The Earl of Dalhousie
, in moving the Third Reading of the Sugar Duties Bill, said that he had to direct their Lordships' attention to a subject which had been for so many years annually discussed in one or other of the Houses of Parliament, and which had been so recently debated in that House, that he would occupy their attention for as short a time as possible. He would confine himself to a statement of the reasons which had induced Her Majesty's Government to introduce this Bill, to the object of the Bill itself, and to the mode in which it was proposed to carry that object into effect. It would be in the recollection of their Lordships that the Bill of last Session imposing duties upon sugar differed in many important particulars from the Bills that had been annually laid before Parliament; and in introducing that Bill he had said, that looking at the state of the sugar trade, and at the state of the country itself, it was deemed the duty of Her Majesty's Government to adopt some measure for a supply of sugar coming from foreign countries; for though the supply of sugar from India and the Mauritius had of late years increased, yet it had not increased in proportion to the falling off in sugar, the produce of the West India Colonies. He had stated also, that during the year 1843 the supply had been only 204,000 tons, whilst the consumption had reached 202,000 tons; and it appeared to Government desirable 461 that they should not run the risk of finding the country in circumstances so disastrous as a still further falling off of supply, which would be followed by an enhancement of price which would be calamitous to the consumer. Instead, therefore, of limiting the supply to the produce of British possessions, they had provided a clause introducing sugar at a low rate of duty from those countries where sugar was raised by free labour; and this provision was made with a due regard to two important points, namely, the countries whose produce would thereby be admitted, and the protection which should be reserved for British produce. He had also stated that these provisions should be taken as indications of what might thereafter be expected when the subject should be reconsidered in connexion with the Property Tax. Their Lordships having given their consent to the continuance of the Property Tax for a further limited period of three years, he had now to ask their consent to a Bill which provided for the countries from which sugar should be imported, for the rates of duty imposed, and for the conditions under which it should be taken. By the Bill before their Lordships, sugars the produce of China, of Java, and of Manilla, the produce of free labour, might be imported at a certain rate of duty on the production of a certificate from the Consul or other representative of the Government, containing a declaration that the sugar was the produce of free labour, accompanied by a declaration of the Consul of his belief that the statement was correct; and by other clauses it was provided that if it should be proved to the satisfaction of Her Majesty in Council that the sugar of other countries was similarly produced, She might by order in Council make an order for the admission of the sugar of those countries at the same rates of duty. The Bill further enacted, with respect to countries having reciprocity treaties, that the sugar there produced should be admitted on the same terms as the sugars of China, Java, and Manilla. Then with respect to the terms on which this produce should be admitted, if they intended that there should result from it an extension of our trade, it was necessary that there should be a very considerable reduction of duty on sugar. It was therefore provided, that British double refined sugars, which formerly could only be introduced at a duty of eight guineas, should for the future be introduced at a duty of one guinea, and that other refined sugar of 462 like produce should be introduced at a duty of 18s. 8d.; that the best clayed sugar, the produce of China, Java, and Manilla, should pay a duty of 1l. 8s. per cwt., and brown and other sugar not being equal to white clayed at a duty of 1l. 3s. 4d. Hitherto sugars had been divided into refined and Muscovado; but as it appeared that extensive improvements had been made in the manufacture of sugar, it was provided, that with respect to sugars the produce of British possessions, the duty on white clayed should be 16s. 4d., and on brown, or other sugars not equal in quality to white clayed, that the duty should be 14s.; whilst on all other foreign refined sugar the duty should remain at eight guineas, and on brown Muscovado, or clayed sugar, not being refined, at three guineas. The estimate was, that these reduced duties would, in the year 1845–6, yield a revenue of 3,916,000l., instead of a revenue of 5,216,000l., afforded by the duties of 1844, leaving a deficiency in the amount of duty of 1,300,000l. He ought, however, before asking the House to give a third reading to this Bill, to advert to one or two of the principal objections which had been made to the measure during its progress through Parliament. It had been stated that, in order to justify the sacrifice of so large an amount of revenue, the Government was bound to show that there would accrue to the consumer a substantial benefit, and that, in addition to the encouragement they gave to the produce of our own Colonies, they should extend the trade with foreign countries. Now, he thought that he was in a position to show