far from doubled since the emancipation; and the quantity of sugar exported has, up to 1846, been increased nearly in the same proportion. In Jamaica there have been introduced 8,500 free labourers, and 3,000 liberated Africans, making 11,500 in all. In British Guiana, where the number of slaves before the emancipation was 90,000, there have been introduced 33,853 free labourers, and 6,180 liberated Africans, being 40,000 in all, equal to an addition of nearly one half of the previous amount of labour. In Trinidad, where the amount of slaves before the emancipation was 24,000, there have been introduced 17,788 free labourers, and 3,186 liberated Africans—so that in this colony the number of labourers has been nearly doubled. Although I am ready to admit that the supply of labour is still inadequate, I must say that its insufficiency has been greatly overstated. In three out of four of these colonies, there has been a very large amount of immigrants. In Jamaica the increased supply of labour has not been so large; but I am inclined to think that the alleged necessity for additional manual labour is a good deal exaggerated, and that it would be far more advantageous to the proprietors to turn their attention to various modes of economising labour, and of improving their mills and the process of the manufacture of sugar. From what I have said it will be evident to the House that very little indeed will remain of those restrictions, the charge of which was estimated at no less than 5s.d., and which were put forward as giving a claim to protection in 1830, and that a good deal has been done towards supplying that want of labour, the necessity for which arose from the measure of 1833.

I come now to those questions, some of which have been mentioned by the noble Lord opposite, and which are pressed for by the West Indians, as tending in various ways to their relief; and I will state what the Government is prepared to do, and why they cannot go farther. The first request is for the admission of molasses into breweries and distilleries: we cannot consent to admit molasses into breweries. The noble Lord has very properly said that the admission of molasses is entirely a question between the revenue and the manufacturer. As the law now stands, malt and sugar, which are the materials of brewing, both pay duty before they are admitted into the brewery: the duty on each is about equal; and it is therefore a matter of indifference to the revenue which is used. Molasses, I am given to understand, possess comparatively higher brewing qualities than sugar, but they pay a much lower duty. It would be impossible, therefore, to allow their use in breweries without entailing a serious loss on the revenue: the loss upon every quarter of malt displaced by the use of molasses would be about 8s. 6d. The only mode of preventing this loss would be to impose an excise duty in addition upon the molasses used in breweries, which would create an opening to fraud, entail a necessity for establishing a rigorous survey on breweries, and would render the been of little value to the West Indians. With regard to distilleries, the case is different: the duty is not levied until the spirit is produced. I stated last year that if further experience would warrant such a step, I should be glad to extend the permission for the use of molasses in distilleries; and after the experience of the last few months the Excise see no difficulty in doing so. I shall immediately ask leave to introduce a Bill for the purpose of admitting the use of molasses into distilleries, on terms similar to those which now apply to sugar. In one respect, I can carry the permission even further, for I am prepared to allow molasses to be used jointly with grain. The next request is the admission of cane juice. An application was made to me last year to permit the admission of all cane juice at a fixed duty. I, of course, had no objection to the admission of cane juice, provided I obtained a duty upon it, equivalent to that which it would have paid if imported in the separate shapes of sugar and molasses. The only difficulty was to ascertain what this duty should be; and the means of forming an opinion were very insufficient. We asked the parties who made the application to furnish us with a sample of cane juice, in order that we might ascertain the proportions of sugar and molasses contained in it. It was not without some difficulty that even a small quantity was obtained. This was analysed, and the result was that the proportions of sugar and molasses were such as to render the hundredweight of cane juice liable to a duty of about 11s. 4d. I named a duty in accordance with that calculation. A remonstrance was immediately made against so high a duty, and I was pressed to name a much lower sum: my answer was, that I had no means of coming to a conclusion, except from the result of this examination, and that I could not therefore name a lower duty than it warranted; but that if upon further inquiry or experiments it could be shown that this amount was too high, I should be ready to give the subject my best consideration; that I evidently ought to have a duty equal to that which would be paid in the separate shapes of sugar and molasses; and that I should be quite content with such duty on cane juice as it could be shown would attain this end.

