, on the Order of the Day for the Adjourned Debate on Lord George Bentinck's Motion being read, rose and said, that in addressing the House on this debate, it was his intention to confine himself strictly to the subject-matter introduced by the noble Lord, and to refrain from travelling into any questions connected with the general policy of the country, which had been noticed in the course of the preceding discussion. He would be perfectly satisfied to look at the question merely as it affected the interests of the cultivators of sugar, and to take the result of the arguments on the statements made by the planters themselves—on the condition of the demands they were making for increased protection—and on the power of Government to afford it to them. The demands put forward by the West Indian interests might be taken as they were summed up in a pamphlet in favour of these claims, under four heads:—1. That moral considerations compel us to prohibit the introduction of slave produce as long as moral considerations compel us to prevent slavery.2. That slave labour is cheaper than free labour, and therefore to expose the West Indian planter to a competition with slave labour, confining him to the use of free labour, is unequal and unjust.3. That the exclusion of slave-labour sugar would be a protection to the British planter, and enable him to compete, and that the produce of Brazil and Cuba should be excluded.4. That the Legislature has therefore the power to protect the colonies by excluding or charging with a heavier duty the produce of slave labour.On these four points he was willing to hang the whole merits of the question; and if he did not succeed in setting aside every one of these positions, he should fall far short of what he expected to prove to the satisfaction of the House. The first 85 allegation on which the whole hypothesis was founded, was that moral obligations had induced us to exclude slavery from our colonies, and that therefore in the view of the West Indian planters it followed we should exclude the products of slave labour from the shores of the mother country. But looking back to the history of the world, it would be impossible to deny that there had been any nation, which in the course of its rise from barbarianism to civilisation, had not passed through a condition of things, wherein a great mass of her population were exposed to slavery. It would therefore be unjust to say, that because in a certain state of civilisation slavery was improper, we should not hold any intercourse with countries which under other circumstances were compelled to admit the continuance of such a state of society. No nation had ever reached liberty and civilisation, in which the lower classes had not for years existed in a state equivalent to slavery; and he need not go very far back for the time in which the people of this country were in a very different state from that in which they now were, and when their moral sentiments had extended subsequently to the colonies. He was not at all prepared to say, that because the relation between employer and employed was that of master and slave, we should brand it as injustice and oppression, however willing he was to admit that as soon as civilisation had sufficiently advanced, it was the duty of every country to increase the liberty of her people as far as possible, and to put an end to slavery. Those conscientious gentlemen who had appealed to the House to preclude slave-grown sugar from our markets, would, he supposed, object to slave labour in any form, and would oppose it equally in Cuba or Brazil, in Russia or in the United States. The principle of the question, if it were worth anything, should make no distinction with respect to the country in which slavery was tolerated, or the articles which slave labour produced. If then it were laid down that we should exclude the slave-grown sugar of the Brazils, it would be necessary to contend that the productions of Russia, where the relations between serf and master were those of perfect slavery, should be excluded also. Equally incumbent on the supporters of this argument would it be to refuse to admit the productions of Egypt, for in no other country did there exist a more degrading connexion between the employer and em- 86 ployed. In the practical effect of this principle there could be no choice between cutting off all trade with Russia and the United States, and admitting to our ports the slave-grown sugar of Cuba and Brazil. If we were to exclude ourselves from commercial intercourse with nations because they differed in institutions, he apprehended that all our boasted prophecies of the effects of commerce going hand in hand with religion and civilisation in the world would be in vain. The great practical question to be considered was, first of all, the allegation that free labour was dearer than slave labour. Now, to estimate the exact value of labour was an exceedingly difficult thing. As an illustration of this he would instance what had taken place on the Birmingham and Gloucester railroad. On that railroad a short time ago the locomotive power had cost 2s. l0d. a mile, and yet within two years the cost was reduced to 10½d. This showed how great was the saving which might be effected by a change of arrangements. He held in his hand a letter from Trinidad denying that the cost of labour was any dearer now than it was during the last century, and stating that the cost of particular operations was merely what it would have been during the existence of slavery. In the last number of the Mauritius Mail he found an article which warned the planters of Bourbon that—"as long as slavery existed among them there could be no progress, no liberal institution, no good government, no security for life and property.With respect to Mauritius, he found that whatever might have been the distress existing in that country, they had nothing to complain of from free labour. In. 1832 there were employed in the field, separate and distinct from the other slaves, 32,000 persons, the production of sugar being larger than in any previous year, and amounting to 24,000 tons, or at the rate of three-fourths of a ton per head. Last year the production was 65,000 tons, considerably more than double what it was in 1832. By the census of last year, he found that the largest number of labourers now employed in agriculture amounted to 60,000, not quite double the number of 1832, so that it was to be inferred that they last year produced, upon the average, upwards of one ton per head; whereas, under the slave-labour system of 1832, the production was three-fourths of a ton per head. With respect to Porto Rico, the 87 noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) did not seem to place much confidence in the statements of Colonel Flinter; but he could only say he had found, on the whole, that that writer's statements were perfectly correct with respect to the proportion of the slave to the free population. Colonel Flinter stated, that in the chief part of the island cultivation was carried on by free labourers; that there were 275 sugar estates, and 148 coffee estates, being but 423 in all (out of the whole 19,000) cultivated by slaves. The free coloured population was 280,000, whilst the slaves were only 50,000, being but ten per cent on the entire population of 500,000. It appeared, therefore, that Colonel Flinter's statements were quite borne out by the census taken two years ago. But, perhaps, the most conclusive evidence with respect to the greater economy of free labour was to be found in the progress of sugar cultivation in the East during the last twenty years. Java, now one of the most considerable markets for the supply of Europe, barely produced as much sugar twenty years ago as its inhabitants consumed. The whole exported produce of that island in 1826 did not exceed 23,000 cwts., or 1,000 tons. Since 1826, under a system of open competition with the slave labour of Cuba, Brazil, and Surinam, the production of Java had increased from 1,000 to 75,000 tons last year. We had not in the whole world the example of so rapid an increase in the production of sugar; and his belief was, as far as he could judge from the information he had received from Dutch ministers who had resided in Java, as well as from other sources, that the inhabitants of that island were as free as almost any population in the world. Again, by the Chinese settlers at Singapore and Penang, sugar was produced at a lower rate than in any other region. On the continent of Europe, again, the present production of sugar was equal to two-thirds of the whole production of the West India islands twenty years ago. It certainly was not less than 100,000 tons; and in beet-root sugar the difference in price from Cuba sugar was 2s. a cwt. only. The cultivation of beet-root sugar was rapidly extending on the Continent. This was a new species of competition which the West Indians had to contend with, but one over which the House had no control. Beet-root was becoming a new branch of agriculture in Europe, and an important element in the rotation of crops. In 1826 the whole amount of 88 sugar produced eastward of the Cape of Good Hope was 21,000 tons; in 1847 it had increased to 240,000 tons. This was a most important fact to consider when they were looking at the condition of a few islands in the Gulf of Mexico, which, a few years ago, had the monopoly of that particular article. So that this, added to the home-grown supply of 100,000 tons, made 340,000 tons available for the consumption of Europe, against 21,000 tons which were available twenty years ago; and the whole of that increase was the produce of free labour. The entire quantity of sugar produced, twenty years ago, for the consumption of Europe was but 297,000 tons. In those days the United States of America produced almost no sugar at all; the supply of Louisiana was a mere trifle; whereas you had now there a great production. So that, taken altogether, you would find that, during the last twenty years, you had more than 150 per cent increase in the production of sugar in the world, in entirely new quarters. It was impossible to deny that so rapid an increase in the production of one article must be attended with great disturbance in the value of property, and materially affect our relations with those old-established plantations which had been the original seats of sugar culture. Whether it was to be the fate of sugar, as had been the case with indigo, to be produced entirely by free labour, it was impossible for him to say; but had you adhered to slave labour, it seemed to him that, as infallibly as the cultivation of indigo had moved from the west to the east, so would the cultivation of sugar have gone to the east. If the House should comply with the demands of the West Indians, he asked if they would be any better off than they were now? Would they not still have to sustain the competition of Java, Manilla, and other countries? The House had no power to grant relief in this respect. Under the provisions of the new law regulating the admission of refined sugars, we had opened our market at once to the whole of the beet-root sugar produced in France, Belgium, and different parts of the Continent. In every one of those countries there was a drawback on refined sugar exported, acting by way of bounty, equivalent to the protective duty imposed in the first instance. So that, unless we altered the, whole of our commercial relations with the continental countries, it was quite impossible to exclude from our mar- 89 ket the produce of European beet-root sugar. Again, we had decided that refined sugar, like flour, was a manufactured article, to be admitted without reference to the country where it was grown; so that under our treaty with Holland it would be impossible to prevent the Dutch from importing the sugars of Cuba and Brazil, refining them in Holland, and selling them here as the manufactured produce of that country. There were no means, therefore, of giving protection by excluding slave-labour sugar from this country. It was a most satisfactory announcement from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government, while they were determined to adhere to the Bill of 1846, intended to do justice to the West India colonies, by removing every species of restriction which could be repealed with propriety. There were also many other questions which might with propriety be entertained by the Committee. He believed that if the West India colonies were to be saved, it must be by a social change in the relative position of these islands. He believed that the Government, in dealing with the question of labour there, had committed a great error. He believed that the social constitution of the West India colonies was detrimental and inapt. Let the House compare those under the British crown with Cuba and Porto Rico: there was a material difference between the social position of the inhabitants. He found that in Porto Rico, forty per cent of the population were white people, seventy per cent were white and free people; and taking the two islands together they had only thirty-two per cent of slaves upon the whole population. In the British colonies only seven and a half were whites, and ninety-two were blacks. Was that, he would ask, a division likely to promote the interests of those colonies, or the efforts of civilisation? In Cuba, English and Spanish families had settled, whose descendants from generation to generation succeeded to their estates and plantations; and who, if they made a great deal of money, spent it where they made it. A very different state of things existed in the British colonies, which it appeared to him were only looked upon as places for making fortunes. Gentlemen went out there, made money, and in order to make the rest of their days comfortable, came home and spent it. He very much preferred the latter to the former course; 90 it was a natural desire, and he had no doubt a very proper one; but he could not resist the consequences of both such systems. He also found in six years that Porto Rico had constructed 47 regular bridges, 132 wooden ones, and 400 miles of railroad. He had the authority of Sir Robert Schomberg for stating that there was no less than 800 miles of railroad in Cuba, while there were only 1,200 in all the British colonies. It was impossible to deny that railroads were a great means of economising labour. He remembered some eight or nine years ago when a proposition was made to make a railroad in Jamaica, the gentleman who proposed it canvassed all the parties, merchants and settlers in the island, who ought to have been interested in its construction; they all admitted the immense advantages which such an undertaking would confer upon the colony, but not a shilling did they subscribe to the undertaking; and every shilling that was subscribed came from the free-traders in the town of Liverpool. When they looked to these facts, and to the state of society in those countries, they must admit the reason why sugar should be produced cheaper in Cuba. No matter what changes or regulations were made by Parliament: the social position should be changed before they could cure the evil. It was only last week that he saw a ship fitted out for Cuba, and on board he found a number of iron tanks for storing the molasses, in order to save 10 or 15 per cent, which he found in the Parliamentary report was proved to be lost in the voyage. This argued a great energy, and a great desire to consult economy in that island. With regard to the condition of labour in the colonies, he was free to admit that a great deal of injustice had been done to the planter in the unnecessary restriction which had been placed upon the immigration of labour. The Government had shown an unnecessary jealousy of its own power in carrying out its laws, or an unnecessary distrust of its own subjects in imposing these restrictions. In Trinidad, where there were only twenty-nine people to the square mile, and where there were one million of acres of waste lands, and where labour was unpleasant, little or no means had been taken to prevent vagrancy or squatting. Why, the first duty of the Government, after the Emancipation Act, should have been to have imposed some very stringent regulations upon this subject; indeed he was sure that the matter 91 had not escaped the attention of the then Government. Lord Glenelg, in 1836, in a despatch, laid down the principle as broadly and clearly as any person could wish; but not a single answer was made to it, nor was the matter subsequently alluded to by his Lordship. He found that in Cuba and Porto Rico one of the chief means which had been taken to reclaim them was by stringent regulations against vagrancy and squatting; and all persons were held vagrants who had no visible means of obtaining a livelihood; and that was a very fair test; it was the test in civilised and cultivated society, and he did not see why they should apply a more lax code to the colonies. With regard to the immigration of labour, he had no objection whatever; he thought that the planters were entitled to obtain labour where they could, and how they could, so long as they did not transgress the law of the land. But although he was in favour of free immigration, he very much doubted whether immigration would confer any present benefit. He found that in Barbadoes there were 734 persons to the square mile; in Jamaica there were 88 to the square mile; and in Trinidad 29 persons to the square mile; and in Trinidad squatting was an evil proportioned to the population. He believed that an improvement in the vagrancy law would confer a greater practical benefit than any immigration. By the last accounts from the island they would perceive that the distress which existed last year was beginning to produce a new and a better state of feeling between the employer and the employed. He alluded with great pleasure to a letter from British Guiana, written by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Barkly). The letter to which he alluded did honour to the mind of the hon. Gentleman who wrote, and showed that he, at least, had taken a clear and decisive view of the only mode by which the present difficulties were to be met. The hon. Gentleman stated, that to hope for protection was in vain—that he had voted for a repeal of the corn laws, and he could not hope for protection to sugar. But he said that the difficulties might be in some degree met by efforts to reduce the cost of production. The hon. Gentleman stated that the expenses of an estate were fairly divisible into three heads: first, the cost of supplies; next, the salaries of clerks and overseers; and the third, the wages of labour. All should bear their proportion of reduction and economy, and 92 if wages were reduced by 25 per Cent, there would be hope. Well, what was the result? That would be best known by extracts which he would read with great pleasure to the House, and which hon. Members would listen to with equal pleasure, because they showed how readily the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman had been complied with. These extracts were from two numbers of the Royal Gazette of George Town, in Guiana:—Some slight consideration, however, will convince us that we have neither been for years pursuing a phantom, nor have little to hope from the present measure of the Home Government. In the last three years we have received the largest accessions to our population which we have ever obtained since the emancipation. It is estimated that since 1844 not less than 30,000 labourers have been introduced into the colony. It is quite true that the exorbitant rates of agricultural wages, which prevailed in 1844, prevail now; and that in these three years a vast number of the peasantry have withdrawn entirely from the coasts, and settled upon their own freeholds up the rivers and creeks in the paradise of the interior. These may or may not be lamentable facts. But it is equally true that, as compared with 1843 or 1844, the sugar crop of 1847 has remarkably increased, and that every colonist of observation and experience attributes this increase solely, under Providence, to the importation of Coolie and Portuguese labourers effected in the interim. The sugar crop of 1843 and 1844 was about 35,000 hogsheads; the sugar crop of 1847 will be about 50,000 hogsheads. When three years ago the authorities conceded to us Coolie immigration, every cane field almost in the colony was a wilderness of weeds; labourers in many places could not be obtained for love or money to take a hoe or shovel in their hands; the arrogance of the native peasant was intolerable: the dependence of the planter upon him humiliating and disastrous in the extreme. The colony, which depends wholly upon its sugar cultivation, not only is in a crisis just now, but will have, in all probability, crisis after crisis to go through till the Sugar Bill shall have fully developed itself, and the sugar of the British West Indies enjoys no favour whatever in the markets of the mother country. We entertain some hope that things will, in the end, go right, from a fact which has come under our observation within the last fortnight, and which proves, to our mind at least, that the population can and will bend and accommodate themselves to circumstances. For our part, we would ask no more in order to fight the battle of free-labour with slave-labour produce. It was clearly enough demonstrated to the people that sugar was not, at the old rate of wages, paying the planter: and the alternative was, in many districts, submitted to the peasantry, either of not working at all, or of working for wages reduced at the rate of 25 per cent. With wonderful smoothness and placidity, all things considered, the people have agreed within the last few days, in the finest and most extensive sugar district of the colony — the Arabian coast of Essequibo—to accept the reduced rate; and the same thing we learn has happened on the east coast of Demerara. 93 This great change has been effected without any strike, without any sulkiness, without any manifestation of ill-feeling; and shows, on the part of the free peasant of this province, a degree of manageableness which surpasses, we are inclined to think, any degree of submission which coercive discipline can produce in Cuba or elsewhere. This trait—which we own has taken us by surprise— in the character of our free labourers, though it has diminished their wages 25 per cent, has raised our opinion of the prospects of the colony at least fifty.This was a most satisfactory statement, coming from the colonies, and he did not think that they had any right to despair. In the Mauritius things were bad indeed. It was proved that the Colonial Government alone cost the colony 6l. per ton on the sugar raised. With such an outlay as that, it was hard for them to compete with such islands as Cuba and Porto Rico. These were all legitimate questions for the Government to entertain. He was confident that they already entertained them; and, therefore, he was confident that they saw their way through a great deal of mist. The Chancellor had stated that he had no intention of altering the law of 1846; but he did hope that the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn would not be induced to withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. T. BARING