that these consequences would follow from this material reduction in duty. During the course of a late debate it had been stated by the noble Marquess opposite that the result would be of an insignificant nature, for the only relief to the consumer would be some 2s. a year. Undoubtedly 2s. a year was a small amount, but how far it was a relief depended upon the proportion which this sum should bear to the whole sum expended on the article during the year. Although the saving was 2s. only, yet 2s. in an expenditure of 8s. or 9s. was a great reduction; the average consumption was only 17lbs. yearly, or, at the average prices of last year, about 2d. worth of sugar weekly per head, and the reduction in price would be about ¼d. on every 2d., or one-fourth of the entire consumption. He had no doubt that the reduction of the duty on sugar would cheapen the 463 price of that necessary to the poor consumers, and that the result would be to increase the consumption very considerably, the ultimate consequence of which would be to recover the amount of duty sacrificed by the present Bill. In fact, experience proved that even a very small reduction in the price of sugar occurring in the usual course of fluctuation in price and supply, had always led to a great increase in the consumption. With respect to the difficulties that had been raised as to the classification of sugars, he had obtained some information on the subject since that part of the question had been discussed elsewhere, and he was able to state from those inquiries that a system of classification, of a somewhat similar description had been in operation in France, and no difficulties had ever been experienced in placing the proper and fair amount of duty on each quality of sugar. In America also sugars were classed under their separate qualities; in Sweden also they were classed; and in Java there were no less than eighteen different species of sugar distinctly classed. So that it might be very confidently expected if no difficulties in this respect had been found to impede the classification of sugars in Foreign countries, neither would such be found to operate prejudicially in this country. The noble Lord at the Table (Monteagle) had, however, urged on a former evening that the East India sugar-growers would suffer by this classification, in consequence of their produce being of a finer and better appearance, though not intrinsically or necessarily of a better or stronger quality than those imported from the British West Indies. With regard to this objection all he had to say was, that the system of classification had now been in operation for the space of five weeks, and it was found practically to work very well, and to create none of those unfair or unjust differences between the various sugars which were at first anticipated. Another strong and plausible set of objections had been urged against the Bill, on the plea that it would covertly encourage the introduction of slave-labour sugar, under reciprocity treaties, into Great Britain. He begged to remind the House that it was never claimed for the measure that it would exclude the produce of any State with which reciprocity treaties existed; but what he did maintain was, that the sugar production of such States was so small, and its circumstances were such, as to leave no danger of its coming 464 into bonâ fide competition with free-grown produce. From Venezuela, for instance, about which so much noise had been made, the quantity imported had been only 97 tons, and the quantity entered for consumption only 11 tons. In that State, too, out of a population of 1,000,000, there were only 2,000 slaves, and slavery was in course of gradual extinction there. It was absurd to suppose that slave-grown sugar could, to any considerable extent, be smuggled into England by being first taken to Louisiana, and reshipped thence to this country. The planters there are too well protected to tolerate such a system; the expense would be ruinous; and the best protection of all against the extension of such a smuggling trade was, that the United States really afforded a better market to this article than our own country did; better remunerating prices were obtained in the United States, and both demand and prices were rising up the Mississippi. In refusing to give facilities for the introduction of the produce of slave labour, Government had the authority of the noble Lords opposite; for in 1839 and 1840, the Members and Friends of the present Administration supported the late Government in its opposition to proposals for encouraging slave-produced sugar. Looking, again, to the many and costly sacrifices which, for a long series of years, we had made and were continuing to make for the abolition of the Slave Trade and of slavery, would it not be a strange instance of national inconsistency to take now a step that must give direct encouragement to slavery, by admitting the staple produce of slave labour? It would be grossly unjust, too, to the West Indies, after subjecting them to such losses by abolishing slavery—it would be grossly unjust to these Colonies at this time to bring the produce of slavery into competition with them. After all our sacrifices, our treaties, our professions, and exertions; and so long as this nation continues to give demonstrations of its anxiety to put down slavery, if we now began to give encouragement to the produce of that system, such a course would be ruinous to our character for sincerity of purpose. Other countries