The next question to be considered is that of a further supply of labour. The present supply of labour to the West Indian colonies, arises from two sources, partly from free immigration, and partly from the importation of those slaves who have been liberated from captured slave vessels. I believe that the immigration of Coolies has not answered; but I have every reason to believe that a system of free immigration from the opposite coast of Africa may be found successful. I believe a valuable supply of labour may be obtained from the Kroo coast. I have been informed that many Kroomen have returned to their own country, taking with them large sums of money earned by their labour in the West Indies. The account which they have given to their countrymen of their mode of labour in the West Indies has induced many others to go there in search of similar employment: others now in the West Indies have declined the offer of a passage home. There seems also to be reason for supposing that from Cape Coast Castle and other places, a further supply of labourers may be obtained. This immigration is at present provided for by means of loans raised in the various colonies for the purpose. We found this system established when we came into office. It had been sanctioned both by Lord Stanley and Mr. Gladstone; and although my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department might not per- haps have sanctioned the establishment of such a system, he did not, for many reasons, think it expedient to interfere with a system which he found already in operation. Arrangements for obtaining immigrants to a certain extent had been made on the faith of the money to be obtained by these loans, and the immigration is in fact now in progress: but with respect to two colonies, Guiana and Trinidad, they have been unable during the last year to raise their loans; their legislatures have passed the necessary Acts, but although advertisements have been issued for the loans in this country, and on very adequate terms, no offers have been received. I think it therefore only right, that in their present state of distress, this country should step in to assist them, and that a sum of money sufficient to cover their present liabilities and to provide for some further immigration, should be advanced to them. Some parties have recommended that the colonists should be permitted to buy the slaves who are for sale on the coast of Africa, who should be afterwards set free on their arrival in the West Indies; but we cannot entertain such a proposition as that, which would obviously encourage all those horrors of the slave trade which occur previously to the embarkation of the slaves. We must have sufficient security that the persons coming from Africa are freemen. With that proviso we are ready to give every facility to their being introduced, and we will recommend an advance not exceeding in the whole 200,000l. to the colonies for that object. The other source of supply of labour, is from the liberated Africans who have been taken on board slavers. Those set free at Rio, at St. Helena, and the Havannah, are already brought to the West Indies, but entirely at the expense of the colonists. We propose, in the present distressed state of the West Indians, to take upon ourselves nearly the whole of the expense of conveying them there. We propose to leave a portion to be paid by the colonies, as their willingness to contribute some part of the expense is the best test of there being a real demand for the labour. The great body of the liberated slaves are, however, set free at Sierra Leone, and latterly many have gone from thence to the West Indies. I believe that the number removed to the West Indies might be considerably increased. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, so long ago as the year 1830, moved for a Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the condition of those blacks at Sierra Leone. I had the honour to be a Member of that Committee; and it was stated in a part of their report, in the year 1830, long before the want of labour in the West Indies, which has since been so much complained of, was felt as it is now, that— It is the opinion of the Committee that the progress of the liberated Africans in moral and industrial habits has been greatly retarded by the frequent change of system in their location and maintenance, and by the yearly influx of thousands of their rude and uncivilised countrymen; and it therefore appears absolutely necessary for the future prosperity of the liberated Africans already located, that one uniform system should be pursued towards them, and that a check should be put upon the influx of their captured brethren. It would seem from further information, that, for the benefit of the colony of Sierra Leone itself, a large portion of the population of it might advantageously be removed to some other settlement. The conclusion Dr. Madden came to was, either that the territory required to be enlarged, or a large portion of the population to be removed to some other settlement, with more advantages for agricultural pursuits. It was also stated by Mr. Hamilton, in his evidence already printed, that 20,000 Africans might be removed, with advantage to the colony, which was positively retrograding. It appears, therefore, that the system of locating liberated Africans holds out no prospect of beneficial results; and I believe that, with great benefit to Sierra Leone, to the liberated Africans themselves, and to the other colonies, they might be removed. They constantly relapse into barbarism when left at Sierra Leone, and have not unfrequently been kidnapped again. In this case also we are prepared to take upon ourselves nearly the whole of the expense of removing them.

On another subject representations have recently been made to Her Majesty's Government, that considerable relief might be afforded to the West Indians in their present state of distress, by postponing the repayment of the loans which are ordinarily known by the name of the Hurricane Loans. We have agreed to postpone for a period of five years the repayment of any of the instalments of these loans, interest, of course, being paid upon them during that time. I may perhaps mention here that we received some short time ago a memorial from the island of Tobago, setting forth the distress under which the inhabitants were suffering in consequence of the recent hurricane, and praying for relief. We immediately authorised the issue of a sum to meet immediate wants, and are prepared to make a loan, as has been done on former occasions, to enable the inhabitants to repair the loss of their property caused by this calamity, as soon as we have sufficient estimates to enable us to judge of the necessary amount. These, then, are the measures which we propose with a view of rendering some assistance to the West Indian interest. To permit the unrestricted use of molasses in distilleries—to admit cane juice at a proper rate of duty—to bear nearly the whole expense of conveying the liberated Africans to the colonies—to aid the colonies by loans not exceeding 200,000l towards the expense of introducing free labourers from Africa—and to postpone the repayments of the Hurricane Loan. I cannot say that I am sanguine enough to believe that they will satisfy the wishes and demands of the West Indian proprietors; and if I am asked whether I think they will be sufficient to restore the colonies to a condition of prosperity, I will at once answer that I think they will not. The colonies require improvement in many ways. They require improved systems of agriculture, improved cultivation of the sugar estates, and improved modes of manufacture. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) said some years ago, in the course of a debate on the question of the admission of free-labour sugar, that— With respect to the West India colonies, he did not believe it would be in the power of the Legislature to bring them into a sound and healthy state of cultivation, even if the duties that existed before the year 1844 were to be continued for twenty years. New modes of cultivation should be introduced, new systems of management must be adopted, and a resident should be substituted for an absentee proprietary. I believe that that right hon. Gentleman truly stated the first and main desideratum for the improvement of the West India colonies. What they want is greater activity, improvement in the mode of cultivation, better machinery, and a better system of manufacturing the produce. Without these, no great improvement in the condition of the West India colonies can be effected. So far am I from attributing much of the distress under which they are suffering to the Act of 1846, that I think it is very much owing to their having relied too much upon the system of protection, and that the effect of this feeling has been, the want of the necessary self-reliance and energy. It seems to me to be clear that the high rate of wages in recent years has been very much owing to the disposition on the part of the proprietors to bid against each other for labourers, which was encouraged by the high price of sugar in those years, owing to the protection which they enjoyed. I find that in the island of St. Kitt's, for instance, the wages of labourers in the year 1838 were 6d. a day; in 1839, 8½d.; but in 1841 they had been raised to 1s.d. The amount of work to be performed for those wages was afterwards reduced, which amounts to the same thing as an increase of wages. But within the last two or three months the task has been, again increased so as to bring the rate of wages to about what they were in 1839. The same thing has taken place in other islands. In a despatch, which we received yesterday from the Governor of Antigua, it is stated, that— The wages of field work have within the last month fallen from 10d. and 1s. to 6d. and 8d. sterling per day, and the price of task or job work has been proportionately diminished. In some cases the latter has been entirely discontinued, which seems injudicious, as tending to check instead of to foster habits of industry, and to hinder those who are willing to devote the whole of their time to working on estates, making the most of their labour. The low price of sugar has tended to lower the rate of wages, and thus to remove one of the chief difficulties which at present attend the cultivation of West Indian estates. This in some respects might be regretted if it pressed unduly on the condition of the negro; but such is not the case. It is well known that with very little labour the negroes have had the command of all the necessary comforts and even luxuries of life; and that, by working for a longer period of time, they will still be able to earn the same amount as before, and to obtain their usual indulgences. This also appears in the despatch of the Governor of Antigua, which proceeds— Nor is it apprehended that by this unavoidable measure (the reduction of wages) the working classes will be subjected to any serious deprivations; for as there is reason to suppose that at the higher rates, by working three days in the week, they were enabled to support themselves and families in case and comfort, it is anticipated that at the lower rates, by giving their labour more freely and continuously, they may accomplish the same object. It is very satisfactory to find that this has been done with the concurrence of all classes, and especially of the negroes themselves, who have submitted cheerfully to the reduction, only expressing a hope that when times mend they may be partakers in the improvement. They are also proposing in the island of Antigua to reduce the import duties, and to substitute for them a land tax. I believe this to be a very wise course. Hon. Gentlemen may remember that my noble Friend (Lord Grey), in urging the immediate abolition of slavery in 1833, proposed at the same time a tax on provision grounds, which was then rejected by the West Indians, although I believe that many of them have since regretted that that course was not followed. I find also that in an able pamphlet, published by Mr. Scotland, a Member of the House of Assembly in Jamaica, he recommends for that island a change in the system of taxation similar to what is proposed in Antigua. The result of such a change would obviously be to lower the price of those articles which the negroes obtain by purchase, and to diminish the advantage of working upon their own grounds. This will be a great inducement to them to work more steadily on the sugar estates, by which they will obtain, from the money wages which they earn, the means of purchasing the articles which they require.

Referring again to the want of improvement in cultivation, I will quote the opinion of the author of the pamphlet which I have before mentioned—The Ministry and the Sugar Duties—who says, in 1844— While the physical force thus became dear from emancipation, management did not become cheap, nor mind active and fertile: it is probably too near the truth to say that, at this moment, in the cultivation of West Indian estates, the special charges of slavery have remained, while the special charges of freedom have supervened upon them. He goes on to state that many things remain much in the same state as they were many years before. Now, let us look at our own country: in what state should we be if our agriculture had not been improved since the high prices of the war? But the West Indians very properly disclaim being considered merely as agriculturists; and, indeed, much of the process of producing sugar resembles manufacture much more than agriculture. What, again, would have become of our manufactures if there had been no improvement within the last twenty years? I believe there is not a single piece of machinery in any of our mills or factories which has not undergone considerable improvement within that period. In the evidence given by Mr. Price before the House of