said, that of all the painful descriptions which this debate had called forth of the present state and future prospects of the West India colonies, he thought there had been nothing more painful for the House to have heard than that part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, in which he figured the present condition of our own colonies, and contrasted it with the flourishing condition of Cuba and Porto Rico. Nothing, in his opinion, could be more disheartening than when the hon. Gentleman pointed to Cuba, and said, "See what slavery has done!" and then pointed to the British West India colonies, and said, "Behold the result of freedom!" The hon. Gentleman stated that he was not exactly aware how many hundred miles of railway had been completed in Cuba; but he was well aware that, after the utmost possible effort had been made to finish one short railway in Demerara, only twelve or fifteen miles had been formed. The hon. Gentleman also stated that he had examined a ship that was going out to Cuba, fitted up with iron tanks for sugar making, but that no such advantages were available to the merchants of Great Britain; no such improvements could they send to their own possessions. Finally, the hon. Gentleman 94 stated that no system of protection could serve the interests of our colonies; that the growth of other kinds of sugar, besides our own colonial sugar, was so great that he was only surprised our colonies had existed so long. To what the hon. Gentleman thought all this must ultimately come, he had not been able to gather from his speech. The hon. Gentleman said that he believed that the colonies were to go through crisis after crisis; but he did not conclude by stating what was to be the final result. The hon. Gentleman, however, stated that a great competition had within recent years risen up between our colonial produce and a variety of free-grown sugars in different parts of the globe. The hon. Gentleman had told the House to look at the beet-root manufacture. No one could doubt that the manufacture of beet-root sugar had risen to a great extent; but the chief gist of the question seemed to be—were the producers of these sugars in the same position as the producers of sugar in our own colonies? Were they fettered in obtaining a supply of labour, and had there been that great social revolution among them which had taken from them the means of producing sugar? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury said that he was glad that the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had held out no hope to the West Indies. He (Mr. T. Baring) was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman could not give them assistance; but, if it was to be said, that nothing could or would be done for them, it was far better to say so at once; and, abandoning the vacillating policy which had hitherto prevailed, to declare that it was the opinion of the people of England that they ought not to give up slave-grown sugar. When the colonies were taunted with loss of capital and improvident expenditure, it was to the hopes which the legislation of this country had held out that must be attributed the blame of the losses which had been incurred. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he did not wish to hold out any hopes; and he (Mr. T. Baring) confessed that he thought it better for the Government openly to state the resolution to which they had come; but, when the right hon. Gentleman wont on to say that it was not the Bill of 1846 which had produced the fall in sugar, which had only partaken in the fall of other commodities, he must contend, although he did not deny that sugar must partake of the effects of a monetary pressure, that the real question 95 was, not whether sugar stood in its relative position of supply and demand; but whether there had been the same fall in foreign sugar, since the Bill of 1846, which had affected the sugar of our own colonies. The right hon. Gentleman compared the prices of sugar in January, 1847, with the prices of the present time. But he should have gone back; he should have referred to a period when these foreign sugars, which were introduced by the law of 1846, were excluded from the market of this country; because, if he could show that these foreign sugars maintained the same price as they did before, after the fall which had taken place in our own colonial sugars, he should make out a case demonstrating that the Bill of 1846 had some share in the fall of prices. Now, on the 18th of June, 1846, which was before the change of Ministry, and when it was supposed that the sugar duties would be left alone for that year, the price of Jamaica sugar, of middling quality, was 37s. per cwt. He would now take the price of sugar as it was on the 2nd of February; and he found that Jamaica sugar, of the same quality, was at 26s. per cwt., being a reduction in price of 29¾ per cent. In June, 1846, Barbadoes sugar was worth 38s. per cwt.; it was now at 28s., being a reduction of 36 per cent. Mauritius sugar, at the former period, fetched 36s. per cwt.; it now sold at 26s. In 1846, Bengal sugar sold at 39s.; it might now be bought at 28s., showing a fall of 28 per cent. But what was the price of Porto Rico sugar in June, 1846? It was then at 21s. per cwt., and it was now worth 22s., being an advance of about 4 per cent in price. Cuba sugar, worth 20s. per cwt. in 1846, was now worth 21s., showing a rise in price of 5 per cent. He might be told, perhaps, that he was taking the prices of these foreign sugars when they were very low; but the average prices of the years 1844 and 1845 varied from 18s. to 21s. per cwt. When the fall in the price of colonial sugar was attributed by the right hon. Gentleman to the monetary distress, he contended that the relative fall in the price was attributable to the Bill of 1846. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he still attributed the fall in the price of colonial sugar solely to the panic? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No; but it would be wrong to attribute the whole fall to the Bill of 1846.] It had been argued, that when the greatest entries of foreign sugar for home consumption were made, prices were 96 not unusually low; and that the fall in price of British Plantation sugars occurred when the entries of foreign sugar were made; but he should think it natural, when prices were high, that the foreigner should pour in sugar, and when they fell, that he should hold back his produce until there was a rise. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to various cases in which there had been a low price of sugar; but these were all cases of a low price of sugar obtained by slave labour. That was an argument for the producers of sugar to use, for they might say, "With slavery, sugar at a low price paid us better than sugar does at a high price without slavery." But then, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Barbadoes Bank had failed; and he did not deny that its failure must be productive of great injury to the people within the colonies; but it should be recollected that this failure was produced by the depreciation in the value of property and produce. There had been another bank whose experience he might quote; and he thought the fact would show the great extent of the pressure on the colonies, if he referred to the proportion of dishonoured bills held by the Colonial Bank. From January to June, 1847, the number was as two to one as compared to the corresponding period of 1846; and from June to November, 1847, as five to one compared to the same months of 1846. The right hon. Gentleman stated that undoubtedly, whatever might be the claims of our West India colonies, those claims could not be put forward by any of our other possessions which produced sugar for this country. Now, he did not mean to say, that the East Indies had any claim upon us on account of the withdrawal of slave labour; but let the House recollect that those who engaged in the production of sugar under the sanction of an existing law, invested their capital upon the faith of the legislative regulations affecting the production of sugar. He believed it was an advantage that the East Indies should produce sugar; others might say it was wrong, by any protective duty, to encourage a trade which had risen to so great an extent. But the question was, whether we were dealing fairly towards those who had relied on the declaration of the House and the country against the introduction of slave-labour sugar, and who had invested their money upon the faith of that declaration. The case of the Mauritius was full of grievances, as regarded 97 the application of labour. There was no doubt that many labourers had been introduced there; but in giving the colonist labour, unless continuous labour were given, and such as could be under the control of the master, the Government really gave them no labour at all. All these difficulties, which had been so fully explained in the petition which had been presented, were of a nature to call upon the Government to reduce the charges which made the passage of a labourer cost 8l., while under other circumstances he would only pay 3l. or 4l. for his passage; and to take off the impolitic export duty from Mauritius of 1l. per ton in sugar. With regard to the remedies proposed, he thought that the grant of 200,000l. for immigration might be productive of good, as he supposed that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to tax the colonies in any way for that, because the right hon. Gentleman must see that on the presence of immigrants the very existence of the colonies would depend. The next point was the repeal of the navigation laws. Now, he agreed with the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), that unless there was a special repeal of those laws in favour of the West Indies, the West Indies could receive no benefit from the repeal. He was not going to speak on the general question of navigation laws, for he thought the question ought to be treated, not with reference to the interests of the colonies alone, but as a great national question, though the colonists, like drowning men catching at straws, were anxious for the repeal of those laws. It did not appear to him, however, that they could possibly, in the long run, derive any benefit from the repeal of the navigation laws. If they were repealed for the West Indies, they must also be repealed for Cuba and Brazil; and it seemed so clear to him that vessels would congregate in that market from which there were the greatest means of freight, that it was evident that Cuba and Brazil must be the greatest gainers by the repeal of the navigation laws. It was equally clear that the Mauritius would derive no benefit whatever from their repeal. With regard to the admission of rum and molasses, the right hon. Gentleman did not give the colonists much hope, but said, that, after all, the depression of the colonial interest was more attributable to absenteeism, and the mode of managing estates, than to any effect produced by alterations in the laws. He was afraid that the right hon. Gentle- 98 man would find that resident proprietors in the colonies had suffered as much as absentees, and that estates were as well managed there under the superintendence of agents as by the proprietors themselves. He believed that this was often found to be the case in Ireland, and it was much the same in Jamaica and other islands of the West Indies. But the right hon. Gentleman had quoted different pamphlets to show that the fault lay with the West Indian colonists themselves. He (Mr. Baring) wished, however, that instead of quoting pamphlets he had quoted the despatches of the Governors of the different colonies. He would rather trust to their statements than those of writers of pamphlets. Let him quote the opinions of Sir Charles Grey and Lord Harris upon the matter. But even in the pamphlets which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted, it was admitted that they ought not to judge of cultivation in the colonies as they would of cultivation in England. What did Dr. Evans himself say? He said—"People must not judge of our cultivation as they would of their own; they must not think that the cultivation of a sugar estate is like that of an English farm, and judge from that of the remedies which ought to be applied." Dr. Jells said—"We must spend money, we must make roads, &c, and, above all, we must not spare medical attendance." That was all very well, but the question was, where was the money to come from? How could improvements he carried into effect without the possession of capital or confidence? There was the sore; confidence was wanted, and until that could be restored, capital would not flow into the colonies. The legislation of this country had destroyed capital in the colonies, and then they turned to individuals, and said, "Look at the people of Cuba, they are spending money." Yes, because they were making it. They had credit, because it was known that the law of 1846 had benefited Cuba and Brazil; but when the right hon. Gentleman said that the failure of the merchants had been the cause of the distress, and not the low price of sugar, let him tell the right hon. Gentleman that the low prices of sugar preceded the fall of those houses. The right hon. Gentleman might think that the Bill of 1846 had had nothing to do with those failures; but he (Mr. T. Baring) could assure the right hon. Gentleman that this had been the real cause of 99 the ultimate ruin of the houses in question. The houses here were not anxious to possess property in the colonies themselves; but believing that the policy of the Legislature was in favour of free-labour sugar, and having advanced money on the security of landed property, they ultimately took the property in question as a security for their debts; and then came those sweeping measures which depreciated the value of all colonial property. He was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman did not fully estimate the position of affairs in the colonies. He feared that when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of sending out agents like Mr. Price, he did not know the destruction which had fallen upon capital in the colonies. "Get your agents," said the right hon. Gentleman, "like Mr. Price, and you are sure to make your properties invaluable." Why, it was but last night that a gentleman who had been consignee of the produce from the very estate for which Mr. Price was agents told him what was the cost incurred and the produce raised during the period of Mr. Price's agency. The hon. Gentleman read the following statement:—Worthy Park Estate, in Jamaica, during the management of George Price, Esq.:—
Thus, then, the produce of the last year, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated at 700 tons of sugar, appeared to be 267 hogsheads of sugar, and 128 puncheons of rum, the value of which amounted at most to between 7,000l. and 8,000l., while the money expended on the estate during the same period was 18,000l. These, then, were the comforts which were sent to the colonists. The right hon. Gentleman, in referring to the French West Indian colonies, which he said were failing also, though there was a resident proprietary there, said that the colonists would not properly attend to the management of their estates. He believed, however, that though money was now so abundant for other purposes that it might have been had at a moderate rate, it was impossible to obtain it on any terms on colonial security. He would read to the House the particulars of an estate in the island of Jamaica:— 100
Expenditure. Produce made. Sugar. Rum. £ Hds. Puns. Nov. 1, 1843, to Oct. 31, 1844 7,481 261 82 — 1845, — 1845 9,865 309 135 — 1845, — 1846 12,852 303 146 — 1846, — 1847 18,856 267 128"Seven miles from Kingston. Between 1,000 and 1,100 acres. Sugar and cattle. Buildings and dwelling-house in good order. New steam-engine, erected in 1839. Advertised for Sale last year in the London and colonial papers. Offered for sale in the autumn in Jamaica, no reserved price being mentioned; but there were no bidders. Put up to auction in London. The owner, who attended the sale, states that there were but four or fire persons present, that they did not appear disposed to bid, and the estate was withdrawn, after having been offered for 2,000l. Its average-crop was 80 hogsheads of sugar, besides its profits as a cattle-pen, being so near Kingston. Its steam-engine was of sufficient power to grind the canes for the next estate. Its cultivation is now abandoned, and the proprietor is forced to pay 120l. a year to a person to look after the buildings and keep off squatters. He has, however, had an offer of a tenant at 100l. a year, on condition that he shall not be bound to maintain it in repair as a sugar estate.This, he believed, was the condition of many estates in the colonies. It was very probable, that from the want of credit it would be impossible to ship the whole of the crop that was now being raised, and the want of credit would certainly very much diminish the means of planting and getting in the next crop. The following was a letter from a Jamaica proprietor who had settled in the island subsequent to the Emancipation Act, but written last November, and alluding to the effects of the Bill of 1846:—On my return here I found things even worse than I anticipated, both in a commercial as well as agricultural point of view. Short as the time has been, already nearly half the sugar estates in the island are in the course of abandonment; that is, they are only taking off the canes remaining on the ground. No preparation is being made for 1849 crop; and I am not far wrong when I say that that crop will not exceed 20,000 hogsheads. I only wish I could leave the island altogether, and get to America. I have got four properties here containing 4,000 acres of land, and I would gladly exchange them for 500 acres in America. I am almost distracted, for I look upon myself as ruined, and my children beggared, and what I am to do God only knows.The hon. Member for Westbury said, that no relief could be afforded; but he called on the House to consider the distressing situation in which the West Indians were placed from the want of continuous labour. Their interests had been made the battlefield of parties in this country. Party struggles had turned upon the interests of our West India colonies, not for their advantage, but for what were called constitutional purposes; and for this end the question of the sugar duties was made an annual question in that House. In 1841 the Administration of Lord Melbourne was turned out on the question of the 101 sugar duties—on the point whether we should or should not admit slave-labour sugar. In 1844 an alteration was made in the duties on free-labour sugar, with the assurance that no alteration would be made with regard to sugar the production of slave labour. Were the sugar-growing colonists not justified, in these circumstances, in thinking that the policy then promised would be honoured by that House and by the country? Were they not justified in believing that that House would not so suddenly turn round and break its professions, by bringing them in competition with the producers of slave-grown sugar? But, unfortunately, they were again made the victims of a party struggle; and, in 1846, they found the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth supporting the measure of the present Government, not, indeed, with any praise of that measure, but with considerable reserve, and because it was necessary to the state of political parties. The right hon. Gentleman did not think it right to oppose it, and, in fact, preferred the introduction of slave-labour sugar to the risk of the noble Lord at the head of the Government going out of office. They were told that they had given 20,000,000l. to preserve the property they were now by their policy destroying; but the 20,000,000l. paid to the colonists was no compensation for the injury that had been done. That compensation was given as the value only of the slaves, on the understanding that the labourers would continue for the advantage of the colonies; but the absence of labourers afterwards rendered all the compensation that was given absolutely valueless, especially when taken in connexion with the policy that had been pursued towards the colonists. He did not mean to disparage the national generosity; but let it be recollected that they only voted the payment of an annuity, and left it to posterity to defray the cost of the principal. And would any one, looking at that annuity, say that if it were possible to restore slavery to the Mauritius and the West Indies, it would not be a good bargain for those colonies to pay the interest on that loan? Why, in the Mauritius they were paying 50,000l. a year for immigration, which would not have been necessary but for the abolition of slavery; and therefore they were not entitled to say that they had compensated the colonists. On the contrary, they had placed them in a position the very reverse of prosperous. The hon. 102 Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson) said free labour was able to compete with slave labour; but let the House consider for a moment whether with slave labour they did not in reality produce sugar at a much lower rate than they could now do with free labour. In St. Kitt's during the last four years of slavery, he could say from returns made with great exactness, the cost was 4s. 5d. a cwt; during the period of the apprenticeship, 6s. 7d.; during the first four years of freedom the cost was 16s. 11d; and during the last four years it had been 21s. 7d., making the difference in the cost between the last four years of slavery and the last four years of freedom, 17s. 2d. The returns of ten estates on the same island showed an average of 22s. 10d. per cwt. Could it be denied, then, that free labour was not so cheap as slave labour? Free labour sugar might, no doubt, be produced cheaper by means of immigration; but, if this was not secured, were the colonies to struggle in their present state to compete with countries which possessed such superior advantages? He was quite aware that strong objections existed to anything like protection; but the real question was, had they not placed the West India colonies in such a position as to give them a good claim for relief of some kind, whether it was called protection or designated by any other name? Was their case not such that they appeared before the country and that House in a state of ruin caused by the reckless legislation which had been pursued? They did not say they owed all their present evils to the Bill of 1846; but that these had been produced by the emancipation of their slaves, without that measure being accompanied by provisions to enable them to procure free labour sufficient for the cultivation of their estates. They were now in that very position; and yet they were met by the announcement that the law of 1846 must be upheld, and at the same time protection denied. He did not wish to seem to be a convert to principles that he did not hold; but he would say, with Mr. Deacon Hume, that this was a question totally distinct from the ordinary and regular principles applicable to free trade, He did not mean to say that he perfectly agreed either with the noble Lord opposite or his noble Friend near him (Lord G. Bentinck), that protection or free trade must be in a circle, round which in their legislation they must always move—that they must either give protection to everything, or free-trade to every- 103 thing. He did not say that because sugar claimed protection, coals must have protection also. Neither would he, on the other hand, apply free trade to every article. He acknowledged the advantage of competition as a stimulus; he thought that, placing things on equal grounds, competition was undoubtedly a great advantage. He could understand a competition to try the mutual speed of racehorses; but there could be no competition between a racehorse and a steam-engine, for the power of the locomotive would bear no comparison with that of the animal. By placing the colonies with greatly inferior powers and with restricted facilities in a position in which they were called upon to compete with others, they were placing two bodies in competition that had no power of rivalry with each other. He would ask the free traders if they were prepared to risk the success of free trade on the sugar question? He, for one, did not think that we had got free trade yet, for he looked upon free trade as an interchange with other countries; and till other countries consented to this we could not enjoy free trade, but must live in hopes. But, he asked if the free-traders were prepared to rest the truth of their principles on the success of the sugar experiment? The declaration of the free-traders was, that it would produce advantage to all without permanent injury to any. Did they think this would be the result in the colonies? They said it would produce low prices. It might produce low prices for a time; but did they think that throwing land out of cultivation was a result which they could look to without apprehension, and that this would lead to permanent low prices? These prices might, indeed, be kept down by the import of slave-grown sugar, because, while we were to have free labour, we were likewise to have free trade in human flesh. But were they prepared to say that there would be no rise again in the price of sugar, and that they would maintain in that article a permanent cheapness under the present system? They were told, also, that free trade was to produce general and, indeed, universal harmony. It seemed to him that the commencement would not be very satisfactory if it produced discord between this country and her colonies, and if its first effect should be to alienate from us the attachment of those to whom we were bound by duty and connected by pledges. But there were two experiments to be made in this 104 country. The one was free trade, and sugar was the only article in which it had actually come to trial; and, considering the disastrous circumstances that had attended it, he should like to know if they were disposed to rest their experiment upon that case. The other experiment in which the country was engaged was to show to other countries that they might emancipate their slaves without injury to their colonies; but with what face could we say to other countries, "Look to us; we have emancipated our slaves—we have made them free, and prohibited for ever the slave trade and slavery; but the colonies have perished with the measure." With what force of argument could we say to them, "It is true we emancipated our slaves—we loved freedom, but we loved cheap sugar more; we were philanthropists, but our philanthropy is to be calculated on the inverse ratio of Mincing-lane prices; 1d. per pound will turn the scale." With what face could we ask them to look to us and the position in which we had placed ourselves as an example before the world, and tell them to destroy slavery in their own colonies, though it might be controlled by regulations of mercy and humanity, and be productive only of minor evils? If their people should call for cheap sugars, cheap sugars must be given them, from whatever tainted source they came, or by whatever injustice produced; if their manufacturers cried out for markets, and whether their gain was or was not to be the greater oppression of the slave in other colonies, they must obey the popular feeling, provided they risked no rise in the price of sugar, and even though it might be procured at the cost of a ruinous experiment. This experiment was to result in a great saving to the country; but were they so sure that the experiment would be productive of economy? They could not expect the colonies to maintain themselves as they had done, if they destroyed their prosperity. They could not expect them to pay the same amount for their internal establishment, if their trade were destroyed, the value of their land depreciated, wages lowered, and every interest in the country perishing. To maintain the colonies, they must then increase their expenditure; and they would have to pay for their support the 300,000l. a year that the Mauritius now raised, and the 790,000l. raised in the West Indies. Would they say that the colonies cost them too dear, and that, as they could not 105 afford to keep them, they must turn them off? Then let them speak out at once and say, "We attach no importance to you, and you are at liberty to transfer your allegiance elsewhere." Let them say whether, on the principle of free trade they would allow the colonies to sell themselves in the dearest, and buy their government in the cheapest market? But do not begin by ruining them, and making them beggarly appendages that no other Government would take under their care. The question was an urgent one; it was a case of emergency very different from what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had represented it to be. He referred to other cases in which distress had been experienced by the colonies; but those occurred when various circumstances operated to produce them. So long as a very high duty, raised during the existence of slavery, prevailed, it was not wonderful that, when the colonies sent to this country 200,000 tons of sugar at that high duty, the consumers only took 160,000 tons, and that 40,000 tons had to be sent through the mother country to the Continent. But the present was a very different case. It was a question whether estates were to be thrown out of cultivation, labourers to remain unemployed, and, of course, no wages to be given. When he heard the quotation which had been read from a despatch of the Governor of Antigua, in which he congratulated himself on the fall that had taken place in wages, he thought that such congratulation might have been well produced by an increase of labourers; but it was a melancholy prospect when reduction of wages was produced by the abandonment of estates by their proprietors. The Government said they had succeeded with their Bill of 1846. They might have succeeded in making sugar cheap; they had succeeded in adding to the revenue. It might be that the people of England, careless now of slavery or the state of our colonies, might little regard what had happened; but the Government undeniably anticipated another result from the measure of 1846. He would ask if their anticipations had been realised? The noble Lord at the head of the Government, in introducing the measure at the close of his speech, said—Impelled by energy and invigorated by the spirit of freedom in commercial transactions, my belief is that the colonists will gain and not suffer by this great change in our policy. I believe that the cultivation of sugar itself will be advanced to a greater extent when the colonists know that 106 they must compete in the market of the mother country with the productions of other countries. The colonists, I think, derive a great advantage from being connected with this country, and from having the benefit of all the skill and the accumulated capital of this country; and this empire has an immense advantage also in the loyalty, the strength, and the assistance of the colonies.He trusted that their loyalty might long remain; but he feared that if the policy were pursued of giving them no relief, they would find their strength and assistance very little.The colonial empire of this country is an empire of which every British statesman is most justly proud, and to which the people of this country attach the highest value. I trust that when this better system has been adopted we shall see the colonies increase and flourish; that we shall be proud of them as our creation; that we shall continue to see them in the enjoyment of that liberty which we have given them: and that both they and the mother country may flourish in union for ever.The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after expressing his belief that the measure he then proposed (in 1846) would tend more effectually to put down slavery and the slave trade than any other, said—No one would regret more than myself that this measure should inflict upon the West India colonists a permanent injury. No Government can be insensible to the great interests in the West India colonies; and I believe that if permanent and irremediable injury were to be inflicted upon them, we should inflict, not a benefit, but an injury, upon the consumers of sugar; for I look to them as the great source whence this country will obtain a permanent supply; but I believe that, with their means and capital, they will be able to cultivate upon more advantageous terms than any other country, even those that use slave labour, and that it is to them that we shall in time be indebted for the larger supply of our sugar.Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must know that the effect was to withdraw cultivation from a great portion of the colonies; he must know that what the colonies asked in relief was some measure that would restore confidence; he must know that without confidence neither credit nor capital could be extended to those colonies; and that, before they could be placed on a footing to compete with countries that had slave labour at their command, free labour ought to be put within the reach of the masters to such an extent as to place the labourers sufficiently under their control; that till this was done, confidence could not he restored, and the production of sugar in the colonies must he very seriously diminished. He could not but say that he could look back to no case of legislation more humiliating than the legislation regarding our colonies. He 107 could see no great interest anywhere so much trifled with—so much sacrificed to the cry of the day—so sacrificed, whether by the abolition of slavery at one moment, or free trade in sugar at another. But on Government must rest the responsibility. With regard to the Motion of the noble Lord, though he believed those who were connected with the colonies and our Eastern possessions would rather like to have heard from the Government a statement calculated to restore confidence, yet they could have no objection to a Committee, even knowing, as they did, that the case was so urgent that, whatever the report of the Committee might be, it would come too late. All that had been asked was to give free labour a fair trial, for it had had no trial. It was a question for this country to decide, whether it would pay—he would not shrink from saying it—whether it would pay an additional price for its sugar to maintain its colonies in contentment and prosperity. On the Government, however, the responsibility rested; and it was a question that the Government would feel to be an awful responsibility. Because these parties were at a distance, their sufferings did not strike our senses. They were weak and powerless. They could not bring the masses to bear upon their cause. They had neither the power nor the ability to agitate and subscribe. But, powerless as they were, their weakness ought to be an influence with the Ministers of the Crown. It was to the Government they ought to look, with the assurance that it was not because they were few and without influence that they should be refused aid. On the Government, therefore, he repeated, would rest the responsibility— on a Government which acknowledged their distress, which gave 8,000,000l. to Ireland last year, but which would not give protection to the extent of a penny a pound to the colonies. He spoke strongly because he felt strongly on the question; but if the House should descend to regard motives, he might say that he had no interest in this matter—he had not the interest at stake of one penny in the sugar of the British colonies; and had, therefore, no personal interest except that which every Englishman felt in seeing justice maintained, and public faith supported—in seeing the welfare of the colonies and the prosperity of the United Kingdom promoted, and our national policy preserved from the imputation of injustice. The responsibility, however, rested not on the 108 Government only, but on all those public men who had taken part in the policy which the interests of our colonies had turned up or turned down, just according to the breeze of party. On them rested the responsibility, whether the next departures, east and west, were to convey intelligence that would revive hope and restore confidence—revive hope to stimulate in the struggle against slave labour, and restore that confidence on which credit rested, and which could alone produce capital—or whether they were to take news that would confirm despair, and exhibit the course taken by that House and the country as calculated to degrade and subdue, and ultimately totally to ruin, our sugar-producing possessions.
observed, that it was his unfortunate position, being connected with the West Indies, to coincide in a great proportion of what had been said by the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat. He did not belong to the standing committee of West Indian merchants. He did not attend their meetings; and any sentiments he might express in connexion with this subject must he at his own door. He did not pretend to do more than to express the honest convictions of his own heart, and nobody, except himself, was to be made responsible for what he might say. In a great portion of the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Westbury, he coincided unreservedly. Clear, lucid, and temperate as it was, it always compelled his admiration, and frequently his concurrence; but his hon. Friend must forgive him for saying, that in his (Mr. Bernal's) opinion, one portion of that speech, and one portion of the argument upon which it was founded, were to some extent suicidal. The hon. Member had dilated on the magnificence of the island of Cuba—he had spoken of the glories of the splendid city of Havannah, and of the fortunes of the noble Spanish families there resident, who, by their presence and their princely expenditure contributed in so material a degree to the refinement, comfort, and luxury of the colony; but he would take leave to ask the hon. Member whether, while he was expatiating on those topics in such glowing terms, there did not he perdu in his own mind the recollection of this fact, that all the railways which intersected that fine island of Cuba, and all the bridges which spanned its streams, and the edifices which adorned its streets, had been accomplished by slave labour. Slavery, in its most re- 109 volting form and condition, existed still in Cuba. The hon. Gentleman was at perfect liberty to dilate on the advantages of the free-labour system; but when it occurred to him to make allusion to the remarkable prosperity of Cuba, it ought not to have escaped his observation, that that prosperity furnished no illustration for his doctrine, inasmuch as it was wholly founded on slave labour. While he (Mr. Bernal) gave the noble Lord who had moved the appointment of a Committee full credit for sincerity of purpose and acquaintance with the state of the West Indian colonies— while he was conscious that the noble Lord had their interests and prosperity at heart, the noble Lord would pardon him if he said that he did not think the appointment of the Committee proposed could lead to any practical relief. Had the House forgotten the blue books laid on the table some years ago from two Committees to which questions affecting West Indian interests had been referred? He was himself examined before one of those Committees. In the adjoining room another was assembled, to which had been referred the question as to the facilities which might be afforded for procuring a sufficient supply of colonists from the west coast of Africa for the West Indian colonies. Those two Committees produced two blue books, from which he never heard that a single germ of wholesome legislation or practical utility had ever sprung. The noble Lord proposed to summon witnesses from the British West Indies, from Hispaniola, from St. Domingo, from Manilla, from every part of the world, known and unknown. And what would be the result? Was the production of the blue books from the Committee to be simultaneous with the completion of the two Houses of Parliament, which appeared to be one of the remotest eras that could be well speculated upon? And meantime the sufferings of the West Indian colonies were to continue. The West Indian interests certainly demanded a more instant measure of relief than the noble Lord's project was likely to afford them. He was not a West India protectionist. When he had voted for the abolition of protection to the British agriculturist, he could not stand up in his place and support the principle as applied to that body with which his whole life and interests were bound up. It was not protection, therefore, that he wanted for the colonies, but a straightforward, intelligible, and statesmanlike policy. In regard to 110 what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he confessed that he felt very much disappointed, not at the remedies proposed, but at the tone which pervaded the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who had begun with a kind of indistinct statement that he did not wish to say anything disagreeable to the feelings or offensive to the prejudices of any one, whose interests were involved in this question. But the right hon. Gentleman, towards the conclusion of his speech, proceeded to make quotations from pamphlets, anonymous and avowed, with titles and without, seemingly to no other end than to accumulate matter for taunting the West Indian interest with such questions as—"Why don't you employ sufficient machinery? Why don't you expend sufficient capital on your exhausted soil? Why don't you change the aspect of affairs by every possible and impossible improvement? Why don't you borrow from England and Scotland their improved modes of agriculture?" But could the right hon. Gentleman conceal from himself the fact that the colonists were powerless? Where was their capital? Where was the security to be found on which capital might be obtained? There were estates which were not encumbered; but if they could not survive the general delirium—if he might use such an expression to describe the state of things which had arisen—there were no properties which could be made to survive, whether by natural or artificial means. It might be all very well to talk of improved agricultural implements and improved agricultural systems; but where was the money to come from? Could a proprietor selling a cargo of sugar at a price less than the growth, freight, and manufacture had cost, go into the market and borrow money to effect those improvements for want of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was that the colonies were suffering their present misfortunes? When the right hon. Gentleman altered the sugar duties in accordance with the principles of free trade, was he not bound to carry out those principles in all their bearings? Of the small concession in regard to rum, it might be said, "better half a loaf than no bread;" but the results would have been far more satisfactory had the right hon. Gentleman stood by the principle he had adopted. The right hon. Gentleman had acted neither consistently on his own principles nor justly to the West Indies. Then there were petty taunts thrown out. It was 111 said, "Oh, the West Indian had been paid: 20,000,000l. of compensation should close his mouth." No argument could be more fallacious, as any one who pretended to know anything of the West Indies and the value of estates must be aware. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of periodical distress in the West Indies, the right hon. Gentleman might be asked what was the cause of that periodical distress? It had been the practice of this country to follow a most vacillating policy in regard to the colonies. It was a policy which betrayed equal vacillation of purpose and uncertainty of action. Nobody at Christmas knew what was to be the fate of the colonies at Midsummer. There were pigeonholes at the Colonial Office and the Treasury full of plans which presented a system equally stale and useless. Would the right hon. Gentleman show how they could make a resident tenantry spring up in the West Indies? The negro would laugh at them if they proposed to make him a resident tenant. He was content to hold provision land, which enabled him not only to support himself, his wife, and family, but to supply vegetables for the market. There was one very important point to which no allusion had been made. In Jamaica the negro to a certain extent was independent of his employer. In a good season the produce of his garden, which he sold in the market, enabled him to realise a considerable sum. If a colonial law were enforced which should compel every proprietor of cane land to put a portion of it into cultivation as provision land, the supply of the vegetable market would not be in the hands of the labourer. It would be idle for any hon. Gentleman to address an argument to an audience out of doors in favour of protection. But there was a question which would be forced upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman —why should the planter of Jamaica, Barbadoes, or any sister colony, pay a duty on the importation of his produce into the port of London any more than the Yorkshire-man should pay a duty on sending his cargo of potatoes from the Humber? He now took the liberty boldly to bring forward a question which would force itself on public attention. It was a question which must not be shirked. It might be said, that in this country they were at certain expenses on account of the colonies; but so they were for every part of the empire. If they had to incur charges for the protection of Jamaica and the West In- 112 dian islands, they had to do so equally for Ireland, for the Hebrides, for every county and district of the United Kingdom. Upon what grounds, then, did they, when they came to carry out the principle of free trade, suddenly stop short? It was his conviction that the man who grew sugar in Jamaica or Barbadoes, had as much a right to have his sugar admitted duty free to the market in Mincing-lane, as the man who raised grain crops in the Lothians, or in Kilkenny or Waterford, had a right to bring his produce for sale to Mark-lane. But the objection was raised, how was the revenue to be maintained? As a colonist he had nothing to do with that. As a British subject he demanded the same measure of justice which was given to Ireland or Yorkshire. As to the navigation laws, he was one of those who thought that from their abolition not so much benefit would accrue as was supposed. But there was room for exaggeration on every subject. The colonists were looking forward with considerable hopes to the abolition of those laws. But it must be recollected, that one of their best markets was the home market, with which old ties existed. Then it was known that at Lloyd's, vessels built at English ports stood longer A 1 (as the phrase was) than vessels built in New Brunswick or Canada. Looking, therefore, to insurance and other items, he felt that so many advantages were not likely to result from the abolition of the navigation laws as were sometimes anticipated. Freight to the West Indies was 4s. or 4s. 6d. per cwt., or 4l. a ton; to Brazil, a considerably greater distance, the freight was less. [Mr. ROBINSON: 50s. a ton.] Vessels coming from India would prefer taking Benares sugar for almost nothing to returning light. When it was said, that the produce of free labour must be better than the produce of slave labour, it seemed to be thought that there was fair room for competition. But about a year and a half ago he had learned that the owner of an estate which had produced 1,200 hogsheads of sugar, and 650 puncheons of rum for the British market, though the crop was magnificent and the property unencumbered, found himself 1,200l. minus in the end. Another friend from the island with which he (Mr. Bernal) himself was connected, had a family estate worth 5,000l. a year. He offered to let it for 350l., or sell it for 4,000l. He could find neither lessee nor purchaser. If estates were let, the lessee, commencing 113 with tie best intentions, but landing himself in difficulties in the course of a year, might be led to misappropriate the stock; and so the landlord, in the course of another year, might find his own condition a great deal worse. Those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken so much of a resident proprietary and resident tenantry might be asked where were they to come from? Were they to spring from the soil by some Cadmean process? Did our own agricultural peasantry in Great Britain spring all of a sudden from serfs into free men? Was their improvement the work of a day, or of a year, or of a quarter of a century? No. It took place gradually, by the infusion of popular sentiment, by the effects of good government, and by the changes which had occurred in the state of things in Western Europe. But in the case of our colonies we expected what was impossible. The unfortunate proprietors were assailed with so many suggestions, that they hardly knew what to do. They were told that their ruinous condition was owing to their own faults, that it arose from their not residing on their properties, and from their not adopting those agricultural and manufacturing improvements without which they could not expect their estates to flourish or produce any income. It had been his painful task to hear these things reiterated over and over again. If he said anything in reply to these observations, it was said, "Oh, you are an interested party." He did not like to talk of himself; but he appealed to every hon. Gentleman who knew him, whether they had ever found him deserting his duty in that House for the purpose of promoting his private interest? He begged to tell those hon. Gentlemen who held the views he had just stated respecting the colonists, that however laudable might be their enthusiasm for the suppression of slavery and the adoption of those habits and modes and thoughts of freedom which did honour to the British soil, they were not only too much disposed to jump to hasty conclusions themselves, but to force others to do the same, at the risk of much personal suffering and loss. He begged to tell the House, that he feared that every packet to the West Indies, for some time to come, would take out orders to abandon the cultivation of estates, particularly in Jamaica. This might seem a very simple and easy process of getting out of a difficulty to those who had other property to resort to for the support of themselves 114 and their families. But did hon. Gentlemen never reflect upon this, that there were many family settlements overriding estates in the West Indies, which rendered it a very difficult thing to adopt this process—that there were cases in which it would be for a court of equity to say whether a man was not bound to cultivate his property at all hazards—that there were covenants imposing upon the proprietors the payment of jointures and portions— and that the whole system was so embarrassing and perplexing, that it was enough to wear down the faculties, corporeal and mental, of any ordinary human being? When it was first reported that labourers were particularly required in the West Indies, and when an application was made to the Colonial Office on the subject, twelve months passed before any answer was received. For himself, he never went to the Colonial Office—God forbid that he should go there as the suppliant West Indian proprietor! He made a point of never joining any deputation that went there; for he found that those who did go got nothing for their pains but a polite reply, and a polite congé, with the exception perhaps of an intimation that the misfortunes of the colonies were all owing to the want of resident proprietors. Now, he had been told that night of some salient cases, where the distress was more particularly pressing upon proprietors who had lived for years on their estates, not only in Jamaica, but in British Guiana. There was the case of a gentleman in Demerara, who had lived for fourteen or eighteen years on his estate, and was unable to go on. There was the case of another gentleman in Jamaica, who had spent the greater part of his life on his estate, and who was in the same predicament with himself (Mr. Bernal). He assured the House that he was disposed to adopt the most liberal notions with respect to the management of his estate. He had sent out a Yorkshireman as a farmer, with instructions to do everything he could for the land; but the fact was, that he found himself in the singular position of not knowing whether the plans he had adopted were plans that could be defended on the ground of prudence and utility, or whether he should not find himself under the positive obligation to change them to-morrow. He could state truly, that, though doing all he could for his property in Jamaica, he had for seven years derived no income from it whatever, but that, on the contrary, he had been obliged to 115 maintain an expenditure upon it from otter sources for the purpose of keeping it in cultivation; and yet his estate was not subject to a pound of mortgage or any other incumbrance. If that was not a sufficient trial as to whether there was not something rotten in the state of things there, he knew not what argument he could use for the purpose of enforcing conviction on unwilling minds. He granted that the domestic system was bad—that the scale of society was low—that, by the absence of a proper, intelligent, and respectable tenantry, they were unable to derive all the advantages which were incident to their magnificent soil and their equally magnificent climate; but he believed that, with proper management, with proper support, and, above all, with certainty of government on the part of the Colonial Office, the West Indies need not be alarmed at the red fields of Germany, or the beet-root fields of Belgium, or the attempt to imitate their crystallised or granulated produce on the part of France or any other country. But while they were beset with so many and such conflicting regulations as they had been of late years, it was out of the question for them to attempt to adopt means to extricate themselves from the difficulties with which they were surrounded. It was well known that there was some degree of popular excitement in Jamaica at the present moment, and it was said that the planters were objecting to tax themselves for the purpose of raising a fund to pay for the immigration of labourers. He assured the House that money was not so easily raised for that purpose as some hon. Gentlemen might think. Impoverished as the colonists were in every way, how could it be expected they were to come forward with 2,000l., or 3,000l., or 4,000l., or 5,000l., to send a ship to China or the Kroo coast to collect a body of labourers? It was impossible. Where was the money to come from? He knew the proprietor of one of the finest estates in Jamaica—a neighbouring estate to his (Mr. Bernal's) own — and he said to him lately, "What do you intend to do with your estate, neighbour? I want to do something to mine. I wish you would join with me." The gentleman said, "It's no use addressing these remarks to me. Where's the money to come from?" The fact was, that capital was exhausted in our West India colonies. He repeated, that what was wanted to restore confidence and pros- 116 perity in these colonies was, in the first place, a certainty of purpose on the part of Government, and also a conciliatory spirit in place of the utterance of worn-out dicta and taunts directed against the colonists which they did not justly deserve. The unfortunate words which sometimes escaped from Gentlemen connected with the Government did more to irritate the colonists, and to sever the natural ties of affection which ought to exist between the mother country and the colonists, than anything else which he knew of; and he implored the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to consider these things well. He had no disposition to bear hard on the Government; but he complained that he was a ruined man, without any fault of his own. His words might fail to influence hon. Members; but he assured them it was a serious subject, and one which merited the serious attention of that House and the country.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
regretted that he was not in the House when the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn referred to him last night, with respect to the trade between Lancashire and the Brazils. He we quite aware that there was considerable competition between the Americans and this country, in the Coarser description of cotton goods sent to the Brazils, but in the department of the printed and dyed calicoes, there had been a great increase of trade. He found from the trade report of Messrs. Du Fay and Co., published on the 1st January, 1848, that the exports from this country to the Brazils, printed and dyed calicoes, in 1846 was 44,625,737 yards, and that in 1847 they had increased to 57,360,867 yards, being an increase of 13,745,130 yards. He found, on the other hand, that the exports of the same class of goods to the West Indies, in 1846, amounted to 20,362,120 yards, and in 1847 to 14,844,675 yards, showing a decrease of 5,517,445 yards. With respect to woollen goods, he found that our exports to Brazil, in 1846, amounted in value to 76,322l.; and in 1847, to 103,433l., being an increase of 27,111l. During the same period the exports of woollens to the West Indies had slightly increased. They amounted, in 1846, to 23,477l.; and in 1847, to 27,217l., being an increase of 3,740l. This trade was of great importance to Lancashire. He remembered on one occasion during a contested election for South Lancashire, hearing that one of the voters had said that 117 be would vote for any candidate that would support the introduction of Brazilian sugar. The suggestion which had been made by Lord Ellesmere respecting the propriety of removing the squadron from the coast of Africa was one worthy of the consideration of hon. Members. It was kept up at an enormous expense, and was productive of doubtful benefit. The true interests of the Brazils and the West Indies should be put on the same footing. He was desirous that the system of emancipation in our colonies should succeed; for if the experiment failed in a pecuniary point, no other country would imitate our example. He also thought the suggestion of the noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Bentinck) respecting the propriety of lengthening the apprenticeship of the immigrant from five to ten years, well worthy of consideration.
