HC Deb 03 March 1859 vol 152 cc1219-37

said, that in rising to move for a Committee to inquire into the present state of the West Indies, and the best means of promoting immigration into them, he would first of all touch on the former part of his Motion. It was very common to hear it said that the emancipation of the negroes in the West Indies had been a failure. He read not long ago in one of our leading periodicals that the philanthropists had been the ruin of the West Indies. There was a floating impression in the public mind that freedom had destroyed the production of the staple of the West Indies, had plunged the planters into hopeless penury, and the negroes into a kind of voluptuous barbarism. It was not surprising that such a notion should prevail. No one could deny that in 1847 and the ensuing years the owners of West Indian property were thrown into a state of the utmost distress, and, of course, since slavery was done away in 1834, and that crash fell within thirteen years afterwards, the world could not but assume that emancipation had caused the events that followed so hard upon it; the more so, because the abolition of slavery caught the eyes of the whole people; every one bore it in mind, whereas that which really came like a thunderbolt upon the planters was much less within ken. That which really struck the planters down was the enormous fall in the price of sugar, which in 1840 was 49s. per cwt. (without the duty), and in 1848 had fallen to 23s. 5d., a fall of more than one-half. He had given a long and minute study to the history of the West Indies during the last fifteen years, and the thing which had most struck him, and which could not have failed to strike any one who made the same investigation, was the close parallel between the history, during that period, of the West Indies and of Ireland. In each country the very seine causes had wrought the very same effects—had brought about the same ruinous, the same rotten state of affairs. Each country was at length overtaken by a great calamity, which at the time seemed fatal. Each country—the old order of things having been swept away by that calamity—each country was now rising steadily and swiftly to a high degree of wealth. In the West Indies, just as in Ireland, but to an even greater extent, the proprietors used to be absentees, but what made that more disastrous in the case of the West Indies was that the planter could not let his sugar estate, but was obliged to carry on the costly and precarious processes, not merely of cultivating the sugar cane, but of manufacturing the sugar at his own cost, under his own hand, by means of agents. And so hard was it to find any man who at once understood the management of a sugar estate, who was willing to live in the West Indies, who was trustworthy, sober, and energetic—so hard was it to find such agents that he believed in five cases out of six the estates were scandalously mismanaged. Those who had gone deeply into the history of the West Indies were, he believed, of one mind—that it was this, far more than any other cause, that cut the very roots of West Indian prosperity. The absenteeism of the planters led to a host of other evils, and as one of the most judicious observers, Mr. Bigelow, the American traveller, declared, it could not have failed some day to bring about general bankruptcy and ruin. There was another trait of West Indian society, just like that of Ireland in the days gone by. Almost without exception the sugar estates were heavily incumbered. Most of them were mortgaged far beyond their value. The owners of the estates were always struggling with an incubus of debt which they could not possibly shake off. The effect of all that was, that even when monopoly and slavery were at their zenith—when even the sugar of our own oriental dominions was not allowed to compete with theirs on the same level, even then, petted as they were by the laws of England, the West Indians were continually coming to the Government of the country with the most doleful lamentations. That state of things was the legacy which slavery and monopoly had left behind them; and then, when the price of sugar suddenly fell to less than one-half of what it had been a few years before, the effect was precisely analogous to that of the famine upon Ireland. The proprietors were thrown into deep distress. All society was unhinged. The crash was terrible. But there, as in our sister country, the consequence was, that the ownership of the soil changed hands. It passed from those who were absentees, drowned in debt; it came into the hands of those who were for the most part resident and free from those trammels. And, now, what was the result? The result was, that although labour was still free, that although trade was still free, or rather he would say because labour was free, and because trade was free, the West Indies were now rising to a pitch of wealth and happiness unknown to them before. It would be impossible for him to lay before the House the immense mass of evidence which demonstrated that fact. He was assured of it by mercantile men in the city, and from proprietors of West India property; he found it strongly set forth in the reports from the Governors of the islands, which formerly full of dismay, were now bright with cheerfulness and hope; but the keystone of the arch consisted of the statistics furnished by the Board of Trade which showed that the imports and exports together of the West Indies and Guiana had amounted in the four years ending with 1853 to £32,500,000, and in the four years ending with 1857 to £37,000,000, an increase of £4,500,000 in four years; and further that the annual exports of sugar, coffee, cotton, rum and cocoa, were valued in 1857 at £500,000 more than the average of the ten preceding years. So much had been said of the ruinous state of these islands that perhaps the House would be surprised to learn that the exports from Great Britain to the West Indies in 1857 exceeded her exports, in that year