would, after such a course, disregard our remonstrances and treaties. They would say to England, "Your acts give the lie to your professions; and, worse still, you are attempting, by a shuffling evasion, to avoid the consequences of a policy which you have not the courage 465 openly to depart from. He entertained a sincere conviction that the effect of this measure would be to encourage and benefit the producers of sugar in the Colonies, belonging to the Crown; that it would stimulate production and increase consumption, extend trade and commerce, and operate materially for the benefit of all parties; and not the least of its recommendations was, that its direct, immediate, and peculiar effect would be to give considerable relief to that class of our population which stood most in need of sympathy, and to add in no inconsiderable degree to the rare and scanty comforts of the poor. He moved that the Bill be now read a third time.
Even if I were able, I should not be disposed to follow the noble Earl through, the various details upon which he has entered in the course of his able and lucid speech; for I feel how useless it would be so to trespass upon your Lordships' time with respect to a Bill which this House cannot alter, and with which, indeed, it would seem we have so little concern, that it was not even thought worth while to print it for our information. Nevertheless, I am desirous of saying a few words upon what I think will be its practical operation, as well as the principles it involves; for the more it is examined, the more, in my opinion, it will be found ill calculated to carry out the objects it professes to accomplish. Whoever has either looked at this Bill, or followed the statements of the noble Earl, must admit that we are now about to introduce new intricacies in our fiscal regulations, when the great desiderata are simplicity and the least possible interruption to commercial transactions; and the result of this will be, an infinite variety of fraud: hardly a cargo of sugar will henceforward arrive, upon which the merchant will not be defrauded by the Revenue, or the Revenue by the merchant. I don't mean to say this will always happen intentionally, but that it must be the practical operation of the Bill. The measure does not really satisfy the West Indian interest, for whose benefit it is chiefly intended; for, however content they may be with the protection it affords them, they feel no confidence in its duration. They will not venture to lay out capital, or to enter into engagements dependent upon the law your Lordships are now about to sanction, for they know that a further change will be the inevitable result of its coming into operation; and 466 notwithstanding the cunning devices for testing colour, and quality, and granulation, which the noble Earl informs us are to be applied by the Custom-house officers at a dozen different ports, upon sugar coming from a dozen different places, he will find there is little chance of doing equal justice between the Crown and the importer, or of losing as little revenue on the one hand, or of gaining as much on the other, as he appears so confidently to calculate upon. Is it possible to look for anything but confusion from the proposed method of collecting the duty upon an article of which there are in every Price Current such an enormous number of quotations? I have certainly never counted them, but I have heard them stated as high as seventy, besides intermediate prices, and the value is to be calculated by whiteness or freedom from impurity; but Muscovado, or clayed, or even white clayed, are not terms which necessarily convey any tests of value. Some of the former are much more valuable than the latter, as they contain a vastly greater proportion of saccharine matter. The finest Muscovado of the Mauritius, for example, is worth 42s. 6d. per cwt., while the finest white clayed of Java is worth but 24s. 6d.; yet, by the Bill as it originally stood, all the clayed were to be charged at the higher, and all the browns at the lower duty. It is true, as the noble Earl says, that the words "equal in quality to clayed sugar," have been since introduced; but although that may do away with what was absurd and unjust, it will render the law more complex and undefined. It cannot be carried out with anything like justice upon sugar varying, as that of Java for instance, from 17s. 6d. to 24s. 6d., and these prices connected by links of quality varying from 3d. to 6d. per cwt.; for there must be some arbitrary point, at which all above and all below will be chargeable with different rates of duty. This difference can have no relation to the relative intrinsic value of the various kinds: a sugar at 21s. 6d., for example, is to be charged a duty of 23s. 4d., and a sugar only 6d. dearer, or 22s., is to be charged 28s.; or, in other words, a sugar of intrinsic quality only 2½d. better, is to be charged 20s. per cwt. higher; and as this kind of variation must exist more or less with every quality, the duty will hardly ever be levied according to the real value, even supposing the utmost skill and honesty on the part of the Custom-house officers; and should those 467 qualities be wanting, the temptation to collusion between the officers and the merchants is enormous, and it is rendered still greater by the almost impossibility of detection. I will abstain, however, from entering further into these details, though they might be multiplied ad infinitum; but I really believe, that if an accurate table