Assembly in Jamaica, we again find that he states most distinctly that almost every process was carried on as it had been formerly, and that there was a total want of energy amongst the planters. Again, I find the same statement in a book by Dr. Evans, called The Sugar Planter's Manual. He states that improvement is excessively slow; that there is hardly a department in which improvement could not be made and is not wanted. Hon. Gentlemen will remember that in former years the question has arisen between the producers of East Indian and West Indian sugar as to the intermediate duty on what is called white clayed sugar; and what is the ground of difference? The East Indians complain that this differential duty is a discouragement to the improved machinery and improved process of manufacture which they have introduced. The West Indians, on the other hand, require the duty as a protection to the low priced sugar produced by their inferior manufacture. Surely, Sir, stronger evidence cannot be adduced of the necessity for improvement in the West Indies. I cannot, therefore, admit that the present losses and distresses of the West Indian proprietors are to be attributed to the Act of 1846, to the admission of foreign slave-grown sugar, or to the doctrines of free trade. The Committee of the House of Assembly of Jamaica attribute their misfortunes not to the Act of 1846, but to the Emancipation Act of 1833: their report states that since the passing of that Act, of the 653 sugar estates then in cultivation in that island, 140 have been abandoned, and the work broken up. This is a most melancholy account; but such accounts are not confined to times since the emancipation of the negroes, or the absence of adequate protection. On going back to the time not only of slavery, but of the unmitigated slave trade, I find in Bryan Edwards' History of the West Indies the following description of those colonies: In the course of twenty years, ending 1791, the planters of Jamaica (however profitably employed in the service of the mother country, were labouring to little purpose to themselves; it appeared that no less than 177 sugar plantations had been sold during that period for the payment of debts; that 55 had been abandoned by the proprietors; and that 92 others remained in the hands of creditors. This account is much the same as that of the Committee of 1847. They were no better, it seems, in 1804, whilst the slave trade was yet in vigour. Lord Stanley, in 1833, quoted the report of the Assembly of Jamaica in 1804, which stated that— Every British merchant holding securities on real estate, is filing bills in Chancery to foreclose, although when he has obtained a decree he hesitates to enforce it, because he must himself become proprietor of the plantations, of which, from fatal experience, he knows the consequences. Sheriffs' officers and collectors of internal taxes are everywhere offering for sale the property of indiduals who have seen better days, and now must view their effects purchased for half their real value, and less than half their original cost. Far from having the reversion expected, the creditor is often not satisfied. In 1807 they were in much the same state. In 1811 the petition of the House of Assembly of Jamaica stated that— The ruin of the original possessors has been gradually completed; estate after estate has passed into the hands of mortagees and creditors absent from the island, until there are large districts—whole parishes—in which there is not a single proprietor of a sugar plantation resident. And it goes on to say that a large proportion of the proprietors —"now see approaching the lowest state of human misery—absolute want to their families, the horrors of a gaol to themselves. In 1832 a Committee of the House of Commons reported as follows:— The case submitted to them in these papers is one of severe distress affecting the proprietors of the soil. Your Committee have received abundant evidence of the distress which is said to have existed, in a considerable degree, for ten or twelve years past, and to have been greatly aggravated within the last three or four. In concluding their consideration of the causes of the depressed state of the West Indian colonists, your Committee have not forgotten that their depression has existed in former times, and at periods anterior to the abolition of the slave trade. To one of these periods their attention has been specially called by the reference of the report of the Committee of 1807, whence it appears that during the late war, and while still supplied with slaves from Africa, the planters complained of inadequate returns and of unequal competition in foreign markets. These results were then ascribed to the circumstances of the war, which has long ceased, and which were necessarily independent of the causes now alleged. Again in 1844—two years before the Act of 1846—the Agent for the Island of Jamaica represented that —"in almost every district the progress towards abandonment is manifest; the returns of the custodes and magistrates authenticate cases most distressing, of ruin perfected, and peril impending. This was the state of these colonies in 1791, in 1804, in 1807, in 1811, in 1832, and in 1844; and the same state of depreciation existed at those periods which is now attributed exclusively to the foreign competition introduced by the Act of 1846. It is, however, impossible to believe that these effects have been solely caused by that Act, when we find the same state of distress existing, not only when there was no foreign competition, but when no want of slave labour could be complained of. We must look to some other cause which prevailed during these other periods; and I am afraid that the want of exertion, owing to the reliance of the planters on protection, has contributed to produce those evils, which we now hear attributed to other causes.

With regard to the future prospects of the West Indies, I confess that for my part I do not see any reason why the cultivation of these colonies should not be continued, notwithstanding their present depressed state, because I find that distress prevails not only among the plantations of our West India colonies, but that the same distress exists in countries where slave labour is prevalent. I find that in Cuba the older race of planters are overwhelmed with debt; that the old plantations cannot be sold; that the only plantations which in Cuba are flourishing are new plantations, established and conducted by new proprietors, and on a new and improved system of management; and that money cannot be borrowed there under 12 per cent. I find that the produce of the West Indian colonies, as stated in the report of the West India Committee, is actually larger per acre than that of Cuba or Java. In Cuba the produce is but 1,200 lbs. per acre; in Java, 1,900 lbs. per acre; in the Mauritius it is 2,000 lbs. per acre; in Jamaica, 2,000 lbs.; in Antigua, 3,000 lbs,; and in Barbadoes, 3,000 lbs. per acre.