to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, the Azores, Madeira, and Morocco, all combined. Or, perhaps, it would give a more vivid idea of the value to us of these islands, if he mentioned that our exports to them in 1857 equalled our exports to the Channel Islands, Malta, the Ionian Islands, the Mauritius, the Gold Coast, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, and what are called our sundry possessions, all together. Considering what mere specks the West Indies look in the map of America it was astonishing that their trade to and fro should now actually amount to £10,735,000. That was the value of their commerce in the year 1857. He would only add that in 1857 the value of the sugar imported into this country from our West Indies amounted to £5,618,000. Surely all this demonstrated that free labour was holding its own in spite of the competition of slavery. Probably it would be said that all this was mainly due to the immigrants. In the last five years 25,000 immigrants had come to all our West Indies, including a large number of women and children. It was altogether absurd to imagine that this great prosperity was owing to the labours of those few thousand men, and, in fact, the islands which had not received immigrants were quite as flourishing as those that had. Clearly, then, our West Indies were possessions of immense and increasing value. The Committee might inquire, however briefly, into this point, and report to the country whether it was true or not that in spite of free labour and free trade—or rather as he thought, because of free labour and free trade, the West Indian Islands were attaining a high degree of prosperity. He was aware that this proposal would meet with strong resistance, for he had often noticed that nothing so vexed the soul of a West Indian gentleman as to be told that he was well off. And as those gentlemen had a great and legitimate influence with the Colonial Office, no doubt the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton) would appeal to the severely practical mind of this House, and would put the question, "Supposing the hon. Member for Newport obtains this conclusion from the Committee, What will he do with it?" But, as the people of this country laid out £20,000,000 in emancipating our slaves, and as that great deed was not, as some said, the work of a few philanthropists, but was done by the whole people with all their heart and soul, it would be of some value to learn upon the authority of a Committee of that House what was the result of that great experiment. He thought it would be worth while, even at the cost of a few hours' labour to a few hon. Gentlemen, to have a Report as to whether the measure of emancipation had been successful or not; and whether it was true that the Negroes had sunk into a condition of indolence and barbarism or not. He was as certain as that he was standing there, however, that if that point were fully inquired into, it would be found that, whilst some of the negroes were indolent and some barbarous, yet the greater part of them were living upon their own properties in industry and comfort, and that, to a far greater extent than was generally believed they were willing to work on the estates of those who treated them with kindness, and paid them fair wages. But the main topic of inquiry for the proposed Committee would be what were the best means of promoting immigration into the West Indies. He did not propose that the Committee should inquire whether immigration be necessary or not. On that point he differed altogether from some gentlemen for whom he felt the greatest respect—namely, the Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society. Their views were opposed to all immigration; but with millions of fertile acres under a tropical climate lying untilled, it would be an un-mixed good if we could fill every island as full of people as Barbadoes itself. The greater the influx of labourers, the greater the production of wealth, and that would tell for the anti-slavery cause throughout the world; and so far from the competition of the immigrants being any bane to the negroes, it would be a wholesome spur to them. So far from denying the scarcity of labour, he could hardly conceive what supply of labour could ever meet the boundless demand for it created by such a soil in such a climate. But the time had certainly come for an inquiry into the system upon which that immigration should be carried out. The first question into which, no doubt, the Committee would inquire would be what ground there was for the allegation so often made, that from 33 to 50 per cent of the immigrants perish. That had been stated repeatedly by gentlemen connected with the West Indies. In the Report of the Immigration Commissioners of 1857, the mortality on the voyage alone from Calcutta was reckoned at 17 26 per cent. Cases were also referred to, in one of which 40 per cent of the immigrants either died on board or had to be taken to the hospital on landing. Out of 2,411 Coolies taken to Guiana and Trinidad 349 died on the voyage and large numbers had to be taken to the hospital on landing. These, he felt convinced, were peculiar cases, and were not to be attributed to ill-usage of the immigrants, but they seemed to justify the demand for an inquiry. But, so far as the voyage was concerned, out of two ships that brought immigrants from Calcutta in 1858, the mortality was 7.12 per cent in one, and only 3.28 in the other. This led him to hope that the inquiries of the Committee on this head might have the very useful result of calming the indignation which had been felt in many parts of the country at the supposed waste of life among immigrants. But should it prove that the mortality was large, then the Committee would inquire whether it could be lowered by further precautions, or by a stricter enforcement of those now laid down. What might prove a still more important branch of inquiry was whether a free immigration could be set on foot, under which the Coolie