§ MR. BAGSHAW
said, that having been concerned in the East India trade for more than thirty years, he begged to give as concisely as he could his views respecting this question as regarded that part of the world. It was in 1817 that he first landed in that important country. He found it to be then in a flourishing condition, because it had not up to that time been interfered with by the British manufacturing interest. At that period the whole of the vast population of that country were entirely clothed with the manufactures of their own provinces. In less then ten years afterwards, however, they ceased to be manufacturers, and were entirely clothed with the manufactures of England. As a matter of course, the whole of their export trade was entirely abolished. An exorbitant duty was placed upon every article exported from that empire, while every article from England was admitted duty free, or if not, upon payment of an ad valorem duty of 2½ per cent. At that time the duty imposed on East India sugar was so great, as contradistinguished from the duty levied on sugar the production of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Bernal), as to prevent any home consumption whatever. Then was the time that the consideration of an equalisation of duties was forced upon the attention of the Government; and how was that brought about? He remembered, when Lord Melbourne was at the head of the State, that deputation after deputation waited upon him, and had enough to do to prevail upon him to assent to this act of common justice. The noble Lord did, however, at last assent, and the duties 118 were equalised; but how? The concession was surrounded with difficulties, insomuch that up to this moment no man, on going into the Calcutta sugar market to buy a cargo for exportation to this country, could be sure whether the duty upon his purchase would be charged at 14s. or 16s. 8d. when it arrived here. He entreated the Government to consider the difficulties that the East Indies laboured under. In the year 1836 a Bill received the Royal Assent, equalising the duties upon East and West Indian sugar, and last year the East Indies sent us 72,000 tons of sugar; a development of trade unequalled in the annals of commerce; and but for that circumstance the West Indian interest might not have had to complain that they had received so little profit upon their sugars. But the hardship the East Indians mostly complained of was, that the Government laid a tax of 100 per cent upon sugar, the produce of the colonies, while the colonies received the produce of the looms and manufactures of this country upon payment of a tax of 3 per cent only. The manufactures of the East Indies had been destroyed in consequence of the introduction of British; and the Government were now about to destroy the branch of industry which had succeeded to manufactures. It was said, that there had been great over-trading in Calcutta; but how was that to be proved? That the East Indian interest had suffered great losses, and were in a most deplorable state, no one could deny. It was distressing to hear of the numbers of widows and families who had been ruined in the destruction which had lately fallen on that portion of our colonial empire. They had been ruined principally by the model colony (the Mauritius) that Mr. Hawes had last Session described in such glowing terms. The last thing they heard was, that Government were going to establish a bank in the Mauritius, which was to issue rupee notes. He believed that the inhabitants of that colony would say, "We want your money, and not your paper;" for as fast as rupees were sent from the East Indies to the Mauritius as circulating medium, they were paid to the Coolies, who hoarded it; and when the Coolies returned to their native soil, they brought back the hard money to the place where it was coined. It was not overtrading that had caused the distress in India, but a want of a proper combination of capital and credit, and the effects of the Bill of 1846. The agriculturists of the 119 tropics belonged to the empire, and the Legislature had no right to mate a distinction between one portion of the empire and another. The question then arose how the revenue was to be raised unless the present tax on sugar was continued; and the Legislature were in this dilemma, that if they taxed the produce of their agricultural fellow-subjects in the colonies, they must also tax their own barley and wheat at home. If a merchant did not believe he could secure a profit of from 10s. to 12s. per quarter, he would not order a cargo of wheat from the Mediterranean. The home agriculturist was therefore protected to this extent against his foreign competitor; and he demanded that the British agriculturist in the tropics should be protected to a similar amount, say to the extent of 7s. per cwt. on all foreign sugar, which would be about equivalent to the protection of l1s. or 12s. per quarter which the home agriculturist now enjoyed on his corn. It might be said, that the loss to the revenue would be too great to allow of this differential duty being put on; but one present item of expense would at all events be saved. Government might bring home all their squadron now engaged on the west coast of Africa, and no single additional life need then be lost for the sake of protecting the slave. He had had too much experience in former years of Committees of that House to expect much from the appointment of the Select Committee now proposed; and he had at one time intended to have moved as an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord, that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the sugar duties. They were many Members of that House who understood the question; some of our merchant princes were yet left in it; and he believed the course he had suggested would lead to more valuable advice and results than the reference to a Select Committee.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am sure, Sir, that the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed you is mistaken if he supposes that it is merely to accident we owe the brilliant attendance which now distinguishes this assembly; it is not to be ascribed merely to the fortuitous circumstances to which he has referred. It must have been inferred that it was his intention to address the House, and give us the advantage of his oriental experience, as he has just done in that speech in which he has said that he should place the House in a dilemma. But I cannot help feeling that the greatest 120 dilemma of the hon. Member is, that he is opposed to free trade, and that he is avowedly a free-trader. That is the position in which the hon. Gentleman now finds himself. Therefore I can sympathise with those arguments and with those statistics which seem to me, so far as I can follow them, mutually to confute each other. Sir, I will endeavour to place the question which now interests us in what I consider to be a true and fair light. I will attempt to divest it of all those, I will not call them unimportant but secondary considerations, which in a lengthened discussion on a topic of such importance as this, necessarily introduce themselves and distract our consideration from the real point before us. I will endeavour to place before the House that which appears to me to be the real question to which we ought to address ourselves, and the political problem which we are called upon to solve. If I be correct in my view of the nature of that proposition—if I can succeed in establishing the rule which I think ought to lead us to this solution—I shall be glad; but, if not, I shall at least be compensated if I can induce the House, although they may not agree with me, to accede to this—that I have placed before them the real subject upon which we are called practically, if not virtually, to give our decision to-night. Sir, the real subject, as it appears to me, is this: The new commercial system has been tried with respect to one great branch of our imperial industry—the only branch of our imperial industry on which it has been tried—and it has been found wanting. That is the real question. You may explain the circumstances or the catastrophe. You may say that such a result would not have been arrived at if a certain line of conduct had been pursued—you may say that such a result would not have occurred if certain things, which might have happened, but were never anticipated, had taken place— but this you cannot deny, that you are called upon to assist a great branch of imperial property, prosperous when you first began to apply your new commercial principles, but which is now no longer prosperous; and we who are urging upon you the claims of that property receive nothing from you but the dry development of some cold abstractions. Here is an interest which in all its relations does not, perhaps, command less than 200,000,000l. of capital. Even you admit—even the Government, the authors of the law of 1846, ad- 121 mit—that that capital is in danger. Even the amateur advocates of that Government do not question the peril, although they account for it. I know very well that if your theory, as first propounded—as you who represent those principles propounded them to this House two years ago—is to be accepted as correct, a loss of 200,000,000l. of the national capital is a very light affair indeed. I see before me a Gentleman who gave evidence before a Committee of this House. That Gentleman told the Imports Committee that the profit which the English people would derive from the mere repeal of the corn laws would be about 100,000,000l. per annum. We have now experienced the blessing of the new system nearly two years; and when they are completed, I suppose we shall find some compensation for the destruction of the West India interest. I refer to that hon. Gentleman, not merely because he is a Member of this House, and because of his connexion with a great commercial community, but I refer to him because at the time of giving that evidence he occupied a high official situation, and he has since informed us, in a manner the most public, that he availed himself of that official situation not merely to give the results of his commercial and political experience, but even to guide the policy of Prime Ministers. It is to be admitted, no doubt, that if the system then introduced to our notice had been as successful as was then anticipated —if all the measures had been successful which have since been introduced to our notice upon the faith of the evidence then given before the Import Duties Committee—and I refer to that Committee because the highest official authority of the time avowed that the evidence taken by that Committee was the foundation of the laws he proposed to enact—it is to be admitted, that if all those views had been realised, I should have appeared before you at this moment the advocate of this weak interest with great disadvantage. You might then have answered me—"What if all these islands in the Gulf of Mexico were lost in the waves which surround them, where would be the national injury? Have we not introduced to you a new system, which more than compensates you for the loss of all these petty colonial possessions? Is not the profit which which you have made by the repeal of a single law sufficient compensation not only for the loss of this colonial trade, but for this long 122 and anciently invested colonial capital?" But unfortunately you are not in a position to tell us this. You cannot pretend, nor, unfortunately, could we believe if you were so to pretend, that other of your measures, other parts of your new commercial system, have yet led us to those results which should be some compensation for a state of society which I believe in its suffering is almost unparalleled, but which I am sure in the causes of that suffering is quite unprecedented in ancient or modern history. You admit that your system has failed—your new commercial system, which was founded on a principle—a principle which you have baptized with a nobler name than, to my mind, it ever deserved. You told us that you were reconstructing the commercial system of this country upon the basis of emancipated trade, and you told us in the name of free trade that the course you were about to follow would produce unexpected blessings, and achieve unprecedented results. But, in the first place, I deny the principle upon which you commenced. I deny that you reconstructed our commercial system upon the principle of free trade. The principle upon which you reconstructed our commercial system was the principle of buying in the cheapest market, and selling in the dearest. But that is not the principle of commerce. You yourselves, and your great writers, have told us over and over again that commerce is barter. How often, when first I became a Member of Parliament, and when those fatal principles, like a snail beginning to emerge from its shell, first came under our notice, how often were we told with scoffing that commerce was only barter, and with what enthusiastic rapture was that sentiment hailed by the political economists! But, how can you reconcile that doctrine with that fatally practical principle which you are now inculcating and pursuing—that it is your duty and your interest to purchase in the cheapest market? The two contradict each other. But the principle of buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest, is not the principle of commerce; it is the principle of retail trade, and of retail trade only. ["No, no!"] I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who disputes this proposition is the great apostle of the Brazilian trade, to whom I shall presently have occasion to refer; but I contend that your principle is that of retail trade, and, 123 being that of retail trade alone, is, unfortunately, not retail in its effects. The effects are wholesale. The principle is not retail in ruin, and that is the reason that the colonists, and especially the West Indian colonists, have been brought to the position they now occupy. There is not a Gentleman on either side of the House—I care not for his party or his political convictions, or what may be the economical theories he professes—who will not admit one fact at least, that the colonists are in a most perilous position. Were they in a perilous position in 1846? Why, after all your changes, after all your tampering—I will not say only with legislation, but with the faith of the country and with the honour of Parliament—after all your piecing and patching, after making the colonial interest of England the harridan of party, regarding it as only a means of creating a Government or of upsetting a Ministry—after all this, and more, such was the energy and force of the English character, such the power of their industry and their capital, that—until that year of 1846—they had survived the storm, and there was still a chance, had there been but a fair maintenance of justice towards them, that great national interest might have been preserved, notwithstanding all your injustice and all your impolicy. What, I ask, was the position of affairs in 1846? With great humility, and influenced by circumstances which operated at that time, I took some part in the debate of that year; and I well remember that an hon. Gentleman, an hon. Friend of mine, then Chairman of the Board of Directors of the East India Company, not acting with me at that moment in political life, did, to my great surprise and disappointment, support the measure of the Government; and I recollect that my hon. Friend, speaking of that interest which has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bagshaw)—speaking of British capitalists who had invested their funds in the cultivation of sugar in India—said that they were not in the least afraid of the measure proposed by the Government. That was a statement which produced a great effect in this House. Recollecting the connexion of my hon. Friend with the subject—recollecting his position, his high personal character, his great intelligence— remembering also that but a few years before he was the authorised advocate of the East Indian interest, and had opposed the Government of the day on a similar question 124 of vital interest—I say that his speech on the occasion to which I am now adverting, produced as much effect in this House as if it had emanated from a man who was a Minister, or had been one. I remember that I told the hon. Gentleman it was not for me to question the opinion of British capitalists in India with respect to the cultivation of sugar; and the hon. Gentleman told us he had attended meetings of those capitalists at which resolutions had been passed expressive of satisfaction at the proposition of the Government. I did not presume to question such a statement, proceeding from such a man. But I did this —I reminded the House of this important consideration, which I felt it was my duty to suggest to them, although I was not chairman of the Board of Directors—I reminded them that the cultivation of sugar in India was carried on by two classes; by great English capitalists, who, induced by our representations, had in that undertaking invested their funds; and for them the hon. Gentleman was the responsible sponsor. But I also reminded the House that, in India, the only cultivation of the soil in which the native population could be really interested was sugar; that indigo was a monopoly, that cotton was a monopoly, that lac was a monopoly; that in every other article the labourer could not become a proprietor; but that, as regarded the cultivation of the soil, the production of sugar was the sole and proud privilege left to the Indian ryot. I read letters addressed to me by men of the highest consideration. I read a statement to which I generally referred, without mentioning the name of the writer, but still in a manner not to be misunderstood. It was well known that that statement came from Dwarkanauth Tagore, one of the most wealthy and intelligent of the Hindoo race, and well known to many Gentlemen here. I read that statement to show that the only means for the regeneration of India was the encouragement of the cultivation of sugar by the native population. I showed by the correspondence of eminent mercantile houses—two of which have since fallen—Imus, imus precipites—that native producers of sugar sprang suddenly up in the most remote districts, unheard-of corners, and brought their produce to English merchants, by whom it was consigned to this country; and I produced what was of still more importance, the evidence, the official and Parliamentary evidence, upon the results on our com- 125 merce of the equalisation of the sugar duties between the East and West Indies. Of that evidence I will give the results briefly, not with the pomp of figures, but contenting myself with referring Gentlemen to documents accessible to them. Avoiding the details, this I know to be the result, that the great, I might say the immense increase in our trade produced by that change was in the coarsest materials used by the lowest of the population—that our exports were not increased mainly by the wealthy and the powerful; but that numerous classes of consumers who had never before expended their gains in the purchase of Manchester goods now came into the market to seek them, and returned to us the articles we required in exchange for the materials they wanted for their turbans and their robes; and thus added to our imports more than two millions sterling. That was a remarkable instance of the effect of our legislation, and I want to know whether you have considered—whether you have well considered, what is the present state of India. I need not dwell upon the capitalists who have invested their funds in sugar cultivation, and for whom the hon. Gentleman, then Member for Beverley, was the bail. We know the termination of their career. All those great capitalists have disappeared from the commercial world. But you will have to consider what has been the effect of your legislation upon those poor ryots whom you called into existence as producers by the demand you stimulated for their produce, and for which you paid them by your manufacturing industry. This has been the effect upon India of your great change in the law. The great capitalists have disappeared, and the native producers have shown their sense of your legislation by ceasing to be purchasers of your goods. But what has been the effect of your great change upon the Mauritius? We have heard a great deal about compensation. I will not now enter into the circumstances; but the portion of compensation allotted to the Mauritius was, I believe, 2,600,000l. sterling, calculated upon an estimate of 60,000 slaves. What further sums were expended on that colony? I will not read the details; but I have here a document, of which I will give you the result in two lines—a result drawn up, I am sorry to say, by a gentleman — second to none in honour and intelligence, who was once a Member of this House, and who knew, by fatal experience, the ruinous 126 effect of legislation on the Mauritius. This document explains all. Besides the 2,600,000l. of capital which, by your vote of so-called compensation, was invested in that colony, besides the expenditure by which, in spite of restrictions the most vexatious, of a system of colonial legislation which can only be accounted for by the fear, the disgraceful fear of the ignorant prejudices of the metropolis, by which 90,000 Coolies were, in a certain number of years, imported into the Mauritius, more than 2,000,000l. sterling of English capital was invested in the Mauritius by houses connected with that colony—an unprecedented example of energy and enterprise. And what has been the result? Ruin—utter and complete ruin. I should be wrong, however, in saying, that this is the greatest, the last, or the bitterest consequence of our conduct. No, the bitterest consequence is, that, after having for years filled, in this House, the position of honourable men — men whose acquaintance we were proud to cultivate— men whose intelligence we were only too ready to secure for our Committees—they are held up to public scorn and contumely as unprincipled people—as people who indulged in over-trading, in rash speculation —who have suffered, not from the consequences of our own ignorant and deceptive legislation, but from their own rapacity, and whose fate has been brought on by circumstances which all merchants, at all times, should be prepared to encounter. Well, Sir, this much, in allusion to India and the Mauritius, those countries to which the debate on this question has given, as it were, the go-by. We talk of the West Indies, we argue the case of the West Indies, with all its peculiar and perhaps anomalous circumstances; and we are told that India had no slaves, that the Mauritius had no slaves, and that, therefore, they have no right to complain of our legislation. But, without giving any opinion at this moment as to the West Indies, to which consideration I approach, I say that, of all our mistakes, of all our political errors, there is none more profound or more grievous, in connexion with this subject, than our commercial conduct towards India, and there is none more bitter and heartrending than our behaviour towards the Mauritius. I now come to the question of the West Indies. No one doubts the position of those islands. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westbury (Mr. Wilson), who addressed us to-night with that ingenuity and that 127 information which entitle him, at all times, to our consideration and respect — although he qualified his speech with kindly expressions, which might send forth a hope, even to those out of doors whom he may meet on 'Change to-morrow, and to whom he may be able to say, that no word of bitterness had escaped him with reference to the West Indian colonies—the hon. Gentleman, although he indulged in details which, in some instances, I will advert to, but which scarcely at all touch the great question, seemed to convey in dulcet tones to the House his decided conviction that, with regard to the West Indies, the game was up—that the sooner we made up our minds to meet an inevitable catastrophe the better it would be for all parties—and that, for the future, we must sweeten our tea, as best we can, with beet-root sugar— and that there would in future be no occasion to send for this luxury to the tropics. That, I am sure, is not a misrepresentation of the able speech of the hon. Gentleman. Now I am not disposed to deny, that, if the hon. Gentleman is satisfied to sweeten his tea with beet-root sugar, that he may produce that sugar even in this kingdom. But I remember the time when war was made on beet-root sugar. I remember the time when we were told that the existence of beet-root sugar was one of the abuses of protection—that protection created it—that protection fostered it; and I should have supposed that any country adopting the idea of growing beet-root sugar would be voted to have committed an outrage on the principles of the Political Economy Club. Napoleon was in general deemed to be a great general— by some he was supposed to be a greater statesman than warrior; but almost universally it was admitted that he was a very had political economist, and that he never made a greater mistake, not even when he established the continental blockade, than his forcing the cultivation of beet-root sugar. But this is what the economical oracle now calls the perfection of wisdom. In his idea, beet-root sugar is everything. The beauties of slave-grown sugar must pale before the charms of beet-root. This being the state of the West Indians—this being the acknowledged desperately perilous state of the colonists—what is the course proposed by her Majesty's Ministers? The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced some measures—some proposition as a remedy for the condition he deplores. The measures are announced at the end 128 of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the whole effect of which speech was to prove that no remedial arrangement could have any beneficial effect. He said he could not flatter himself that his measures would prove entirely satisfactory to the West Indians. I quite agree with him upon that head. I need not dwell upon the suggestions made by the right hon. Gentleman, except as the representative of no inconsiderable constituency — living in an age of economy—trembling for the annual budget during the next nervous fortnight. I beg to declare my disapproval of the vote of 200,000l. proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. If I thought the expenditure of 200,000l. for the purpose of immigration, would benefit the colonies, I should be the last man to oppose it. But I am quite of a different opinion—I think that the grant would be so much money wasted. I have no idea of encouraging the loose habits of men in the condition of Her Majesty's Ministers, whose want of prescience has forced them into a difficulty, and who think they are to extricate themselves by a vote of public money. If the revenue is so overflowing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can conveniently spare 200,000l., then it would be the busi-of Her Majesty's Ministers to vote it for some useful purpose—they ought to see what best could be done with it. For 200,000l. they might pull down the National Gallery and build up another. But it is not at all clear to me that the expenditure of 200,000l. for the importation of African labourers into some remote corner of the West Indies could be productive of any good to the colonial interest. I say that the House ought to view with suspicion the suggestions of a Ministry not distinguished at least in this case for its prescience. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), in his able speech, referred to the declarations of the Government in 1846, when the Bill was proposed. They then said that it would regenerate the commerce of the country—that it would pour capital into the colonies—that it would accumulate labour in districts where it was deficient — that it would terminate once for all the question of colonial distress—of which we have heard so much in that period during which most of us have been Members of this House—and that it would act as a climax and completion of those great measures which they had not proposed, but to their honour—if 129 it be honour—they had suggested. Have the occurrences of the last twenty months justified their views? Have they increased your confidence in the Ministry since 1846? What evidence is there that the Ministry have so deeply studied the question as to become fitting guides and leaders? The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn referred to a speech made by an Under Secretary of State, at the fag-end of the last Session. This speech is valuable, because it gives authentic proof of the knowledge of the opinions and prospects on the subject of Her Majesty's Ministers at that period. I have here the extract, and I think it important, as an opinion given by a Member of Government —engaged in that department peculiarly connected with the colonies, that the House should understand what, at the end of the Session of 1847, were the views really entertained by an Under Secretary of State for the Colonies. This was the opinion in 1847. In quoting the words of that Gentleman, I have no wish to speak in terms disparaging of one who is absent. No one more regrets the absence of Mr. Hawes from this House than I do. Few displayed a more lucid intelligence or more complete habits of business than that Gentleman. Irrespective of all party considerations, I look upon the absence of Mr. Hawes from this House as a public loss. But, as I before remarked, I attach importance to his speech, because I believe he conveyed correctly the opinions of the Government of which he is a Member, and would give them matured by his own study, and the naturally critical spirit of his intelligent mind. This, then. Sir, is the opinion of Mr. Hawes, literatim, to which my noble Friend referred last night. My noble Friend, whose attention was fixed on this question, who, from the principles which he most conscientiously maintains upon commercial subjects, foresaw the difficulties which were impending, presented a petition which called forth this remark from that Member of the Government who represents the colonies: —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 admistion 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 130 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.I quote this to show what really was the knowledge possessed by the Ministry on the subject; and what is the answer to it? The answer to it is, the fall of every firm of importance connected with the East Indies and the Mauritius—Cabinet councils held four times a week—and the Bank Charter Act virtually repealed; while the Chancellor of the Exchequer was vomiting forth a protest against his own measure. But we come, after the unimportant but avowed remedies, to the secret and inuendo remedies of Her Majesty's Government, in order to prevent the utter destruction of the colonial interest. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer treated us with an explanation of those remedies last night. There were ten minutes devoted to molasses and emigration— to the idea of curing these deep-seated evils by a loan less than the sum which the same Government would expend upon a wing of the New House of Commons; and an hour and a half to the real remedies. And here they are. The first is competition. Sir, we have heard of that before. I remember that the noble Lord, whose absence I regret—the First Minister —that very night on which he did me the honour of following me in debate, on the occasion of our making the last effort, in 1846, to support this interest—I remember that the noble Lord, with that grand manner which becomes him, and which he seems to me never to assume with greater felicity than when he is going to announce something which cannot, in any practical way, influence the conduct of the country — the noble Lord said, he had not only hope but conviction that the means by which the colonies would be able—not to extricate themselves from difficulties, for then they were not involved in them— but to meet all those dangers 131 which might possibly occur, was competition. Tell a Government of the present day that a million of Her Majesty's subjects, previously enjoying great prosperity, are suddenly involved in almost inextricable difficulty: tell them that the sugar colonies of the empire are in a perilous position, and all classes connected with them—proprietors, merchants, shipowners, labourers— agree in attributing their danger and suffering to our inconsistent and vacillating legislation; and the Government have always one peculiar class of remedies at hand. These remedies appear to consist of a certain number of abstract qualities and cardinal virtues. Competition is always at the head of the list: then follow, you may be sure, energy and enterprise. These remedies are not facts—they are only phrases. What is this competition, of whose divine influence we hear so much? Define it, tell us its sex and character. Is it a demigod or a nymph? It inspires all their solutions of economical difficulties. Is the shipping interest in decay? Competition will renovate it. Are the colonies in despair? Energy will save them. Is the agricultural interest in danger? Enterprise is the panacea. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech follows that of the First Minister of the Crown: it is concocted of the same phrases, and modelled in the same form. But I want Her Majesty's Ministers to inform me what they mean by competition. I had always understood that competition meant this at least, that the rivals should be in equal circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon to-night made a race between a horse and a steam-engine. But I will take an evener and more equal sort of race—a race between two horses. Even between two horses the weights are adjusted, that the struggle should be fair. The essence of just competition is, that the circumstances should be equal between those who compete. Now, I ask you, are the circumstances equal between an English colony under your present system of legislation, and a Spanish colony under the system to which they are subjected? You may explain the circumstances one way; others may contradict your version. But the impartial historian may possibly hereafter describe it thus: "In the Spanish colonies, there is an abundance of labour for which they pay nothing; and in the English colonies, there is a scarcity of labour for which they pay a great deal." Where are the circumstances which constitute an equal competition? You 132 have regulated your conduct by abstract principles without any reference to them, and you find yourselves involved in inextricable confusion. A sage, with whom we are all familiar, has said that "experience is the test of truths, and that practice is always confounding the theories of man." So it is with the artificial rivalry you have created between the Spanish and the English colonies. What is the consequence, in this instance, of your acting upon abstract principles without the least reference to circumstances? Why, that in exact proportion to the labour for which the Spaniard pays nothing, and for which the Englishman pays a great deal, you are creating a differential duty in favour of the Spaniard. You are in fact creating a protection, and not, in a certain sense, inconsistently. You are, at least, consistent in not extending your protection to native industry; for it is not protection to the Englishman you are creating, but to the Spaniard. The free-trade party and the free-trade Government, after all their wonderful promises and astounding prognostications, terminate their career by the establishment of protecting duties in favour of Cuba, of Porto Rico, and of Brazil. It is a consequence of being governed by phrases instead of facts. Competition between Yorkshire and Lancashire — competition between Jamaica and Barbadoes—I can understand; but competition between Jamaica and Cuba, under the circumstances that exist, is only a word invented for Downing-street and St. Stephen's — a phrase intended only for the use of men who are giving you their thoughtless votes, but votes which they will some day remember with bitterness of reminiscence which the hustings only can recall. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hull seems to be dissatisfied by this remark. I will not stop to inquire what would have been his reception, had he appeared before his constituents as an anti-slavery advocate, instead of an advocate for cheap sugar; yet some years ago at Hull matters were rather different. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are always talking to us about public opinion. I respect public opinion; but I remember the words of a great poet, which should be rendered here in the vernacular—"Opinion is stronger than truth," said Sophocles; and, believe me, there is something in that saying. But although opinion may be stronger than truth, it is only for a time. Gentlemen should recollect that on this subject the history of 133 England will not exactly offer an emblasoned page. I do not think the history of any country records so much inconsistency and injustice, or can discover a narrative of so much injury inflicted upon national interests, as is exhibited in the matter of the abolition of slavery by the English people; and I attribute it simply to this reason, namely, that we entered upon the enterprise without sufficient knowledge of the subject. It was an exciting topic—it was addressed to an insular people of strong purpose, but very deficient information — it was cherished by a great party as promising to lead to political power. But the course of time, which settles everything, has entombed the greatest blunder that was ever committed by the English people. They now find, that in pandering to the ambition of great men, they have not only incurred immense pecuniary sacrifices, but ruined, perhaps, the noblest appendage of the empire, and stimulated by prohibiting—perhaps even perpetuated — slavery in every part of the world where slavery existed before. But there is another class of observations— and observations of a more business-like character—which are always brought forward whenever we make any attempt in behalf of the sugar colonies of this country. When the Cabinet has spoken—when competition has been represented by the Prime Minister—when energy and enterprise have each been exhibited by a Secretary of State—then the still important, though secondary, Members of the Government advance, to vindicate the authentic sources of national wealth. I see a right hon. Gentleman opposite, a Member of the Government, who represents Manchester. And I remember, year after year, when I had the honour of sitting at the other side of the House, that right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) was always calling our attention to the practical and particular evils of our colonial system. But what particularly interested him was, the danger we thereby incurred to our commerce with the great Brazilian empire. In following my right hon. Friend, I suggested to him that it was desirable we should be as well acquainted as practicable with the resources of this great Brazilian empire. Night after night the right hon. Gentleman and the party with whom he acted were in the habit of demanding of the Member for Tamworth whether he had concluded a treaty of commerce with Brazil; and that, too, whilst they were alleging that they 134 had not the slightest faith in treaties of commerce. In the year 1846 I begged to remind the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) of the circumstances of Brazil. I begged to remind him that the European population of Brazil was not equal probably to one-half the population of the metropolis in which we reside, and that the rest consisted of three millions and a half of slaves—that it could not be placed in comparison with an English colony in point of civilisation—and that, of course, it must be deficient in those wants which are the consequences of civilisation, and which are the stimulants to commerce in supplying them. I told him that, after all, putting all the West Indian colonies together, it was a question between the English colonies and the Portuguese colonies; and as I thought the English colonies would afford a far better trade than the Portuguese, I preferred leaning to them. But he was an apostle then of the creed of buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest, which he calls free trade. And what is the result of our sacrificing our West India colonies? I do not decide upon any mystical statistics. I wow have what Dr. Johnson called "the test of truth;" and I know that test has taught us fatal consequences. The increase of your exports to the Brazils is little more than three times the amount of your exports to a single colony, the last victim of your legislation—the Mauritius. Would it not have been desirable to have shown that the industry of Manchester was greatly supported by the Brazils? I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, or from some other of those fervent disciples of free trade opposite, what is the amount of encouragement given to the industry of Manchester by the trade with Brazil? I see by the papers of this clay that the home trade in Lancashire is improving—that it is reviving; but I did not see or hear anything of the revival of the Brazilian trade. There was no news that the 3,000,000 of slaves, on each of whom not a dollar a year is spent in clothing them, had thrown off their check cotton shirts, and put on the attire of Caciques. I have not yet heard that the returns of our Brazilian trade have been replenishing the coffers of the Exchequer. We have now the official evidence of the extent of this boasted Brazilian commerce; and a more sorry account—a more miserable bill of fare (though what we expected) could not possibly exist. If the 135 Brazils had failed entirely—if a hurricane had swept its coasts and destroyed its cultivation altogether — the calamity would have been one of nature, and one of those hurricane loans which is to save our own colonies might have been applied as a remedy; but our calamity is the calamity of miscalculation, of want of foresight, and of extravagant ideas. Are these the arguments that we have a right to expect from a trembling Government—I don't mean a Government trembling for its existence— it need not fear for that, since every party supports Her Majesty's Ministers. I mean a Government trembling for its taxes and tariffs. We are called upon to give this new commercial system a trial—this demand was made upon us with all the powerful eloquence of the Corn-Law League — that mighty confederation which fills the opposite benches with orators. In former times we were accustomed to give our days and nights to the Greek orators; but now we lay aside Isocrates, and the great Athenian himself, and Lysias, and have become pupils of the Anti-Corn-Law League; and what is the result? Their boasted system of free trade turns out to be a huckstering transaction of purchasing in the cheapest market. We foresaw the injury to our own agriculture from this mean principle. We have been taunted that our predictions have not been realised. Our predictions were not of the hour. We attempted to take a comprehensive view of the question. We looked at the result through the vista of years. Alas! our colonies have not had the advantage of a sugar famine. There was no unprecedented, no unforeseen circumstance that came in and introduced itself to their advantage. They were submitted to the trial of the new system immediately and completely, and it has terminated in their immediate and complete ruin. But then we are told, laying aside the abstractions of the Cabinet— laying aside the statistical considerations of important though inferior Members of the Government, that there is yet a new defence set up by the party opposite. True it is that competition has not saved you—true it is that energy has not yet succeeded—true it is that although we have shown that nearly a million sterling worth of machinery has been transported to the colonies, your enterprise has not been of any avail. True it is that the Brazilian trade has turned out, as I have been told by one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, on the whole a poor trade 136 enough—true it is that these circumstances are so; but still the English people enjoy cheap sugar. That is a great fact, and notwithstanding all the mutual miscalculations that have been on this economic subject, that great fact will compensate and console a pauperised and long-suffering and laborious people. Well, Sir, I am not disposed to deny that that would be in my mind a compensation—that it would at least bear the character of a practically beneficial result; but I want to know, is there any Gentleman in this House—and we have the advantage of discussing this matter without any reference to party feeling—I want to know is there any Gentleman who can pretend, that if our colonies incur this, if not ruin, this great injury, as we all agree, with very rare exceptions, in considering it —that we have any security of enjoying the advantage of cheap sugar? The sugar-producing countries of this realm give us at this moment 250,000 tons of sugar. According to the belief of all who are interested in these countries—of those merchants who at least testify their sincerity by their ruin, and of those proprietors who at least prove their good faith by giving up the cultivation of their estates—according to their belief, your system—this competition—will end in the British settlements ceasing to give that 250,000 tons—.an amount which constitutes one third of the whole produce of the world. But you who are economists—you who take no respect for national prejudices, or for national habits, or for ancient systems of industry that have been long connected with the public feelings of the country—you who are always trying to make two and two produce four, and who sometimes make them produce five— you who do take generally a most severely statistical view of everything—have you, I ask, at all considered what the consequences will be on the European market of the decline of that production, and not only the decline, but the total disappearance of that production? You cannot deny that the necessary consequence of that result, if it occurs, must be a great increase of price. You cannot deny, if the disappearance of these 250,000 tons, or of the greater part of them, takes place, the consequence must be that in the general market of the world there must be a great increase of price. What, I ask, will be the natural consequence of such a state of affairs? Is it not a necessary consequence that you offer a premium for the investment of capital in those countries that can produce sugar at 137 the cheapest cost? And the countries that can produce sugar at the cheapest cost are the countries that are so flourishing, that in one of them they can have 800 miles of railway, as we find them to have in Cuba. That is my idea of a country perfectly flourishing. A country where they buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest—a country governed by an Anti-Corn-Law League itself, could scarcely be expected to do more for its insular extent than supply 800 miles of railway. Now, mind me, I am not pressing this argument to dilate on the horrors produced by the stimulus which you will give to slave labour. I do not touch upon that subject. After all that has been said upon it in this country, from the days of Mr. Wilberforce to the moment when the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn produced the drawing that was given to him by Captain Pilkington, I think that there is no more to be said upon it. This is not the period to talk of the glory of your ancestors—to moralise on the great movement that for half a century agitated this country—to tell of the moment when Mr. Brougham was returned for the undivided county of York, because he advocated the abolition of negro slavery. You may tell your children of these matters, as you tell them the stories of Quintius Curtius and the Horatii. You may tell them, as no doubt you will, that such men as Wilberforce and Clarkson were fictitious characters, and—supposing that they are educated, enjoying all the consequences which this new system of trade will introduce— that they are living in a state of society where the commercial principle is predominant, and the imperial principle fallen —still what, I ask you, will be the consequences of the sudden investment of the capital which produces one-third of the sugar which feeds the world. That capital must be found—it would be found, I hope, even in spite of the course you are pursuing, to a great extent in England; and have you calculated the effect upon your capital—the effect on your monetary system, which must be felt from such an extent of investment? We know well what the effect has been of the investment of a few millions in corn, consequent upon a bad harvest; what the effect of over-speculation on the part of a few merchants of the city of London has been on our own productions, but what must be the effect of a demand upon the capital of the world for a vast investment in slave-grow- 138 ing countries? It is not merely that a stimulus will be given to slave-grown produce, but you will create a disturbance in your monetary system. You will create a disturbance in the employment of the capital of the world, which must produce a convulsion that our descendants may not only experience but rue; and in moralising on the consequences they will trace them to the shortsighted, and (I say it meaning offence to no one) the unprincipled legislation which is now followed in this country. I know well, to follow out a phrase that I unintentionally used, how hopeless it is to attempt to influence this House with any consideration which has not its growth in the prosperity of their ledgers. I know how much they have sacrificed to the most mean pecuniary considerations; and I think it is remarkable that all their calculations have resulted in the failure of our merchants, and in the bankruptcy of our colonists. I know very well that it is utterly vain for me to tell you that there are other considerations connected with this subject than those of the price of the pound of sugar. That is all past, and the commercial principle now rules this country. We had an imperial principle in the time of those who preceded us; but you may rest assured, that if you convert the senate into a counting-house, it will not be long before the nation degenerates into a factory. It is not therefore for me to tell you now that it is important to keep these colonies, even if, in a commercial point of view, they may not suit your system. I cannot suppose, if they ultimately cease to be flourishing settlements, that you will be content to maintain them as barren garrisons. Besides, what is the use of garrisons if the course you are following, and the views of great men on both sides, are to be pursued? If we arc: to have any faith in the revelations that have lately fallen on the public car, we are on the eve of a period when garrisons are no longer to be required. But an hon. Gentleman has suggested that you might part with your colonies for a consideration. He said immediately afterwards, that of course he spoke only in jest. But why only in jest? There have been countries as proud and as powerful as England, that have at times, when they considered fitting, parted for pecuniary considerations with their dependencies. Spain sold the Floridas at a time when Spain was at the head of one of the great navies in the world. Even the great Napoleon, influenced by that om- 139 nipotent deity who rules supreme at least on the opposite benches—a deity whom the nineteenth century implicitly adores— sold a beautiful province across the Atlantic to the United States; and if the present economy which has secured to us the blessing of public wealth be persevered in, I do not see why we might not do something in this way also with effect. I see no reason why we should not get rid of these colonies with advantage. I am told that a desperate deputation from the West India interest waited on the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and that, finding that all their representations were without effect, they actually did ask them whether they had any objection to the colonies changing their allegiance; and that they got no answer, though I dare say a Cabinet Council was called afterwards on the point. I really cannot see why that unhappy Trinidad, the possession of which every one seems to regret, might not, at least, belong again to the Power that gave it its sacred name. This miserable Mauritius not long since was a most flourishing community when it belonged to Prance; and it would be, I think, only acting the fable of the dog in the manger with aggravation, to keep it in ruin, and not restore it to France. Even Jamaica, the capture of which made the great Protector so proud that he would not transact any other business on the day that its conquest was announced, would, I dare say, be accepted by the United States if we abandoned it. But, Sir, I may tell the Gentlemen opposite, and I know not whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding, to whom I have referred, is present— [A VOICE: He is at the bar. Well, I will tell him then, if he is at the bar, though that perpetuity of peace which he has announced may come even in our time, that there is something in the catastrophe of nations sœvior armis. These are the longœ pacis mala, which were denounced by the great satirist in immortal lines. I need not recall them to the recollection of the House. Happily, the limited experience of ancient Rome did not permit him to include in his indignant catalogue of the causes of national decay the rapacity of rival industries and the quackery of economic science.