Surely, Sir, this is encouraging, both as to the fertility of our own colonies, and as showing that the difficulties of sugar cultivation upon the old-fashioned system are not confined to those places from whence slave labour is excluded. But, independently of this consideration, I believe it will be found that there is strong testimony to prove that free labour may be as cheap as slave labour. Considering that the harder portions of labour in Trinidad were performed by free labour even in times of slavery, and that such labour was found to be more economical than slave labour even at that time, I think there can be but little doubt on this point as to the present period. I find it stated in a pamphlet which I hold in my hand, written by Mr. Jelley of Jamaica, that in the time of slavery the expense of cultivation where gangs were hired was for cane-hole digging from 4l. 10s. to 5l. 8s. per acre, whereas now it is no more than from 2l. 14s. to 3l. 2s. per acre; while for cutting down and clearing heavy wood-lands the expense was in the time of slavery from 6l. to 8l., though at present it does not exceed from 2l. 10s. to 3l. 8s., and most of the field work in the same proportion. Mr. Scotland, who is a Member of the House of Assembly in Jamaica, says that the cost of slave labour is dearer than that of free labour. In Cuba the slave labourer, he says, costs 15l. 16s. per year on an average; whereas the payment of 1s. a day wages for all the working days in the year in Jamaica is 15l., leaving a difference of 16s. in favour of the free labourer. He goes on to state, that the system of management is the cause of the distress which prevails in Jamaica; and he contrasts the resident Cuba proprietor with the absentee proprietor.


From what are you quoting these opinions?


I quote from the pamphlet of Mr. Scotland. He says— Contrast the resident Cuba proprietor with the Jamaica absentee proprietor, the one a practised planter, skilled in the cultivation of his estates, and on the spot to correct all abuses, and regulate, with prudent care and management, the contingencies of his property, with a strict regard to economy; the other living in a far distant country, an alien to his estates, perhaps in the hands of an usurious mortgagee—perhaps, as in some cases, plundered by an avaricious and unprincipled attorney, and only served faithfully by a hard-working overseer, or a humble bookkeeper, badly and indifferently paid. Can any one wonder that a Jamaica property thus burdened and thus mismanaged cannot compete with a Cuban or a Brazilian sugar estate? Reader, wonder no longer. If I speak not the truth, confute me—you shall then have the facts. But there is one more instance to which I wish to allude on this subject, and that is the evidence given by Mr. Price, before a Committee of the House of Assembly in Jamaica, as to his own management of an estate in that island. What is the fact, as regards Mr. Price, on whose authority it has been attempted to throw some doubt? He went out some few years ago as the manager of an estate in the West Indies. He improved within three years the produce of that estate most materially. The persons for whom he managed it were, however, dis- satisfied with him. They recalled him, and he came home to this country; but, on a full investigation of what had taker place under his management they were so satisfied with all he had done, that he has gone out again to undertake the care of the property. I will read the questions And answers:— What crops hare been made on Worthy Paris during the last three years?—In the year 1843, 190 hogsheads; in 1844, 200 hogsheads; and Since the 15th of March, in the present year, 400 hogsheads. The estimate for next crop is very nearly 700 tons. There was a mechanical difficulty in the estate this year, which has thrown a large proportion of the present crop into the next. What other machinery is in use to economise manual labour?—On Worthy Park a tramway was laid down for the purpose, at an expense of 300l. per mile. It was said to be impracticable by my predecessor to make a crop of 400 hogsheads. 8 wains, 16 persons, and not less than 150 head of cattle, were considered necessary. The use of a tramway has economised not less than 12 of these labourers, and 142 head of cattle, and has further economised 10 hands that were employed to carry the canes to the mills; 14 persons were employed to carry away the green trash. Another tramway reduced this number to two, and sometimes to three hands. Horse hoes and small ploughs are used occasionally, but not to any great extent. What are the circumstances that induced you to incur so heavy an expenditure for machinery?—I felt convinced, in the first place, that there would be a reduction in the protecting duties. I concluded that whatever amount of labour I was employing for any certain purpose, required the same amount of labour in a slave country. I calculated the expense that was incurred by the slaveowner, and I calculated that if I could accomplish the same purpose, by an investment, even to an equal amount in value of slaves, in simple machinery, subject to very trifling wear and tear, I should always be able to produce sugar cheaper than the slaveholder could. It was also in consequence of the general complaint in the country of a want of labour, which could only be overcome by the introduction of machinery. This evidence seems to me very strong as to the economy of labour which may be introduced; and I cannot but think that the permanent interests of the planters would be better consulted by improvements of this description than by the mere importation of additional labour.