would not be bound to the planter who had paid for importing him during a term of years. His anti-slavery friends had a strong feeling of the hardship to the immigrant of being thus in reality a bondsman. But, if he made a contract, the law must keep him to it; and, although it might be galling to him, still there were woes enough in the world without our moving heaven and earth to save him from a brief annoyance. Still the result of the system was to create a whole catalogue of what he might call artificial offences, to which penalties had to be attached. There were penalties on the planter if he did not supply his immigrant with proper medicine, nourishment, food, clothing, and due wages; penalties on those who employed other planters' Coolies; penalties on the Coolies if they shirked their work; penalties on the Coolies if found two miles from their employers' estates; penalties on the Coolies if they damaged their employers' property; penalties on the masters of vessels if they carried Coolies away. The whole of this cumbrous system of penal law was the substitute for the ordinary and natural system under which an employer bought the labour that he wanted, and discharged the labourer who did not please him. It might be unavoidable, but he would like the Committee to examine whether a more free immigration would not be possible—an immigration that would simply bring in labourers, leaving them and the employers to make what bargains they pleased. Lastly, the Commitee would inquire into the question which now awakened a vast amount of bitter feling in the West Indies—the question by whom the cost of immigration should be defrayed—whether it should be defrayed wholly by the planter who used the labour of the immigrant, or in some part by the whole community. According to all the present schemes, including the last Act passed by the Jamaica House of Assembly, two-thirds of the cost was supposed to fall on the planters who received the emigrants, and the remaining one-third fell on the taxation of the whole island. It would, he thought, be easy to show that in reality one-half fell on the whole island. But, at any rate, the community paid one-third; and what was the real result of that? Nothing else but that the State gave a subsidy to the planter. The planter wanted a certain amount of work done for him, but, instead of paying the whole cost as any other manufacturer would have to do, the State bountifully relieved him of one-third or one-half the burden of paying his own workmen. The State gave him a large sum of money in order that his business might bring him in a larger profit. No wonder that the planters were hot for a scheme based on such a delightful principle. No wonder they were loud against all other schemes under which each man would have to give his quid for his quo, and pay for what he got out of his own instead of out of other people's pockets. The case was exactly like that of a parish under the old Poor Law, where the farmer paid some 5s. or 6s. a week to his labourer out of his own money, eking it out by a rate on the whole parish. No two things could be more alike than that old exploded parish system, and the one adopted with regard to the West Indian immigration. Or again, it was just like the old bounty system. In that case, as in the other, the State gave large pecuniary aid to those engaged in certain trades, lost without such aid their trade should fall to the ground. He had not the assurance to dilate to the house on the folly and injustice of those old and exploded systems; but whatever might be said against them might be said with equal truth of the system by which the whole community was taxed in order to aid the planter in carrying on his business. No doubt, they would be told that the sugar trade was of great value to the West Indies, and without those subsidies it would soon fall off; but was it ever found that a trade declined on the withdrawal of aid from the State? But, even were that so, would that be the least reason for giving to the sugar trade an artificial prosperity? Nor could it be said that, though unsound in principle, it was a matter of no practical importance. Those most versed in the state of Jamaica said, with one voice, that the reason why she rose so slowly, while her sister islands were rising fast was, that her finances were in a state of disorder, that she was suffering from extreme taxation, and he was told that with a view to this immigration scheme, additional burdens were being placed upon the flour and other articles of food consumed by the negroes themselves. In The Times report from the West Indies, of October 2, 1858, it was mentioned that "the Government had in no way relaxed the stringency of its financial enactments, and the country was suffering greatly under the pressure of heavy taxation." Neither could it, be said that, after all, in the long run, the planters paid the taxes, and therefore the whole cost at last rested on their own shoulders. If that were so, why should they so strenuously insist on this Feature in their immigration schemes? Why should they prefer to have the money extracted from them through the painful and costly means of the tax gatherer, instead of paying it at once by a check on their bankers? He had stilted the main points into which he hoped the Committee would inquire, and he trusted the House would feel that they were questions worthy of investigation. He need not say that he proposed this Committee in no spirit of hostility to the West India planters, but in the hope that it would assuage the embittered feelings on both sides. He believed, indeed, that if the Committee were granted, if it throughly and impartially examined into the points to which he had adverted, the result would be to place immigration on a sound and wholesome basis, and thus greatly to enhance the growing prosperity of the West India islands.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the Condition of the West Indies, and the best means of promoting Immigration into them.