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said: I wish to take the present opportunity of offering a few observations; but I can assure the House I have no desire unnecessarily to 140 prolong them. I feel that, by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the views and intentions of the Government were so clearly explained, that nothing is left for me to add to his statements and arguments. I will also say that in the course of this debate, almost every question incidentally connected with the subject now before us, has been so fully gone into, that I should have no excuse at this hour of the night in again going over ground with which the House is familiar. Nevertheless, the importance of the question is such, that I feel, considering the connexion I hold with the Government, that it would not be becoming in me to allow this debate to close without making some remarks on the topics that have been introduced in the course of this discussion. If the policy announced by the Government receive the support of the hon. Gentlemen around me, I believe that support will not be given from the motives attributed to them by the hon. Gentleman who last spoke; it will not be given because they are disposed to conciliate the pecuniary interests of their own immediate constituents, and to betray on that account those great imperial concerns which it is our bounden duty, as the head of a mighty empire, to maintain; but because they believe that all these interests are in truth the same and identical, and that the principle of free trade is the best for England, and for all the dependencies of its widely-extended and glorious empire. I will admit to the hon. Gentleman, that if this House were of another opinion, and, having altered its conviction with regard to free trade, were disposed to retrace its steps, it could not take a fitter occasion for signifying its changed views than by re-enacting the principle of protection for the West Indian colonies; because I admit, with pain, that if deep and intense distress can constitute a claim for exceptional measures, that claim is possessed by this portion of our colonial empire. It is true that the cry of distress has proceeded from the West Indian colonies on many former occasions—under the slave-trade system, under the slavery system, and just before the period of emancipation. Almost ever since, too, the cry of distress from those colonies has been raised at frequent intervals. I will not now enter into the question, whether the distress is now more severe than at those former periods. All that I think necessary for my purpose is to 141 admit, which I do most frankly, that the distress is now most severe, and that any measures of relief that can be afforded by the Government and the Legislature, consistently with justice to the general interests of the community, and with permanent benefit to those colonies themselves, it is our duty, without delay, and without wasting time in further discussion, to apply. It so happens, on the present occasion, as is not uncommonly the case in this House, that the Motion in the Speaker's hands is not in reality the question discussed. The Motion of the noble Lord opposite is for a Committee of Inquiry on the present condition of the West Indian islands, and other colonial possessions. With respect to that question, I know not what course the noble Lord may pursue, for he has received advice from many Gentlemen connected with the West Indian interest to the effect that he had better not press for the appointment of the Committee. On that subject I shall not presume to offer the noble Lord any advice; but if he, on behalf of the West Indian interest, should determine to press his Motion for the Committee, the Government will lend him every aid in the investigation, with the view of deriving from it whatever benefit it is calculated to afford. To move for such a Committee is certainly not the course which the Government themselves would have originated; but it has been the general practice, whenever any distressed interest come to this House and asks for inquiry, to grant it. As I said before, the Motion in the Speaker's hands is not the question which has been discussed; the real question that has formed the subject of debate, has been whether the principle of protection should be continued in the West India islands as a remedy for their distress? To that question I think that the Government are bound to give an explicit answer. They are bound not to hold language which would leave any uncertainty on the minds of the colonists; and it is because we believe that that protection would not be really beneficial to the colonies, if it could be granted, and because we think that it would also be impossible to secure it to the colonies, we feel it our duty to declare against it. Even if I were to assume that protection would be beneficial to the colonies, I believe that the House could not grant it in such a way as to secure to it them. If the price of sugar were to rise to a high degree, how could the present House bind 142 its successor not to reverse any former decision that might have been come to with the view of protecting the West Indian interest? Those who recollect that in the last seven years there have been five or six Sugar Bills, can be at no loss to account for the confusion in which the merchants and planters, and all engaged in the trade, have been involved. On a former occasion I urged those considerations on the House as forcibly as I could, and I now repeat them. I can conceive a trade flourishing under either a restricted or an unrestricted system; but I cannot conceive one flourishing under a system perpetually altered, in which neither planter nor merchant knows what to expect—a system of constant change and uncertainty. Yet what are we asked to do? The Legislature having come to a final settlement of the question as far as regards the principle of protection to the sugar of the colonies, we are asked to reverse that decision, prolong protection for some indefinite period, and open again that chapter of uncertainty which has before involved everybody in the confusion and doubt such a system entails. This is what Her Majesty's Government cannot consent to do. Hon. Gentlemen have taken various grounds on this question; some have asked for protection for the produce of British colonial against all foreign-grown sugar whatever —that, I believe, is the position of the noble Lord? [Lord G. BENTINCK: NO.] The West Indian interest ask, I believe, for protection against foreign slave-labour sugar, leaving themselves still exposed to competition from foreign free-labour sugar; and in their memorial it is curious to observe that they do not ask this protection of 10s. a cwt. for a permanence, but only "for such a period as shall enable them to be fully supplied with labour.'' The request thus qualified assumes the position that, if fair play be given to the colonies, they can successfully compete with the slave-labour sugar of Cuba and Brazil. I am glad to receive such an admission from such a quarter; it is most valuable, and gives a complete contradiction to those who bid the colonists despair of ever being able, by any assistance, to compete successfully with the slave labour of other countries. On this subject I retain the opinion I have always held—that, if you are to protect colonial sugar at all, it is perfectly idle to draw a distinction between the foreign sugar that is grown by free, and that which is the produce of 143 slave labour. The only practical way of protecting colonial sugar is to impose a differential duty against all foreign sugar whatever. Though you may nominally exclude foreign slave-labour sugar, and by that means appear to discourage the cultivation of those places where slaves are employed; yet it comes practically to the same tiling whether we take slave-labour sugar ourselves, or, by withdrawing free-grown sugar from the other markets of the world, leave them open for slave-labour sugar to supply its place. There is no practical difference; and no difference that would be sufficient to compensate us for the embarrassment in which the commerce of the country would be involved by depriving it of direct communication with such great marts as Cuba and Brazil. I have always differed from those who think we are bound to exclude slave-grown sugar on the ground of humanity; I think the arguments rest on a most transparent fallacy; if you take foreign sugar at all, it is hardly of any consequence whether it is slave-grown or free—practically, slave labour is encouraged in either case; you must make your choice either to exclude all foreign sugar or not; you cannot draw a distinction between what is the produce of slave labour and what of free. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has adverted to the case of the Mauritius: before I notice his remarks on that subject, I cannot help noticing his observations, when he said, that the names of merchants who have been ruined by their connexion with that colony have been treated with scorn and contumely. I have heard from no one any expression of a feeling of that description. I, for one, cannot regard the calamities that have fallen on many honourable and excellent men without sympathy and compassion; and I do not think the observations of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to what he conceived to be the faulty system they pursued, can be justly described as implying scorn or contumely; nor do I think a charge of over-trading implies any imputation on the honour of those against whom it is made. It is common to human nature for men, attracted by the prospect of lucrative commercial speculations, to engage in them in a manner that may turn out unprofitably. This has often happened to the most wise, prudent, and honourable merchants; and it is not held an imputation upon them. But I think the case of the Mauritius exemplifies 144 strongly the evils of a system of protection. The Mauritius has been an eminent victim to that system. What is the case? It cannot be said it wanted labour, for labour was provided in abundance; but, attracted by the prospect of high prices —prices that could only be expected under a system of protection—the merchants and others engaged in speculations of great extent; and a great deal of poor land was taken in and cultivated when wages were very high, and an artificial state of things was produced that could never exist except under an artificial system. Had the trade in sugar been in a natural condition, I believe the island would never have got into such difficulties; as they are distinctly traceable to the system of protection, which is held up as a panacea for the embarrassments of other colonies. I do not think we could do a worse thing for the Mauritius than to advise it to resort to a similar course for the future. Take, again, the case of India; an hon. Gentleman connected with the East Indies (Mr. Bagshaw) has spoken to-night; and I am glad he did, because the House must have remarked that the cry of distress does not come from the West Indies alone. In the East Indies the staple of their manufacture has suffered in the same manner, and the merchants' prospects are injured in the same way. That is enough to show that the cause is not a particular or special one; we must look for general causes, for special reasons, that have affected the produce of sugar throughout the whole range of the British possessions—for causes that have, during the past year, brought injury upon every part of the commercial system. I hope the West Indians will not listen to those friends who tell them that, under no circumstances, can they successfully compete with slave labour: if that is true, I think they would be justified in abandoning themselves to despair; but I consider the position to be anything but true. There are some broad facts to which I wish to call the attention of the House. In the first place, without going into any nice calculations on the subject, for the House has already heard them put more effectively—especially by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury—it is notorious that in the face of the competition of Brazil, Cuba, and other slave-cultivated countries, a great exportation of free-labour sugar has gone on to the Cape of Good Hope from Java and other sugar-producing 145 colonies. Some doubt has been thrown upon the fact of the labour in these colonies being free labour; but this House— or at least the predecessors of this House —certainly legislated upon the supposition that labour was free in Java, and in the other colonies which have been referred to. But it is a remarkable circumstance that, even in those countries where sugar is now cultivated by slaves, the planters are so little satisfied with slave cultivation, that they are taking measures to introduce free labourers into the colonies. Information has lately been communicated to me of what is going on in Cuba in this respect. I find that a committee—the Junta de Fo-niento—has been formed there, under the presidency of the Captain General of the island, the object of which is the general improvement of the cultivation of the country; and this committee has promised considerable premiums to such planters as shall introduce white labourers, and has also made contracts for the importation of labourers—of whatever nation—from Europe as well as from the Canary Islands. Great difficulties are found to exist with regard to the importation of Europeans; but so far from being discouraged, the committee have endeavoured to ascertain whether they cannot obtain a supply of free labourers from some other quarter, and they have taken measures for introducing Asiatics into Cuba—an experiment which, I understand, is now going on with every prospect of success. The committee contracted, in the first instance, for the importation of 600 labourers from Asia, and they propose eventually to increase the number to 3,000 if the results are satisfactory. This step met with great opposition from those persons in Cuba who are interested in the slave trade; and though it is impossible, at present, to speak with certainty of the success of the experiment, it is clear that very active measures are being taken to introduce this class of labourers into the island. I find in a Spanish newspaper the following letter from the Havannah, dated December 9, with reference to this subject:—I promised to let you have my unbiassed opinion as to the new importation of Asiatics, and this I am now about to do, having previously gathered information on the subject from the planters most worthy of credit and most respected. This Asiatic race resembles the Andalusian horses in this respect—that their good or bad qualities depend entirely upon those who manage them. Those persons who imagine they can derive the same advantage from the Asiatics as from the negroes by the system of rigour, are 146 mistaken, as the former are not so strong, and, moreover, they perfectly recollect they are not slaves. However the planters of judgment who have carefully observed them, have excited their avarice (their predominant passion), and by paying the active ones better than the idle, have succeeded in stimulating them, with very satisfactory results; so much so, that a very intelligent planter, one of my friends, has told me that if he can find any to join him, he will enter into a contract to import 1,000 Asiatics in case the Junta de Fomento no longer desired to have anything to do with the business.The cost of the passage of these Asiatic labourers from China to Cuba is 34l.; their yearly wages are 20l., and the annnal expense of their board and clothing 20l., making the yearly cost of each labourer about 40l. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire has made one broad announcement, in which I think he will not be borne out by the feelings of this House or of the country. He said, I think, that the existing state of things showed that the abolition of slavery was the greatest blunder ever committed by this country. I must say I admire the intrepidity of that assertion; but I do not think it will find a response in the breast of any other man in this House. I do not believe that this House or the country has any reason to regret the step they took in the abolition of slavery; and this brings me to a subject connected with the question under consideration, which, I think, has not been adverted to in the course of this discussion, but which cannot altogether be left out of account when we are considering the general condition of our West Indian possessions. I refer to the condition of the great body of the labouring classes in those colonies. I believe that all the accounts which have been received from our colonies, up to the latest period, bear testimony to the perfect good conduct and the general social improvement of the black population of those colonies; and however much we must regret the distress in which the merchants, planters, and possessors of estates in our West Indian colonies are at present, but I trust only for the present, involved, it must be satisfactory to find that, as far as regards the condition of the great body of the people, the intentions of this House and of the country have been carried out, and that their present position affords a most gratifying contrast to their position while the system of slavery existed. They are showing themselves worthy of the freedom which was given to them; they are acquiring habits of civilisation and order; and we may trust that their part at least 147 of the great experiment we have tried will not turn out a failure, but that we shall see these people fitted to exercise the rights and duties of civilised life, and fulfilling their obligations as good citizens and as faithful subjects of this country. There is one other question upon which I wish to say a word or two, and that is a point on which I find a most material difference of opinion existing between the West Indians speaking for themselves and the West Indians speaking through their advocates in this House. I allude to the question of the navigation laws. I know that some of us are taunted here with pretending to understand the affairs of the West Indians better than they understand them themselves. I hope, however, that hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow the West Indians to speak for themselves on the subject of the navigation laws; and I think, if they are to be trusted as being able to understand and appreciate the consequences of a relaxation of those laws in their favour, they will not consider the intention announced by the Government to meet their wishes in this respect so utterly futile and immaterial as it has been de-scribed by hon. Gentlemen on the other side. I will read to the House the language held on this subject by no light authority—by the assembly of the largest of the West India islands, Jamaica. They ask, in an Address to the Queen, that they may be permitted to enjoy a free commercial intercourse with all nations, and they say—Your memorialists could point out the advantages possessed by the island of Jamaica for becoming a commercial depôt, especially as to position with respect to both continents of America and the surrounding islands. If the navigation laws were withdrawn, foreigners would bring assortments of goods from Europe, Asia, and North America, and other foreigners would come to purchase and re-export these; and, as the Government of England already permits the abolition of all differential duties hitherto enforced for the protection of her manufactures, no injury could arise from an extension of this permission and a relaxation of the navigation laws. The benefit to Jamaica from such relaxation of the navigation laws would be infinite; it is the most desirable been that her inhabitants could solicit or receive from Your Majesty's Government; it would aid Jamaica out of her difficulties: it would be hailed with exultation, and acknowledged with every sentiment of gratitude and respect; and it would be an honourable and generous concession on the part of Great Britain, which would exalt her in the esteem and admiration of all other nations.But as this question must come before the House on a future occasion, I will not en- 148 ter further into the subject. I must say, however, that if the West Indians are to be trusted as knowing their own interests, I think a relaxation of the navigation laws in their favour will be no light boon; and I will add that, as Parliament has determined that, at no distant period, no preference shall be given to the produce of our colonies over that of foreign nations, I think Parliament is bound by every principle of justice to provide that the colonists shall have unlimited power to take their freights to the vessels of any other country which it may be their interest to employ. I have omitted to advert to one point which I should be very sorry to overlook—I mean the somewhat extraordinary proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck) as to the manner in which we might most effectually put down slavery. The noble Lord proposed that, inasmuch as a large amount of money is due from Spain to bondholders in this country, we should simply seize the island of Cuba for payment of that debt, and make it over to the Spanish bondholders, and then we should have very great facilities, of course, in putting down slavery there, and stopping the slave trade. I do not know whether the noble Lord made that proposal seriously; but if he did, I must say at once, considering the distinguished position he holds in this House, and that he speaks not only for himself but for a large political party—["No, no!"]—that I do think it would be a most unjustifiable act on the part of this country. I feel it right to speak thus, because I know that such a design has been imputed to the English Government—I have seen it in American newspapers; and as it has been proposed in his place in Parliament by so distinguished a Member, I considered myself bound to say that I conceive it would be a most unjustifiable act. I must not sit down without doing an act of justice to a Gentleman who was alluded to by my hon. relative the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring)—I mean Mr. Price. I have no acquaintance with that gentleman; but my hon. Friend having stated what he did respecting him, and a letter from him having been put into my hand, I think it due to him that his statement should be read to the House. Mr. Price, writing to Mr. Hawes, says—I am told that Lord George Bentinck intends to cite the case of Worthy Park as favourable to his views. I therefore briefly mention to you that, having increased the cultivation, and made the 149 labour efficient which was said to be defective, the merchants sent out a new mill in 1845, with ten serious defects in its construction, as pointed out by the engineer selected and sent out by themselves. This unfortunate mill broke, and caused the loss of about 8,000l. worth of produce. In 1846 the water power went down to three horses, and there being no other power on the estate, half that crop was lost. In 1846 and 1847 an engine was erected with great labour and at great expense; the crop of 1847 was injured to the extent of at least 200 tons of sugar by the engine not having been sent for nine months after it was ordered:—
He then goes on—
The loss from these causes £9,300 The price estimated at 4,700 14,000"Under such circumstances it is not surprising that there should be a balance due to the trustees. This was charged to my mismanagement by those who were interested in causing the removal of any one entertaining the unpopular views I did in Jamaica. An impartial examination, however, of the past before several legal and perfectly competent parties has led the trustees to a very different conclusion as regards my management, and I return at once to manage the estate, and I hope that by August next I may be able to disprove Lord George Bentinck's views, and be in a better position to make out a fair case with those who interest themselves in the sugar question.Now, I will not trouble the House at any greater length. I will only say that with the most sincere sympathy for the distress which we acknowledge exists in the West Indies, with the most perfect disposition to relieve that distress by every fair and legitimate means, we do not believe that we should consult the real interests of those colonies—we do not believe that we should do our duty to the great community to whose interests we are bound to look and protect, if we held out any hopes, as far as we are concerned, that we could advise or support the principle of further protection to the sugar-producing colonies. It is our duty to declare that plainly. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that if this opinion of the Government is ratified by the House, the doom of the West Indian colonies is pronounced. I hope they are mistaken in that opinion. I cannot but hope that in the situation which those colonies command—with the fertility of their soil, the advantage of their climate, the opportunity of their ports—better times may be in store for them. This at least is certain, that under a system of protection they have not flourished. There is no British interest which has so frequently or so severely been oppressed by the most calamitous circumstances. This has been their fate under a system of protection. I most sincerely 150 hope, and I sanguinely expect, that under a different system they may see better times. We are taunted, indeed, with always recommending independence and exertion and self-reliance, rather than appeals to Parliament for help. It is true that we have held that language more than once, and addressed it to more than one interest; but it is because we are convinced of the truth of that doctrine. It is because we believe that no interest really or permanently flourishes which is not enabled by its own energy and self-reliance to maintain its ground in a fair field. It is because we believe that the mightiest fabric supported by props that are unsound and rotten, can be sustained by them only for a while, to make its fall more complete and the crash more loud. The principle of free trade has been recognised as the principle on which Parliament and the country should act; if Parliament be disposed to retrace their steps, and restore protection, let them frankly declare it, and place the government of the country in the hands of men who have supported consistently the system of protection. But, for us, we must discharge our duty according to the lights of our reason and our understanding; and we are convinced that we shall best discharge it by adhering to the principles which, after long experience and consideration, were so recently adopted by this country.