In considering the question of the comparative value of slave and free labour, it is well worth our while to advert to what is passing in a neighbouring country. In the French West Indian colonies they have still slave labour as in former years; but instead of being able to compete with the beet-root sugar grown by free labour in France, they require protection for their sugar grown in a climate better fitted than any other for producing sugar, and on estates cultivated by slave labour. In 1843, a law was passed in France imposing a duty on beet-root sugar rising at the rate of 5 francs per kilogram, in each year; until in August 1848 the duty will be equal to that on colonial sugar. I find, on turning to Mr. M'Culloch's Commercial Dictionary of 1844, that the effect which was anticipated from this arrangement was that the beet-root manufacture must ultimately be destroyed—that it would be annihilated in France as effectually as if the plantations were all rooted up. So far, however, from the growth of beet-root in France being destroyed, the production of beet-root sugar has increased in the most remarkable manner. The cheap slave-grown sugar of the French colonies cannot compete with the free-grown sugar of France; and the French colonial slave-owning sugar growers are now making representations to the French Government, that they can no longer maintain their ground against the free-grown beet-root sugar of the mother country. It is, I think, therefore, hard to say that the inability to compete with slave-grown sugar is owing simply to the circumstance of free labour only being permitted in our colonies; when we find the position in which the French colonies are placed when subjected to the competition of free labour in France. I believe the difference between improved and imperfect cultivation, and the introduction of superior modes of manufacture, enter largely into the result; and yet, strange to say, the French colonies manufacture their sugar more advantageously than our colonies do. They extract a larger amount of sugar from the cane than we do; and this is owing to the application of superior science and machinery. There is, I believe, great room for improvement in the construction of the mills. I find Mr. Evans stating, in the pamphlet from which I have already quoted on the manufacture of sugar, that he believes a very slight improvement will extract from 100lbs. of cane 201bs.more cane juice than is usually extracted. In our colonies 501bs. of juice is, I believe, on the average, extracted from every 100lbs. of cane; but mills have been sent to Cuba, to the Isle of Bourbon, and also to the Mauritius, by means of which they extract 701bs. of juice from 100lbs. of cane. I am inclined, therefore, to believe from reference to these admitted facts, that the produce of free labour may by a proper process be rendered as cheap as that of slave labour. I will not trouble the House any longer on this matter than by quoting the words with which Dr. Evans sums up his work. He says— Were a system of husbandry continued in the British colonies similar to the one pursued during slavery, I admit that slave labour would prove to be the cheaper of the two; but were a proper and economical method, similar to what we see in Great Britain and many other countries, substituted for the barbarous employment of the hand here, the reverse, I apprehend, would be found to the case. Wherever slavery exists, its numerical force must be adequate to all the calls that may be made upon it at any one time. Thus, if 300 labourers are required during crop, this number must be retained throughout the whole year; and if they are to be fed, clothed, and housed, economy demands that employment shall be found for them, and this necessarily implies the continuance of the system now in force in those countries. In every other respect the British planter has unquestionable advantages over his foreign competitor. My own opinion is, that free labour may be made to compete successfully with slave labour; and when proper and necessary improvements are carried out throughout the West Indies, as elsewhere, I trust that they may still be maintained advantageously as sugar-producing colonies, and that under a different system of management, and perhaps a resident proprietary, they may exist in a comparative state of prosperity, and be the principal source of the supply of our sugars. I hope that I am not too sanguine in anticipating that this may be the case; and I will say for Her Majesty's Government that if any mode can be pointed out, by which the interests of those colonies can be advanced, consistently with sound commercial principles, we shall be perfectly ready to promote it. But we are not prepared to restore a system of protection which we believe to have been detrimental to the colonies themselves, and most injurious to the interests of the people of this country.


said, that the object of his rising was to state that, differing as he did altogether from the Government on this question, he nevertheless gave them credit for the statement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, in consenting to this Committee, they would be no party to any delusion respecting any intention to depart from the Bill of 1846. The sooner, in his opinion, that determination on the part of the Government was known the better; as well as that the West Indians should know that they were not to have any other relief than that which had been mentioned that evening by the right hon. Gentleman, in order that they might prepare for that which they felt must eventually come—viz., their ruin, and perhaps the ultimate loss of the West India colonies. He had no personal interest in the question. He considered that it was part of the great question as to the employment of labour through the agency of capital. He did not take up the West India question as an isolated one; because he was one of those who considered that the West Indies were not more entitled to protection than the agriculturists, who had been deprived of it; and though he should feel it to be his duty to oppose to the extent of his ability any removal of the protection of the navigation laws from the shipping interest, still he maintained that that interest also had not any greater right to protection than had the agricultural interest of Great Britain. He confessed he little dreamed when, some years ago, he was a Member of that House, and a willing and rejoicing party, with the great men that brought forward the question, to the abolition of slavery—he little dreamed that the time would come when he should ever sit in that House, as he now did, and witness those very parties who had formerly brought forward the glorious measure of the emancipation of the negroes, stand up as the advocates of the admission of the slave-grown sugar of other colonies into competition with sugar grown in their own free-labour possessions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that there was great distress in the West Indian colonies; but the right hon. Gentleman seemed full of hope, that, after what he proposed should have been carried out, and if endeavours were made to improve the system of culture, the West Indians would be able to bear this competition with slave-grown produce; but let him ask him how, if it should turn out that they could not do so, the case would be when the differential duty between the produce of their own and that of the slave-labour colonies would have ceased? The right hon. Gentleman and his noble Friend must know perfectly well that the effect of this Bill would be to open the British market freely to competition from all parts of the world, without any protecting duty whatever in favour of the British