Sir, let me, in the first instance, express my sense of the temperance as well as the ability with which the hon. Gentleman has introduced his Motion. The bearer of his father's name enters into the discussion of all questions that affect humanity with an hereditary title-deed to respect. It is clear that he will preserve that heirloom without a flaw. If I question his views I can equally honour his sincerity. The hon. Gentleman has divided the subjects of his inquiry into two heads—the present condition of the West Indian Islands, and the question of immigration. I will take the latter first, for it goes to the core of the question, and I am glad this subject is to be openly discussed. I take it first on its broadest ground. Sir, I should he dealing unfairly towards those friends of the Anti-Slavery Society whose petitions have been before me if I did not assume that on principle they are opposed to the whole system of labour immigration which I found established in the West India colonies. On my part, I so sympathize with zeal on behalf of the negro, even where I think those who entertain it misguided and misinformed on details, that I entreat beforehand forgiveness if inadvertently a single word should escape me that may seem to disparage the humanity that I hold in reverence. But I must say, frankly and firmly, that from that system of immigration I am convinced that no Minister, responsible for the welfare of the West India colonies, can depart. Let the House listen to facts and figures, and then say if I am wrong in the convictions I express. The hon. Gentleman says that the prosperity which characterizes many of the colonies does not arise from immigration alone. No; but where immigration has been continued prosperity has followed. Sir, the experiment of Coolie immigration was first tried in the Mauritius in 1835 or 1836; it was then commenced by the planters as private importers of labour. Abuses arose; the immigration was consequently suspended in 1838. In 1843 the Government took it into their hands, and by the Government it has since been conducted. Now hear the result. Since the experiment there have been introduced into the colony 170,000 persons; out of these, in 1836, as many as 134,291 were still residents. The effect on the produce of the colony has been this:—The sugar crop in 1844 was 70,000,000 lbs.; in 1855, ten years afterwards, it amounted to 238,480,000 lbs. That has been the effect on the produce. What has been the effect on the immigrant population? Three-fourths of those immigrants who returned to India at the end of three or five years brought back with them from 1,200 to 50 rupees each, and Sir G. Anderson, who had formerly been a distinguished Judge in India, in 1850 reported his opinion in these words—"The immigrant, as a labouring population, is perhaps nowhere in the world in such favourable circumstances." But I may be told that the Mauritius is a special and singular example: is it so? Take next the case of British Guiana; into that colony about 23,000 Coolies have been introduced; they do not, as in the Mauritius, form the whole of the agricultural population, but a considerable part of it. The produce of the sugar crop, which in 1841 was little more than 34,000 hogsheads was in 1855, 55,366 hogsheads. While this was the increase to the wealth of the colony, what was the benefit to the immigrants? Judge by this instance,—In a single ship which left British Guiana last year 277 Coolies paid into the hands of the authorities as the amount of these savings for transmission to India more than £6,000. I turn next to Trinidad. I find in the despatch from the Governor, dated September 26, 1858, that the population returned by the census of 1851 was 68,600; by immigration and the influx of strangers it is now raised to about 80,000. About 11,000 Coolies have been introduced into that island. Now wages in Trinidad are not so high as in British Guiana, but I find that 343 of these labourers on their return to India paid into the hands of the authorities for transmission the sum of £5,389, and took with them more than £900. Such has been the gain to the immigrant; what has been the gain to the colony? The imports of Trinidad in 1855 were £554,534, in 1857 £800,830; the exports in 1855 were £387,999; in 1857 there were £1,013,414 and the Governor in summing up the cause of this sudden and marvellous increase of the surest signs of prosperity, says— But it is to the stream of immigration, though expensive, and by no means sufficient, which has flowed into the island during the years under review, that it is mainly indebted for the progress it has achieved. Now, turn to the other side, and compare this increase of produce in colonies caused by immigration with the decline of produce in Jamaica, where immigration has been suspended. In Jamaica the produce of sugar for three years after the apprenticeship was 1,812,204 cwts., and during the last three years it has fallen off to 1,244,373 cwts. Now, then, I respectfully ask you who advocate the cause of humanity, who feel with me that humanity belongs exclusively to no colour and to no country, who, if you advocate the cause of the negro, must advocate equally the cause of the Indian, I ask you whether, when we find that more than 200,000 persons left countries in which labour was worth from 2d. to 3d. a day, where impressment and forced labour exist, where, as was said by the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, "the strong universally preyed upon the weak"—left, I say, those countries for British colonies, in which easy labour secures comparative affluence, where the labourer lives under British law and has at all times access to a British magistrate—I ask you to say whether humanity should bid me arrest that immigration, fling these human beings back to oppression and to famine,—and why?