§ MR. GOULBURN
I feel, in common I believe with the rest of the House, that it is desirable for this debate to come to an end to-night. But I trust the House will allow me to make a few observations on this subject, in respect to which I stand in many respects in a peculiar situation. I thought it my duty in 1846 not to offer any opposition to the proposal then made by the Government with respect to the sugar duties. In taking such a course upon that occasion, I gave evidence that I had divested myself of those feelings which properly belonged to me as a colonial proprietor; and I adopted a course which, as far as the interests of the colonies were concerned, appeared to me then to be of a most doubtful character. But balancing against that the inconvenience which the general interests of the country would have sustained from another change of the Government at that particular period, I felt it my duty to give a preference to the general concerns of the empire over the particular interests of the colonies in which I had a deep and permanent stake. And I think that this very circumstance of the colonial interests 151 having been postponed to the general interests of the empire, gives them a stronger claim upon the favourable consideration of Parliament. That they are in a state of great distress and difficulty, nay, I will say, of the utmost danger, is admitted, I believe, by every one who has addressed the House; but I do not think that the importance of this question has been sufficiently weighed by the Government, and the hon. Gentlemen who support them, if I am to judge of the views they take of it from the speeches which they have delivered upon the subject. It would appear, indeed, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this was a case merely concerning the interests of the proprietors of the West Indian colonies. But that is not the case that is before the House: the question embraces far more than that. It involves not merely the interests of those proprietors and of the families dependent upon them, many of whom are reduced from a state of affluence to one of absolute beggary and ruin— not a few of them helpless widows and orphans, who had no means of support but the produce of estates in those colonies—it involves consequences affecting the general population of those colonies, affecting the national honour, affecting the good faith of this country, and its character for humanity and benevolence which it has on former occasions professed. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, following the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has told us that the question before the House is whether we shall have a general system of protection or not? I deny that that is the question. I am not standing here to defend the erection of the interests of one class upon the downfall of the interests of another; nor will I admit that this is a case in which the question of protection comes to issue. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told you that he can well conceive a case in which, under a system of protection, particular interests may flourish, and the country be materially benefited; and he has told you that he can also conceive a case where, if the principles of free trade are followed to the utmost extent, prosperity may be the result; but he has stated that it is impossible to combine the two systems, and by an alternation of protection and free trade to regulate commerce so that it shall be profitable to those who conduct it. I agree very much with him; but does his course 152 upon this occasion correspond at all with the doctrine he has laid down? What has been the course pursued by Parliament? Parliament has professed that slavery should be abolished—Parliament has professed a desire that free labour should have a fair trial, and that the produce of the West Indies should be raised by free-labourers—and after repeated discussions what has been the result? Why, that those colonies have been forced into competition with slave labour, whilst they have been labouring under the disadvantage of restrictions imposed upon the introduction of free labourers. When the right hon. Gentleman asserts that we require protection for the colonies, I say that he completely misrepresents the case. The case which the colonists advance is this: they say—By the course, which the Legislature has pursued we find ourselves in a situation of great danger, we occupy valuable possessions of the Crown which merit the consideration of Government, and it is the duty of the Executive to devise means by which we may be extricated from the unhappy position to which the vacillation of the Legislature and the changes of policy on the part of the Government have reduced us.For one thing at least the colonists have to thank the Government—there is no ambiguity as to their intentions. They declare that they are fully aware of the unfortunate predicament in which the colonists are placed; but they leave them on the road to ruin with some little pity, accompanied with a slight reproach for their misconduct; but they suggest nothing in the way of remedy, excepting some of the most inefficient palliatives that ever, perhaps, were submitted to a deliberative assembly upon such an important occasion. What is the conduct of the Government on the question of protection? The colonists say, "We are British subjects; and if you will insist upon the principles of free trade, we are entitled to all the advantages which can be derived from the adoption of them —we claim to have our produce placed on an equality with that of the mother country." They seek to have their molasses used in breweries and distilleries. "Oh! no," says the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "we must protect the revenue; and protection to the colonies does not allow of protection to the revenue." The colonists complain, and justly, of the high duty imposed upon rum. What says the Chancellor of the Exchequer to that? Why, that he must protect the British distillers; and that he cannot afford to 153 protect the colonies at the expense of the British distiller. The colonists next demand permission to obtain all the benefit they are capable of deriving from the immigration of free-trade labourers. "No," again says the Government, "we must protect the unhappy Africans." By the way, the manner in which the Government protects the Africans is by stimulating to an extraordinary degree the slave trade carried on for the supply of the Cuba and Brazilian markets. That, doubtless, is done with the view of maintaining that important trade with Brazil of which the hon. Member for Lancashire has favoured us with the result. The hon. Member told us that before the alteration of the sugar duties in 1846, 44,000,000 of yards of the common dyed and printed calicoes were annually exported to Brazil; and that subsequently to the alteration of duties 54,000,000 of yards of those articles had been exported to that State; and he added that when they came to look at woollens, they would find the ratio was in the opposite direction. What does that fact indicate? Does not the hon. Member know that those articles are the means by which the traffic in slaves is carried on? The calico is carried to Africa, and exchanged for slaves. Thus, our manufacturers are in fact furnishing the Brazilian planters with the means of purchasing slaves, by whose extorted labour they are able to undersell the West Indians in the market of the mother country. When the hon. Member tells us that the inhabitants of Lancashire are desirous to extend this branch of trade with Brazil, I can only say that they are acting in direct opposition to their former declarations against slavery and the slave trade. [Mr. HEYWOOD: I expressed the opinion of only one individual upon the point referred to.] I am glad that the feeling in favour of Brazilian sugar and Brazilian slavery is confined to one individual in Lancashire. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that the planters are themselves to blame for their misfortunes, because they have not improved their estates—because they have not resided in the colonies—and because they have not laid out sufficient capital in machinery for conducting their operations. Now, it happens that the most decisive evidence in contradiction of all those assertions has been furnished by the Government, and is at present lying on the table of the House. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken the trouble to look 154 into the last annual report on the state of the West Indian Islands, he would have found that the Government officer had represented that the efforts for the improvements of agriculture, for the erection of machinery, and for its skilful application to the cultivation of the land, exceeded anything that had been done of the same kind in any country, however advanced in civilisation. These documents all show that the planters are actuated by the greatest desire for the improvement of the land; and I do think it rather hard that, now finding themselves left without any further capital to expend, the only chance left to them of extricating themselves from some of the more pressing of their difficulties is by disposing of the machinery erected on their estates, which is carried to Cuba and Porto Rico, there to be employed in the manufacture of slave-grown sugar. The West Indian proprietors had always placed confidence in the faith of Parliament, and that faith had invariably been violated. They were told in the first instance that they should receive compensation for the abandonment of slavery proportionate to the number of slaves they possessed. They were told also that to enable them to bear that extraordinary change — from a state of general slavery to a state of general freedom—that the slaves should be subjected to seven years' apprenticeship. They relied on these pledges, and then the House of Commons passed a resolution declaring that the abolition of slavery should be total and immediate. True, that resolution was subsequently rescinded; but after the House had agreed to a resolution in favour of immediate emancipation, the colonists felt that if they were to have attempted to act in opposition to the spirit of that resolution, an insurrection must have ensued. Under the advice of the Government, the colonists were forced to abandon the remainder of the apprenticeship system. I know an instance myself in which this transaction took place. Freedom was to occur at a particular and specified date, and many means were used to prepare the minds of the slaves for that great change. Prudent proprietors built houses on their property; they made arrangements for gradually liberating the slaves. Those who had been long connected with their estates, and had well conducted themselves, and who were thought likely to be thereafter profitably employed by them in the cultivation of their estates, were from time 155 to time granted their freedom; but your abrupt termination of the apprenticeship arrangement defeated all these efforts of the proprietors. The capital which they expended, and which, if the apprenticeship system had continued, would have proved a source of wealth to themselves, and have conferred upon the slaves a great and permanent benefit, was by the termination of that system entirely thrown away. Again, when in 1846 this House exposed the colonies to an unlimited competition with foreign-grown sugar, the produce of free labour, arrangements were made by the colonists which would have prepared them to encounter that competition. They expended a large portion of their property with a view to enable them to do so, in the improvement of their machinery, and in increasing their means of cultivation; but if they could have had any idea that the time was to come when they would have to compete with the slave-grown sugar of Cuba and Brazil, they never would have expended a shilling of their money for such an object, If, therefore, the West Indian proprietors are now in such a state of destitution as will not admit of their making any further improvements in the cultivation of their estates—if they are unable to furnish the funds necessary for that purpose, or even for the purpose of keeping their estates in cultivation at all— and I appeal to any man who is aware of the condition of the estates in Jamaica whether I am not speaking the truth when I describe such to be the actual condition of the planters—if, I say, they cannot furnish these funds, it is from no act or fault of the planters themselves; it is from no want of prudence or energy on their part; but it is from the acts of those who, having compelled them to expend their money previously without profit, have deprived them of the means of continuing the cultivation of their estates. I am not one of those, I confess, who think that free labour may not be successfully employed in the cultivation of sugar in the West Indies. The attempt, however, when actually made, is a very difficult one, and one which requires great care on the part of those who have to carry it into effect. Every error such as those I have represented to the House, being committed in an early period of the transaction, must have had, and has had, a fatal effect on the successful result of the measure. We are told that after the Emancipation Act was passed, there was a large body of per- 156 sons in Sierra Leone who might at once have been removed into the colonies, being in every respect capable of rendering very useful assistance in the cultivation of the estates as free labourers. But were those persons ever sent to the colonies? No; on the contrary, every obstacle was thrown in the way of their going to the West Indies when ample funds were ready to transport them thither; and when every person connected with the colonies was disposed to make efforts sincerely to carry out the great experiment of cultivating their estates by free labour, whether black or white. The right hon. Gentleman who has just down has said, in confirmation of the success of the free-labour system, that in the slave colony of Cuba they are attempting to raise a system of free labour; and, therefore, says the right hon. Gentleman, it does not necessarily follow that the use of sugar grown in Cuba is the use of slave-grown sugar; because the idea of sugar being raised in that island by means of free labour is not necessarily excluded. Now, if I am not much mistaken, I can explain the transaction to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. In 1845, when the law was passed which restricted the importation of foreign sugar into this country to free-grown foreign sugar, there was an eager discussion raised in Cuba whether it would not be advisable to place themselves in such a position as to be able by means of the liberation of their slaves to obtain the admission of their sugar into this country. Then it was that the immigration of free labourers into Cuba took place, for the right hon. Gentleman has told us that this immigration happened in the succeeding year; therefore the Coolies must have been sent for at a long antecedent period. These were sent for by the proprietors at Cuba to enable them to grow free-labour sugar to be introduced into this country. This was under the Act passed previous to 1846; then came the Act of 1846; and what happened? Was any zeal shown, after that Act passed, for introducing free labourers into Cuba? No. From the moment that statute was promulgated, the whole of those efforts made in Cuba for the cultivation of sugar by means of freemen were abandoned; and the proprietors resorted with tenfold vigour to slavery and the slave trade, renewing the dreadful horrors of the middle passage, till the crossing of slave ships from the coast of Africa to Cuba was attended with all the enormities which 157 I remember in my early days to have heard so forcibly described in this House, and which made so strong an impression on the good and benevolent feelings both of Parliament and of the country. What has occurred with respect to this freedom from slavery in the West Indies, is very much indeed what Mr. Burke, with his prophetic wisdom, foretold, when the question for the abolition of the slave trade was first under discussion. He felt, as every man of honour and of humanity must have felt, the horrors of that trade as then being carried on; but he took the liberty, while approving of the Motion of Mr. Wilberforce for the abolition of that trade, to give this warning to the Parliament of that day. He—"reminded the Committee that it was necessary to look further than the present moment, and to ask themselves if they had fortified their minds sufficiently to bear the consequences of the step they were about to take. When they abandoned the slave trade, the Spaniards and other foreign Powers might possibly take it up. Had they virtue enough to bear the idea of another country reaping profits they had laid down, and to abstain from that envy natural to competitors in trade, so as steadily to pursue and firmly to adhere to their determination? If so, let them thankfully proceed to vote the immediate abolition of the slave trade. But if they should repent of their virtue (and he had experienced miserable instances of such repentance), all hopes of future reformation would be lost, and they would go back to a trade which they had abandoned with redoubled attachment, and would adhere to it with a degree of avidity and shameless ardour to their own humiliation, and to the degradation and disgrace of the nation in the eyes of all Europe. These were considerations well worth attending to before they took a decisive step in the business. If they had virtue enough so to act, they would do themselves immortal honour, and would succeed in the abolition of the most hateful traffic that ever the hardened heart of man could bear.These were the words of Burke with respect to the slave trade, and they might be applied with equal force with respect to emancipation from slavery. Have you virtue enough to adhere to your determination, and to the rule you have laid down? or is a penny in the pound in the price of sugar a sufficient inducement to lead you to abandon all those high principles which you have professed in favour of the cause of humanity, and all those measures which you have adopted for raising those degraded classes of your fellow-creatures, who have hitherto been doomed to slavery, to a more civilised state of being? It is, I confess, mainly with consideration as to the effect which this measure must have upon the national character, and upon the ultimate fulfilment of those objects which this 158 House must ever have in view, that I have heard with deep regret the determination of Her Majesty's Government not to adopt any means to afford relief to the suffering inhabitants of the British colonies. Why, Sir, no man who lent his willing aid—and none did so more willingly than myself— to the measure of emancipation; no man, I say, could have had any other views but these—one being the immediate rescue of his fellow-beings from the degraded state in which they were placed; and the other, the proud ambition of being enabled to give to Europe and the world an example and a proof that a state of freedom was compatible with the real interests of a people, and more conducive to their welfare than by carrying on the slave trade. But what does our conduct show the world? It shows that in those colonies where freedom has been adopted, the people are entirely ruined; while those islands which adhere to the slave trade and to slavery are in a state of continued and advancing prosperity. We are told that we ought to reside on our estates; and the right hon. Gentleman has alluded to Guadaloupe, where he says the people are suffering very severely; but, at all events, they are not suffering under the operation of free labour; and yet we know that the proprietors of that island are generally residents. In Jamaica, also, there are many resident proprietors; but those are the men who suffer the most, because the non-residents are able to raise funds from their connexions in this country, by which to carry on the cultivation of their estates. The right hon. Gentleman has also told us that the West Indians have always been complaining, and that though the House of Assembly has detailed instances whore estates have been abandoned, yet in the time of Bryan Edwards they were abandoned also. Facts, however, show that this state of things, though apparently the same, is essentially different. The right hon. Gentleman told us that in Cuba all the old properties were in a state of decay, but that the new properties were thriving and prosperous. The case was the same in the time of Bryan Edwards, and will be the same in all the new West India colonies; for where you have a fresh supply of labour, it will be found more profitable to abandon the old estate and cultivate a new one. I have myself abandoned an estate, not a great distance from that which I now occupy; and the reason why labour has been transferred in the West Indies from 159 the land fromerly cultivated, is, that new land is more profitable to work. In the same way, in Cuba also, cultivation has been transferred from old and exhausted lands to a virgin soil. With respect to the remedies which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed, I really think that, under all the circumstances of the case, it will scarcely be necessary to advert to them. The greater part of them must, I am sure, appear to be utterly insufficient and of no avail. Tobago, indeed — the happy island which has been visited with a hurricane—is to be assisted by the resources of the State; but other colonies, which are also left in a state of utter ruin, though not produced by the act of God, are not to have any assistance extended to them. With respect to the alterations in the navigation laws, it is impossible, without a knowledge of what those alterations may be, to express any opinion upon them. The navigation laws in the mouths of different persons have different meanings; and until it be seen what alterations are to be introduced, no man should hazard an opinion as to the evils which may or may not be remedied by their repeal. I have said that in the present question, not only the case of the planters is involved, but that of the free population of the West Indian colonies. It will be found that in Jamaica that portion of the population is now divided into two distinct classes, the one receiving wages, and making advances not only in industry but in education, and forming a part of useful and civilised society; the other abandoning the cultivation of estates, and retiring into the fertile valleys of the island, where produce can be easily raised for their subsistence, and where they are glad to vegetate in a state of ignorance and comparative wretchedness, while their children are becoming worse as citizens of the community, and are persons from whom no resources hereafter can be expected. The natural consequence of the abandonment of estates— and I am afraid that most of the estates in the island will be abandoned—is that you will thereby drive the better part of the free population into the class which I have just described, and that you will not only destroy the prosperity of the country, but the happiness and perhaps the future welfare of its inhabitants. It is to remedy evils of this description that I think the Government of a great country is called upon to act. I think that no Government can satisfy its own conscience, which can 160 permit these colonies to become monuments of desolation and broken faith; and which will present them to the world as an example that free labour cannot be introduced into sugar-growing colonies without the destruction of the whole of the property under cultivation. I, with others, have endeavoured to promote the cultivation of sugar estates in Jamaica; but it is now a source of deep regret to us that we did not at once abandon them when the Act of 1846 was passed. We laboured for years in the expectation that the improvement of the persons employed in cultivating these estates would be progressive; and if I feel deeply—as I do feel deeply—upon this question, it is not on account of the loss which we sustain only, but on account of the loss which these individuals will suffer when the whole of the land shall be entirely thrown out of cultivation.