colonies; and which, he contended, must at the same time be in favour of the mother country: the necessary consequence must be, that a great proportion of the sugar to be consumed in Great Britain would be the produce of foreign countries. But the policy of the Government up to this time had been, to afford protection to our colonies, and not to leave them altogether to the fate of foreigners; a policy which, in his opinion, had been most beneficial to Great Britain and her dependencies. If the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord at the head of the Government were bent hereafter on adopting the principles of free trade as regarded the colonies, facts which must be much stronger than any arguments which he (Mr. Robinson) could offer, would very soon prove that they had adopted a most dangerous and ruinous measure. He should like to ask the noble Lord, when other countries had reaped the advantages of the free-trade folly, and were better enabled, as they would be every succeeding year, to render themselves not only independent of us, but to compete with us in other markets—he would ask the noble Lord, when his eyes were opened to the necessity of retracing his steps, whether it would be as easy to do so then as now; and whether he did not think it more prudent to pause now for a moment on the ruinous policy on which his Government seemed determined upon entering? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be inclined to ask what proposition he (Mr. Robinson) had to make on this subject? He would tell the Government he would restore protection to sugar to the extent of at least 10s. per cwt. on behalf of our own colonies, and against the sugars of foreign countries; and he would, if it were possible to do so consistently with the faith of treaties and the honour of the country (and he would not do it otherwise) exclude slave-grown sugar. Why, let the House consider what a wicked thing it was—he himself thought it an iniquitous thing—after having called upon the people of this country to pay 20,000,000l. for the emancipation of slaves at a time when they were ground to the very earth by taxation, and after they had cheerfully submitted to the payment of that immense sum, they should ask the country's consent to propositions which would have the effect of nullifying their attempts to emancipate the slave. At the time that the call was made for the 20,000,000l., he represented a large constituency; and was he reproached for having voted for the payment of that sum out of the public purse that the negro might be freed? No; not one of even the poorest of his constituents ever reproached him for having been a party to that measure; and he would take upon himself now to say, without fear of contradiction, that, although the pretext put forth, for the present measure was, that the people of this country might have cheap sugar, if they were to appeal to the whole of the country, from the richest to the poorest, they would say—"We are desirous of having cheap sugar, and cheap food of every description, because, in the present competition for employment, and depression of labour, it is absolutely necessary for the subsistence of ourselves and families; but we do not desire it if it is intended to restore the slave trade in our colonies, or to maintain it in the colonial possessions of others." Those, he believed, would be found to be the honest sentiments of the people; and he, therefore, contended that it was a mere pretext—or rather a mistake—that these measures ought to be passed in obedience to the clamour of the people for cheap sugar. He firmly believed that the people of this country would be no parties to any measure which would give any encouragement to slavery. He had no wish to detain the House any longer, although he felt most strongly on this subject, further than by saying that the Chancellor of the Exchequer deserved credit for saying frankly that, although the Government was willing to grant this Committee, yet the noble Lord must not delude himself with any false hopes that the Government intended to depart from the principles of free trade embodied in the measures of 1846. Anything less than this the Government would do for the parties desiring this Committee. He entertained the highest personal respect for the noble Lord at the head of the Government, but he could not refrain from honestly avowing that, in his opinion, the noble Lord, by these measures of free trade, was undermining the safety and greatness of the country. He (Mr. Robinson) knew how painful it was to stand up in that House and advocate principles which had become so extremely unpopular, viz., those of protection, and point, on the other hand, to the ruinous consequences that must result from those free-trade principles which the people had so readily embraced. He warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, although the revenue of the country might not, perhaps, immediately feel the effects of these falsely called free-trade measures, the ruinous effects would, in the course of a short time, unmistakingly show themselves in the revenue returns; indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had himself admitted, in the early part of the present Session, that there had been a defalcation in the revenue in consequence of those commercial embarrassments which had lately occurred; and although he did not admit that those embarrassments were caused in any degree by free trade, yet he admitted that the revenue was in an unsatisfactory state. And he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that the state of the revenue would become more and more embarrassed every year; and that the income-tax, which was established in a time of profound peace, and which was so unpopular when it was brought forward, must henceforth become perpetual; and not only that, but its weight, he believed, must of necessity be increased even in the present Session of Parliament, which necessity would increase every year. And he said that because there was no proper remuneration held out for the capitalist to invest his money in public works; the great body of the people were consequently without employment, and obliged to be sustained by the workhouse authorities. He verily believed that the great mass of the people of this country, who in prosperous times contributed the great bulk of the fiscal exactions, were at the present moment enduring sufferings unparalleled in the commercial history of Great Britain. And he was of opinion that that distress would continue and magnify unless the Government and the Legislature returned to the principles of protection. The West Indian proprietors, in the extremity of their distress, were now calling for a repeal of the navigation laws; the fact was, that that protection to which they were fairly entitled having been removed, they knew not to what source to apply for relief. Whatever palliatives, however, might be now adopted to remedy their grievances, must all eventually fail, unless measures were brought forward in which the colonies would be treated as integral portions of the empire. Unless this were done, his impression was that the colonies would be lost to us altogether. If they continued to maltreat them as they had of late, they might soon set about negotiating with the United States for the sale of the colonies for a slight compensation. The Canadas, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the West India colonies generally, had hitherto shown the most loyal attachment to the mother country; but if these repeated assaults were made on their vital interests, we could expect but little assistance from them if a powerful enemy in that quarter declared war against Great Britain.