—because their labour benefits our fellow British subjects and saves a British colony from ruin. You object to the system of indentures to a master. Just hear the answer as it is supplied to me by the Immigration Commissioners,— It has, however, been objected that the Coolie, being paid for a certain time under indenture, is in reality in a state of bondage. The answer is that, before the indenture system was established, the Coolies abandoned their work and wandered about the country, and, in many instances in the West Indies, perished miserably from disease and want. Their condition was thus described in August, 1859, by Mr. Carberry, a stipendiary magistrate in British Guiana, whose sympathies are much more with the Coolies than with the planters. With the indentures," he says, "the immigrant becomes an useful and industrious member of society. His labour is alike profitable to himself and his master. Without it he too often becomes a wandering mendicant, a nuisance, and disgrace to the colony, and finishes his career in the public hospital; in the interest, therefore, of the Coolie himself the indenture system is necessary. But it is said by the Anti-Slavery Society, there has been great mortality on board the immigrant vessels from Calcutta. Undoubtedly, there was in the years 1856–57. But it is fair, while allowing this fact, first to remind the House that the rate of mortality was taken from selected vessels, and that it may be in much accounted for from causes that do not apply to Coolie immigration alone. Take the very worst cases that occurred. In Calcutta ships the average mortality was in the year 1856–57 a little more than 17 per cent; but in 1847, on board the vessels that carried the Irish immigrants to America by a far shorter voyage, the mortality was much the same—about 17 per cent. Imagine what advantages would have been lost to Ireland, England, and America if, on account of that melancholy average, the Irish exodus had been stopped. I hold here recent reports of the mortality of Coolies from inquiries instituted in India. The causes are most carefully analyzed; remedies which will receive the most diligent attention are suggested. The most searching of all the inquirers, Mr. Morant, who is the inspector of gaols and prisons, thus sums up:— I am distinctly and decidedly of opinion that the great sickness and mortality of 1856–57 need not recur; that, whether exceptional or not, it can be prevented by proper care and attention, and that there is no need to prohibit the continuance of immigration on grounds either of humanity or policy. What he thus says is borne out by facts and figures; for I have here a return showing the average of mortality on board Calcutta vessels during the whole eleven years immigration has taken place. Ninety-four ships have been sent from Calcutta to the West Indies, and the average mortality in all these years had been but 6 1–5th per cent; while on board thirty-one vessels sent from Madras to the West Indies that average has been under 2 per cent, and it will be satisfactory to the House to learn that in the last year there has been a marked decrease in mortality, both in Calcutta and Madras ships, for whereas in 1857–58 the mortality in the first was 13 per cent, in 1858–59 it has been only 6 1–6th per cent; while in the Madras ship in 1858–59 the mortality has been a seventh part of 1 per cent. Stress has been laid on the Coolie immigrants in Jamaica. In most of the petitions that have been before me it is stated to be 50 per cent. What are the facts? I find by the last return, August, 1858, that the total number of Coolie immigrants since the immigration began was 4,451, and that the number of those who had died, disappeared, or were unaccounted for during those thirteen years was 1,597. I am told, in fact, that a number of these immigrants chose to re-emigrate to Panama to work at the railroad, and lost their lives by that climate; but that was their own fault. But suppose they all died its Jamaica; calculate that mortality, as taken for the thirteen years, it gives, not a per centage of 50 per cent, but a per centage of only 2 1–6th per cent. But, taking it, as I think you ought, by calculating the average mortality of those who had returned to India during the thirteen years, you only get about 4 per cent. And this is a specimen of the exaggeration by which honest and well-meaning men have been deceived. As to the colonies generally. we find by returns that the average mortality among the Coolies in the Mauritius is a little more than 3 per cent. In British Guiana it is under 4 per cent; in Trinidad it is returned as so low that I think there must be some mistake into which I will inquire; meanwhile, I think I may safely assume it not to exceed 3 per