§ SIR E. BUXTON
believed that the Act of Emancipation had in many respects answered the expectations of its promoters; and he felt persuaded that if it had not been for the fatal measure of 1846, that Act might have afforded a triumphant example of wise benevolence to all the nations of the earth. He confessed he feared there was very little chance that our West Indian colonies could successfully compete with the slave-grown produce of Cuba and Brazil. The produce of these latter countries was constantly increasing, while there was but too much reason for believing that the produce of our own colonies was decreasing. With respect to the proposed been for encouraging the immigration of labourers, it would be disgraceful in him to forget that the greatest effort ever made for the abolition of slavery was made by this country; and he was sure that the people of England would not allow immigration to be anything else than an immigration which was really free. He certainly regretted to find that this country should now be consuming a greater quantity of slave-grown sugar, and should be affording a greater encouragement to slavery, than it did before the labours of Wilberforce had begun. He could not allow that debate to close without entering his protest against the measure for the admission of slave-grown sugar into this country.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said, in reply, that the President of the Board of Trade expressed his expectation that he (Lord G. Bentinck) would have drawn attention to the case of the Worthy Park estate; but he thought the answer of the hon. Member 161 for Huntingdon (Mr. Thomas Baring) would have set it at rest for ever. It was perfectly true that "Friend Sturge," with "his respectful compliments," had sent him a note containing the evidence given in 1845 by Mr. Pryce, a gentleman who, unfortunately for the estates of which he was a trustee, was a political economist; the author of Capital versus Emigration. The right hon. Gentleman had now, in 1848, occupied the time of the House with reciting the evidence given by Mr. Pryce in 1845; but it would have been more to the purpose if that right hon. Gentleman had first taken the trouble to inquire if the prophecies of Mr. Pryce had been fulfilled; but he (Lord G. Bentinck) was enabled to state, on the authority of his unfortunate co-trustee, the real state of the case. Mr. Pryce stated that in 1845 30,000l. was offered for half of this estate, with all the charges upon it amounting to 26,000l. The fact was, however, that this estate, so flourishing in 1845, had now become 27,000l. in debt, and had paid neither rent nor interest on charges for years past; in fact, not since 1842–43, when Mr. Price undertook its management.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had denied that the planters had been robbed of any advantage when two years of the apprenticeship were taken from them; whereas the contrary was clearly proved by the fact, that although during those two years the prices of sugar were much higher than they had been for many preceding years, yet such was the reduced production of sugar that the value in sterling money of sugar exported from the British tropical colonies which in 1833, the year previous to emancipation,* had been 4,014,334l., actually rose to an average of 4,978,390l., in the five years of apprenticeship;* "Value of Sugar exported from the British tropical colonies the year previous to emancipation, five years of apprenticeship, and first five years of freedom:—
162 but in the five years of perfect freedom, viz., from 1839 to 1843 inclusive, the value of sugar produced fell to an average of 3,694,725l., the aggregate produce of the five years of apprenticeship being 24,891,960l.; that of the first five years of entire freedom only 18,473,644l.
1833 … … £4,014,334 1834 … … £24,891,960 1835 … … 1836 … … 1837 … … 1838 … … Average £4,978,390 1839 … … £18,473,644 1840 … … 1841 … … 1842 … … 1843 … … Average £3,694,725"
His right hon. Friend last night greatly vaunted himself on the superior accuracy of his own predictions as compared with his, in 1846, of the produce of sugar to be expected from the British West Indies, which he would have the House believe he had unconditionally estimated at 100,000 tons. He made no such unconditional prophecy, and he would convict his right hon. Friend out of his own mouth. On a reference to Hansard, these observations would be found ascribed to his right hon. Friend on the 27th of July, 1846:—But for the comfort of the West Indians and others concerned in the growth of sugar, there was a qualification in the noble Lord's (Lord G. Bentinck's) statement which entirely destroyed the whole anticipation, because he said that the possibility of the importation he spoke of from the East Indies would entirely depend on its being sold here at a high price."*And his right hon. Friend's observations were quite correct; for, on the same authority, he found it stated that he said—He had it on the authority of Messrs. Allen and Neville, the great sugar-brokers of Calcutta, that whenever sugar in the East Indies fell to the price of 8 rupees, then the natives consumed a large quantity; but whenever the price rose to 11 rupees, or 11½ rupees (that is 23s.) then they were always ready to go without it.Again, he was reported to have said on that occasion—His noble Friend (Lord John Russell) had calculated in his estimate, that the effect of the free import of Brazil and Cuba sugar would be to lower the price 6s. per cwt. If that should be the case, it would be no longer possible for the Mast Indies to export. He was informed that the price was something like 23s., at which the native merchant could afford to sell his produce; but if they reduced that price, the native merchant would no longer bring his produce to market.The price, however, was not 6s. but 12s. per cwt. lower than it was in 1846; and East India sugar was actually selling that day in London below that which he said in 1846 was the lowest price at which the natives of India would bring it for export to the Calcutta market.
The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), and the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), had recommended him not to press this Committee; had they* Hansard (Third Series), Vol. lxxxviii. p. 58.163 expressed their readiness to support him or any other Member who might bring forward a substantial and immediate measure of relief, he might have yielded to their recommendations; but when all that he heard from them in the shape of reason was, that the appointment of the Committee would excite anticipations in the West India planters which could not be realised, he was not prepared to accede to their wishes. These hon. Gentlemen spoke as if it were impossible anything could be done for the West India colonist: "it is all over with him, he is past cure,"His glass is run, his hour is come;No doctor can relieve him;Nothing remains for him but to say his prayers, receive extreme unction, and expire! He thought, however, that if there was the slightest hope of the House of Commons not being altogether dead to conviction, he could still in this Committee bring forward such evidence as might perhaps convince them that some remedy must be afforded.
The 1,000,000l. a year spent on the west coast of Africa in vainly attempting to suppress the slave trade, might be retrenched, and the duty on sugar reduced 4s. per cwt., which on 260,000 tons would amount to l,040,000l. Had those who deprecated the useless delay of a Committee announced their intention to make such a proposition as this, he might have gone along with them. Not a word, however, has been said of substantial relief, either by any fiscal measure, or by advances upon loan.
The inquiries of such a Committee as he proposed would show whether in August, 1846, Earl Grey was right in thinking that free labour could compete with slave labour. On the 10th of August, 1846, Earl Grey said—Sir Fowell Buxton, Mr. Wilberforce, and the writers in the Anti-slavery Reporter—they one and all contended that not only was the produce of free labour most consistent with justice and religion, but it was also the cheapest and most beneficial for the consumer. In this proposition he (Earl Grey) most unreservedly concurred.His Lordship next tells us that the services of the Kroomen could be easily rendered available. Lord Grey in the same debate says—If it could be accomplished he would like to see an increased intercourse between Africa and our own colonies; and if means could be pointed out which would be free from abuse, the Kroomen might go to our colonies during the cane harvests, as the Irish labourers come to this coun- 164 try for the corn harvests, with great advantage to the prosperity of our colonies, and to the civilisation of Africa.And that the measures thus taken would lead to the extinction of slavery. Lord Grey, on this same celebrated occasion, thus concluded his oration:—He himself utterly abhorred the slave trade, and he would not adopt any course that would tend to increase it; but he was bound to say he believed that, in passing this measure, so far from increasing the slave trade, it would be the most likely means of putting an end to it.He could not sit down without repudiating the idea that he should ever have been induced to recommend such a measure as the present, if he thought that the effect of it would be to increase the evils of slavery. On the contrary, his settled opinion was that it would lead to the extinction of slavery in no very great number of years.It had been found that free labour could not compete with slave labour; and the noble Earl had spoken of the Kroomen visiting the West Indies during the cane harvest, as the Irish reapers visited England during the grain harvest, apparently imagining the Atlantic to be no wider than the Irish Channel, though, had he examined any geographical map, he would have found that the Kroo coast was separated by 4,200 miles from Jamaica. The noble Earl's prediction, that the measures of Government would lead to the extinction of slavery, had been too cruelly falsified by events. But it might also be a subject of inquiry in this Committee whether, considering the reduced fortunes of those who held property in the colonies, means should not be taken to diminish the public charges to which they were subjected. At this hour of the night he would not go at length into the detail of this part of the subject. He had trusted to the hon. Member for Mon-trose to take up the economical branch of the question. He would only quote as a fair sample of the whole the case of Demerara, a Crown colony, the expenses of which having been only 25,000l a year in 1825, had mounted up to the scandalous sum of 225,000 in 1847.
One word on Earl Grey's instructions in regard to the Coolies, and his letter to Sir Charles Grey. Writing to Sir Charles Grey, Lord Grey says—For the early, though not, certainly the immediate mitigation of this evil, I looked to the education and industrial training of the negroes.Now let us look at these instructions— The first was, that they should not on the voyage be set to do any work at all; but they were to be provided with "air, 165 exercise, and protection "—the only instance, he believed, of Earl Grey being a "Protectionist." And the surgeon-superintendent is to promote singing and dancing:—The people should have every encouragement to take the air on deck, especially while their berths are being cleansed and ventilated, and the surgeon will be careful to promote dancing and singing. They are on no account to be called on to do any work on board, except cleaning their own deck and sleeping places, or receiving at the hatchways fuel, provisions, and water; and he will be particularly careful that they be not placed to draw water from the sea, or otherwise employed in any situation in such a manner as to endanger personal safety.He will use every exertion to promote cleanliness among the people. In suitable weather, bathing may be enjoined on the emigrants.How inconsistent this with the protection-from-falling-overboard clause! What would the hon. Member for Finsbury, the Coroner for Middlesex, think of this new requirement? for not only must he be able "to medicine to sweet sleep," but he must be skilled—"to teach Lavolta's high and swift couvantos.This instruction was founded upon the principle, he presumed, that—The man that hath not music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treason;and, by teaching the immigrants singing and dancing, his noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department imagined, it might be presumed, that he would ensure their loyalty when these Coolie immigrants arrived in the West Indies. He would like to know from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, unless it were a breach of the Privy Council oath, to divulge whether Her Majesty, when in a fit of playful malice, knowing that the noble Secretary of the Colonies was not what is commonly called "a good sailor," took him with her on her late trip to Scotland, insisted upon his performing during his qualms of sea-sick agony the part of "the Swedish Nightingale;" or before he had got what seamen called "his sea legs," commanded him to perform a pirouette—the polka, or more probably a reel?
The next was not so comical a regulation, but it was more expensive to the unfortunate planter. When the Coolies did get to the West Indies, it was one of the ordinances in the persecuted Crown colonies, that a medical officer was to visit all the immigrants, whether they wanted him or not—whether they were 166 sick or sound—every forty-eight hours or oftener; and this was to be done at the expense of the planters! Just imagine such a regulation applied to agricultural labourers in this country? What farm could be carried on? Was that the way they were to encourage competition of free against slave labour?
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had doubted whether "he were serious in proposing to distrain Cuba for the debt due to British subjects." The right hon. Gentleman must have been living in Ireland—where it is reckoned quite unreasonable to think of asking any man to pay his just debts—and must have got his mind imbued with lessons learned in Tipperary. For his own part, he did not see the injustice of the mortgagees, who for nearly twenty years had asked in vain for the payment, either of capital or interest of their debt, of forty-five millions sterling, calling upon Spain to cede the land of Cuba which had been mortgaged for that debt. The right hon. Gentleman should consult his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, whose speech at the end of last Session he must have overlooked. To show what was thought in America of the justice of our claim, the noble Lord read an extract from the Boston Atlas:—The fact cannot be disguised, that there is a party in the United States which looks to the annexation of the island of Cuba to this country as a thing highly desirable. The question has yet only been broached publicly by a few presses, but those presses are known to represent the views of a large and influential class of citizens. That the scheme meets with favour in certain quarters cannot be doubted. Indeed, whatever scheme may be proposed, however absurd and unconstitutional it may be, if it be a scheme by which the slave power of the country can be strengthened, it is sure to find favour and friends. We therefore consider the matter as settled, that one of the issues likely to be presented to the people, within a few years, will be the annexation of Cuba to the United States. And if we are not greatly in error, there are causes at work in Europe which will precipitate the decision of the question.The conclusion to which we have come is, that there is a determination on the part of Great Britain to got Spain to cede to her the island of Cuba, in payment of the seventy millions of pounds which she owes to British subjects. If Spain refuses to make the cession, then to seize the island by force and hold possescion. This could easily be done by England, with her immense army and navy, and boundless wealth.This, we know, is but supposition on our part, but we think it is plausible. It also explains the attack which Lord Palmerston made upon 'the States of North America,' and the studied si- 167 lence with which the British Government has beheld our conquests in California, and of the Mexican States in the valley of the Rio Grande. Remember, also, that Mr. Polk, in his message, last December, argued at much length, that the United States would have been justified in taking forcible possession of Mexican territory, or, in declaring war against that nation, because of their neglect to pay one of the instalments of the money due to this Government. The British Government can use the same argument in justification of the seizure of Cuba, whenever they decide upon doing it, and upon far more solid grounds; their claims are larger an hundred-fold against Spain than ours ever were against Mexico, and they have long remained unpaid. Another and a more powerful reason which England could urge for taking such a stop would be, emancipation. By abolishing slavery in Cuba, you at once strike a death-blow at the African slave trade. Close the port of Havannah to the slaver, and Brazil alone remains to him as a market for his cargo.England has never acknowledged herself a convert to the 'continental policy' of Mr. Polk, any more than she did to the 'continental policy' of Napoleon Bonaparte. Every one can imagine the excitement which a step like the seizure or purchase of Cuba by Great Britain would create in our own country. We are naturally jealous of the encroachments of that Power; and Cuba is the key to the Gulf of Mexico, and is larger and of more value than all the other West India islands combined. We should be restless, for we would ill brook this nigh approach of John Bull upon our southern border, with the key of the Gulf in his pocket. The southern States would cry aloud against it, because of the near neighbourhood of a colony of liberated slaves, a thing for which they have a lively dread.The Times newspaper contained a few days ago an account of the capture of a bran new Portuguese brig by one of our cruisers. This brig had made four trips; in the first it had carried 500 slaves, in the second 1,000, and in the third 500 slaves. The fourth voyage, the captain said, would have been his last if he had not been taken. He had made twenty-five trips altogether during eighteen years, and had only been taken three times. The House might judge how far our blockading squadron answered its purposes when, out of twenty-five voyages, this slave captain had been captured only three times. His share of the spoil—though he had none in the captured cargo—had he taken his brig to Brazil, would have been 6,000 dollars. He repeated the advice he gave to the Government last night, to put an end to the slave trade by seizing Cuba, in repayment of the 45,000,000l. sterling due to British subjects by the Spanish Government. If they did this, then by an easy blockade of the coast of Brazil, they would effectually abolish the hideous traffic now carried on in human beings on the African coast, and having once accomplished this, 168 they would leave Africa clear and free, unpolluted by slavedealing and slave-trading, to the enterprise of British merchants and British West India planters honestly seeking by the inducements of good wages and bettered fortune to entice the sons of Africa to cross the Atlantic, and as freemen and free labourers create wealth for themselves, at the same time that they would be saving at least, if not adding wealth to, the British sugar planting colonies in the West Indies. In conclusion, he would truly say, no man felt more strongly than he did the necessity for immediate relief to the British colonies. Those colonies might well exclaim in the language of the heroine of Sheridan Knowles' play—Beware how you abandon me to myself.Thou canst save me,Thou ought'st, thou must.So choose betwixt my rescue and my grave,And quickly, too,The hour of sacrifice is near.
§ Motion agreed to.