, after the long discussion, which had taken place on this most important question, did not rise to enter into its merits. He only rose to submit to the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) the propriety of not pressing for the appointment of this Committee after the candid statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the intentions of the Government. The noble Lord had so framed his Motion as to include an inquiry into everything connected with the colonies. He had not defined or limited his views to any one object. But what had been the response of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why, he said, "I make no objection to a Committee; but I am bound to tell you that, whatever you do, we will not go beyond what I tell you;" and the right hon. Gentleman had explicitly declared what the object of the Government was. The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the most important points in the case was to let the West India interest know what they had to expect. Would not the appointment of a Committee create expectations which would not be realised? He, therefore, appealed to the noble Lord who had brought forward this Motion, with an anxious desire to relieve the distresses of those whose case he advocated. He believed the noble Lord had avoided the recital of the disastrous state of circumstances, which few were aware of. He had had the state of things in the colonies put before him, within a short period, and he considered these important interests were in most imminent danger. He therefore submitted to the noble Lord that he should not press his Motion for a Committee; but, on the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman, cast the entire responsibility upon Her Majesty's Government. Many of the propositions of that right hon. Gentleman were good; and he was glad to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer frankly confess that it was by no means the intention of the Government to depart from the principles of free trade in their treatment of the colonies. He believed that those principles had not yet had a fair trial in the colonies; and that, if they had, the colonies would not be in their present distressed condition. He had no hesitation in saying that free labour could compete with slave labour under good government; but until the produce of the one was made fairly to compete with that of the other, free trade would not have had a proper trial. The right hon. Gentleman had talked about 40,000 Coolies here and 25,000 there, and asked was not that an amount equal to half the population of the whole colonies? but the right hon. Gentleman forgot to inform the House that this labour had been introduced in driblets, and only after the colonists had expended their capital, and therefore it was of little or no use. What the colonies wanted was a law to secure continuous labour, and to prevent squatting. They also wanted to be governed on general principes laid down by Parliament, and not at the caprice of an ever-changing Colonial Secretary. If they had these, and a representative government, the rest might safely be left to their own good management. As to the question of slavery, he considered that we ought rather to use, to some real practical purpose, the enormous amount of money which was granted by this country for the suppression of the slave trade on the African coast, or abandon the attempt to suppress it as useless. In his opinion the latter would be the better plan, for he was quite sure that slavery could never be put down until free-labour produce could be had cheaper than that of slave labour. That was the only remedy against slavery. The pernicious system of colonial management at home had been the principal cause of all the evil. If they were to believe the statements of the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to the prejudice of those made by gentlemen who had risked their property and lives in the colonies, the consequences might be of the most serious nature. It was utterly impossible that the colonial department of the Government could satisfactorily regulate the affairs of forty colonies, distant and scattered as they were. The suggestions of experienced and practical men had been discarded by the Government, and frequent changes and new appointments were constantly made, which rendered it impossible that the colonies could be prosperous. In order to adjust colonial affairs in a satisfactory manner, there ought to be an Act of Parliament passed, clearly defining what should be the system of government to be applied to the colonies, leaving the internal management to the local authorities. If this method were pursued, the colonies might be made useful to the country; but, in their present position, so far from being of service, they became dangerous to the empire. He hoped the noble Lord opposite would not persist in selecting the Committee; but if he did so he trusted he would include Mr. Wakley, the coroner, in order that the hon. Gentleman might hold an inquest on the dead body of the colonies. He entreated the noble Lord not to accept what the Government appeared willing to give, as by so doing a great portion of the responsibility would be removed from their shoulders.


could not resist seconding the appeal just made by his hon. Friend to the noble Lord opposite, to reconsider whether he might not better serve the cause which he wished to promote by not persevering in his proposition. He assured the noble Lord, that, as one of the West Indian body, he felt deeply grateful to him for the interest he had evinced in their cause. There was not one of the body who did not think the noble Lord had made the proposition in the best possible feeling, and he had come to the House prepared to give him his support; but since he had heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his views had undergone a change. He agreed with the hon. Member for Middlesex in thinking that the concessions contemplated were of some importance in the present state of the West Indian colonies. His reason for begging the noble Lord to reconsider the matter arose from a feeling in his mind that expectations might be raised, and inducements afforded, to indulge in speculations in the colonies not justified by the result likely to be obtained by the concessions of the Government. There might be many expectations of various kinds raised, which, he felt satisfied, would end in disappointment. He would not join the Chancellor of the Exchequer in telling the colonies how they were to manage their affairs; but he would tell them that, as their position was now fairly ascertained, and as a fixed line of policy would be pursued towards them, that they should do the best they could to meet their situation. He had considerable experience of West Indian property; and his object had been to serve his tenants as much as he could, and avoid the responsibility of further advances in the dangerous situation of the colonies. He had told his tenants that if they could not pay their rent he would not demand it of them. [A laugh.] Gentlemen near him appeared to smile at this; but he believed his remark would apply elsewhere besides the West Indian colonies. The grand desideratum for the colonists was for them to ascertain their true position, and to adapt their conduct to their circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by entreating the noble Lord to consider how far he might promote the interest he had at heart by persevering in his Motion for a Committee.

Debate adjourned.

House adjourned at Twelve o'clock.