cent. I turn, then, to the second class of argument—namely, that which condemns the present system of immigration as unfair to the Creole. It is said that there is really no scarcity of hands to meet the habitual requirements of the labour-market in the West Indian Colonies; that immigration is an attempt on the part of the planters to beat down the wages of the negroes. But surely it is a sufficient answer to that assertion that the proprietors pay an extra sum to obtain elsewhere the labour which you say they can find more conveniently at home. Is that human nature? Do men do so even in the West Indies? Does Barbadoes do so? No! Barbadoes sends for no immigrants, because Barbadoes has a sufficient population, and that population is eminently industrious. But does the absence of immigration keep up wages? No! Wages in Barbadoes are lower than those in any of the colonies to which emigration has been admitted. Compare the average wages of Barbadoes even with those at Jamaica, where you say the planter wishes to drive so hard a bargain with the Creole. Wages at Barbadoes since emancipation have ranged at 1s.d. per day to 10d. At Jamaica they have ranged from 1s. 6d. to 1s. And in colonies where immigration is admitted freely, a man, be he Creole or Indian, can obtain by task-work at least 2s. a day. But is the immigrant a competitor for labour at less wages than are current with the native. No; it is provided that the immigrant shall receive as a minimum the current rate of wages paid to an unindentured labourer, and these wages cannot be low if, as we have seen, they enable the coolie to return home in a few years with what to him is affluence for the rest of his life. But it is said, "At all events, for this importation of labour the planters should pay exclusively; the population should not be taxed for the labour that competes with their own." Sir, I grant at once that the planter should pay the greater portion of this expense; that is a condition which both my predecessors and myself have kept steadfastly in view. And, according to the Jamaica Act, the planters pay two-thirds; but that is not all. The money applicable for the payment of the first immigration is the sum of £50,000 remaining on the Imperial guaranteed loan of £100,000. The repayment of that loan is to be effected by an export duty, and an export duty falls on the producer, that is, the planter. But granted that a portion of the expense does fall on the general community, if the immigration conduces to its prosperity, it may fairly be expected to contribute towards it. Increased prosperity is always followed by increased civilization; more money is required for schools, for religious worship, for public works; every individual in the country rises higher in the scale in proportion as it becomes more prosperous; is it unjust to call on the Creole to pay something towards what enriches and exalts the country in which we have made him a freeman? Well, Sir, then I venture to think there are really no grounds for this Committee. So far as the West Indies are concerned, there are no petitions from them demanding this inquiry, nor are there any special measures for their benefit proposed. So far as information is concerned, it is given to you every year in blue-books as numerous and as bulky as the most passionate student of blue-books could desire. And we are now printing for Parliament papers upon nearly all the subjects to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. But it must not be supposed that we shrink from inquiry. And I make the hon. Gentleman two proposals: 1st. Let him wait till the papers about to be printed for the use of hon. Members are on our table; if he then wants more information, let him specify the points in which those papers are defective; if the Government cannot give it, then let him move for his Committee upon those points; and we will see if those points do really need a Parliamentary inquiry, in which case we will concede it. Or, 2dly, if he insist on a Committee immediately, I will grant it, provided he thus defines its inquiry—namely, "To inquire into the present mode of conducting immigration into the West Indian Colonies, and the best means of promoting that object." I think that is fair; but if he take my advice he will wait for information before he decides on moving for any Committee at all. Let me say, in conclusion, a few words to the friends of the Anti-Slavery Society. I have fought by their side in my youth, and now, when I think they have been mis-informed, I still believe that our object is the same—namely, to give complete and triumphant success to the sublime experiment of negro emancipation. It becomes them above all men to do their best to render prosperous the Colonies in which slavery has been abolished. Every hundred weight of sugar produced by the immigrant at Jamaica is a hundred weight of sugar withdrawn from the market of Cuban slaves. Will slave states follow our example, unless capital flourish under it? Can capital flourish unless it has the right to hire labour wherever labour is willing to be hired? I warn them, that if by any indiscretion of over zeal on our part one West Indian Colony becomes vitally injured, it is we who shall rivet the bonds of negro slavery wherever it yet desecrates a corner of the earth.


Sir, I rejoice to say, especially at that time of night, that I do not feel the least disposition to trespass more than a few minutes on the attention of the House; but having recently filled the situation which is now occupied by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. B. Lytton), I feel it incumbent on me to address a few words on the present occasion. I think the House must have observed of recent years, a great alteration in the mode in which colonial subjects have been treated within its walls. I, at least, can remember when no class of subjects was debated with more acrimony—indeed, it was often the favourite battlefield when domestic policy did not present any point particularly tempting for those conflicts. But a much better feeling has of late years arisen upon these questions. I am bound to acknowledge that during the two years I had the honour to be Secretary for the Colonies I received from Gentlemen who were opposed to me in general policy nothing but counsel and assistance. I do not recollect that a single hostile Motion was made by any hon. Gentleman, and both from my sense of duty to the Colonies, as well as the recollection of that circumstance, I trust I shall always endeavour to view colonial subjects entirely free from party bias. On the present occasion I am glad to say that I am able to express an almost complete coincidence of opinion with the right hon. Gentleman. I agree in hoping that my hon. Friend who has brought forward this Motion with such ability, and in a manner so becoming his name and position, will not, on the present occasion invite the House to undertake an inquiry into the general state of the West Indies, which I am sure is unnecessary, and may be mischievous. I think this noose should be sparing of inquiries into the state of our Colonies. I have never said, and I will never say, that this House should not keep a vigilant eye upon the British Colonies as well as upon every other great interest committed to it, but I do say that very sparing interference is wise. This House may depend upon it that there is growing up in the Colonies a jealousy not only of unnecessary interference on the part of the Executive, but on the part of the Legislature itself. They think justly that they are able to manage their own concerns better than we can manage them for them. This House may depend upon it that they will best preserve the supreme authority in the last resort respected and revered, by exercising it only on the greatest and not on light and unnecessary occasions. That being the case, I ask what reason can be given as to the necessity of any inquiry into the general condition of the West Indies? From my knowledge of the Colonies, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be adverse to the feeling of the British West Indies. Jamaica has a great popular constitution—a great popular Legislature; and I think they will consider any inquiry into the affairs of that island on the part of this House unnecessary. I see no good in such an inquiry, and, seeing much evil, I cannot but join with the right hon. Gentleman in hoping that my hon. Friend will not press that part of his Motion on the present occasion. The general picture of the West Indies at this moment is extremely gratifying. There can be no doubt they have struggled through that period of distress which long weighed on them. Some are in a state of great prosperity. They are all in a state of improvement both as to their agricultural and their moral and social position. I hope the two races, black and white, are becoming amalgamated, and acting in greater harmony together. I know that black and white lawyers sit side by side as barristers in their courts of justice. I know that official situations are held by men of colour, and when I had the honour of holding the seals of the Colonial Office, I always rejoiced to find a man of colour, of character, and ability, to whom I could give an appointment. If those causes are left to operate I think the House may rely on an improved condition of the Colonies, both socially and morally, being produced. The general state of things with regard to the sugar trade is very curious and interesting. I believe it is the fashion to say that the West Indies, as sugar-producing colonies, are almost entirely ruined. But, with the exception of Jamaica, there is as much sugar produced and exported from the rest of the islands as there was in 1831, before the Emancipation Act. I say, with the exception of Jamaica, and I cannot attribute the falling off in agricultural prosperity of that island to the causes assigned by the right hon. Gentleman. I believe the great, if not the sole cause, has been the unfortunate mismanagement of her own self-government by which her finances have been ruined and her affairs confused. A wretched constitution has induced jobbing and confusion, and resulted in most disastrous consequences. I am glad to find that the foundation has been laid, by the improvement of her constitution, for a better state of things, and I trust that Jamaica will, are long, resume her natural position at the head of the West India Islands. Jamaica used to send to this country 1,500,000 cwt. of sugar; now she sends not quite 500,000. But the void in her exportation has been filled up from another source. The Mauritius has taken the place of Jamaica and now sends us about 1,500,000 cwt. In fact, wherever you find an adequate supply of labour, whether it be in the Mauritius, in Trinidad, Demerara, or Barbadoes, there you find the cultivation of sugar succesfully conducted, and the whole community in a state of prosperity. The lesson taught by this—and I hope it will be borne in mind not by us alone but by the whole world—is, that the question whether free labour can compete in a tropical climate with slave labour depends upon the sufficiency with which that free labour is supplied; and happily in our own colonies the experiment has worked satisfactorily. My belief is, that by encouraging by all legitimate means the introduction of free labourers into your own sugar-producing possessions, and taking care that they are not checked in their career of improvement, you are doing far more to put down the slave trade and slavery than can be accomplished by all the squadrons you may fit out and all the treaties you can devise. I should look with the utmost alarm at the carrying out of the views of the well-intentioned but mistaken men who ask as a boon for the coloured races, above all people in the world, that you should check the supply of free labour for your own colonies. Successive Governments have carefully watched the whole system under which this immigration has been conducted, in order that the interests of humanity might not be neglected, and that, as far as could be done under a highly artificial and complicated set of arrangements, the claims of the planter upon the Coolie should be reconciled with the right of the latter to protection in his comparatively defenceless position. One other point of great moment is, whether free labourers can be taken from the coast of Africa and carried to our colonies? My own opinion is that any attempt to effect this on the part of England or any other country will only end in a revival of the slave trade in another form. Another question of great importance is, whether a supply of labour is obtainable from China? No doubt, if a system of Chinese immigration could be established under proper safeguards, it would be of great advantage to the West India Islands. But there are difficulties in the way. One of them is the alleged impossibility of insuring by fair means the introduction into our Colonies of a due proportion of Chinese women. The attention of the late Government, and doubtless that of their successors, was turned to this point; and the Earl of Elgin had special directions to make inquiries into it as far as his other and more pressing duties would permit. When one of the West India Islands had expressed a wish to send out an agent to China to assist in promoting the same object, every facility was offered on the part of the British Government to the mission of that officer. I will only add, that if the hon. Member who has made this Motion will follow the advice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and confine the proposed inquiry to the subjects to which I have retorted, I have little doubt that it will be attended with useful results.


said, that feeling deeply interested in the question of the abolition of slavery, he had listened with much satisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies. He had had the advantage of visiting the Slave States of America, where he found the slave owners extremely anxious to have his opinion as to whether he had not found the "domestic institution" much better than he expected. He endeavoured to persuade them that it was more for their interest to give the labourers day wages and make them independent. instead of having to purchase them at a high rate and then to hold the whip over them to make them work. They allowed the truth of his remarks, but replied they had no choice and no chance of acting on this suggestion, that slave labour was all that they had to depend upon. He thought the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies had shown that more work was to be done and greater economy effected by free labour than by slave labour; but there was a feeling in the country that there was great hardship connected with immigration—that it was only slavery under another name. It was very important that this should be set right. He (Mr. Crossley) thought the planters themselves ought to pay the whole expenses of immigration, just the same as if either agriculturists or manufacturers in this country required labour from abroad they must pay for it themselves and not come upon the public purse for any portion of it. He would advise the hon. Member for Newport to accept the proposition of the Secretary for the Colonies, in order that this immigration might be conducted in a proper manner, feeling sure, as he did, that the best way to put down slavery would be to allow colonial produce to be raised by free labour.


said, he also would urge upon the hon. Mover the propriety of accepting the first piece of advice offered to him by the Secretary for the Colonies, and of resting satisfied with the information already before the House, together with that which would speedily be produced in addition. There was no sufficient ground for the proposed inquiry, which, moreover, was not demanded by any general feeling out of doors. Exaggerated and unfounded alarms had indeed been excited by a small body of that somewhat dangerous class of persons called philanthropists; but the free immigration of Coolies had been a great blessing to our West Indian colonies, and the correction of any abuses in the working of the system might safely be left to the vigilance which was constantly exercised both by the immigration Commissioners and the Indian Government.


observed, that Demerara had the finest soil for the cultivation of sugar, and all that the colony wanted to enable it to beat the slave-owners of Cuba was a sufficiency of labour. He did not think that a system of differential duties would do the planters any good.


said, that he would accept the first proposal of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He would study the Papers which were about to be published, and if they did not afford information, would renew his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.