could be drawn out of the mode in which these duties will operate upon the different places from which sugar is henceforth to come — from Java, Mauritius, Manilla, Bengal, Bombay, and the West Indies—it would appear much more like a plan to protect each of these countries against the other, than a bonâ fide intention of increasing the supply of an article which has now become one of the great necessaries of life among us. Yet it is by such a Bill as this that the Government, after many months, as it is said, of the most careful inquiry and anxious deliberation, propose to remedy the failure of their measure of last year—which measure, after fourteen nights' debate, and the most elaborate arguments and calculations to prove the abundant supply of free-labour sugar that might be expected, has produced, as we have just heard from the noble Earl eleven cwts.!—about the average stock of a retail grocer; and they now bring in a Bill which, in the opinion of all those affected by it, will be found impracticable in its operation, and productive of fraud and confusion. All those persons agree that the attempt to classify sugar in the manner proposed will be a signal failure; though, at the same time, they admit—and there can be no doubt of it—that the principle of an ad valorem duty is much the fairest and most equal, by causing the article to pay a greater or less duty, according to its greater or less value. But then, it must be practicable to impose it, and in order to be practicable, you must have as many standards of quality as there are varieties of quality in the article. Now this was done with comparative facility as respects tea, when the East India Company possessed the monopoly of that article, and the whole of the tea consumed in the country was sold by them at auction. The value was then clearly and publicly ascertained, and the duty was charged accordingly; but when the trade was opened, however great the desire of the Government was to continue the same system of an ad valorem duty, and notwithstanding every effort to carry it on, it was found wholly impracticable to do so; there was no reliance to be placed upon 468 anything approaching to uniformity of practice at the various ports, where tea might henceforth be imported, or upon equal justice being done between the Revenue and the importer; and it was thought better—liable to fewer difficulties—to adopt the uniform duty of 2s. 1d., objectionable though it be, and pressing as it does with very unequal severity upon the different qualities of tea, and taxing at the same rate the tea consumed by the richest and the poorest persons in the community. But the different qualities of tea are far less various, less liable to fraud, and more easy of discrimination, than those of sugar; and yet it is proposed to adopt with repect to sugar a system which was unavoidably, and at the wish even of the whole trade, abandoned as regards tea—to take a well-established failure as a model for imitation. Such a course can only be compared to that of increasing the duty on Irish spirits three years ago; an experiment over and over again tried, and invariably found productive of increased crime and diminished revenue. But Her Majesty's Government were resolved to see if the same causes would always produce the same effects; and when they found that the predicted and not unnatural results followed, they retraced their steps—and the tax they put on, together with that on the exportation of coals, are among the best they have yet taken off. So it will be with the Sugar Duties now about to become a temporary law; for before another year passes over our heads, the necessity for a fresh alteration in these duties will become as apparent and as imperative as it has been with regard to Irish spirits and to coals, as well as the Sugar Duties of last year, which, moreover, were not to have effect till the 10th of November last; and the market has been truly for the last eight months thrown into a state of confusion and perplexity. And yet before a single ounce of sugar from Manilla, or China, or Java, has reached this country, another system is introduced which must produce fresh confusion and the utmost uncertainty in all things except one, viz., that the law cannot last; while the Bill has been brought in at a period so unexpected and so unusual, that a very great amount of individual hardship will be inflicted—for the abatement of some of which, as regards drawbacks, the intended sufferers owe no thanks to Her Majesty's Government, but are solely indebted to the ability and perseverance 469 with which their case was urged in the House of Commons; for it was not until nearly the last night of the debate upon the question, and after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and the Secretary of the Treasury, had declared that the Government were acting on a well-considered principle, and were determined not to yield, that the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government rose, and, with a noble indifference for the pledges of his Colleagues, consented to the act of justice of allowing a drawback upon the duty paid sugar now in bond, and still under the locks of the Crown. Another hardship was also intended: the Government proposed that henceforth sugar should pay duty upon the original weight at the time of warehousing, thereby repealing an important Clause of the Warehousing Act of 1833, which establishes a scale of allowance for deficiencies in weight arising from natural causes; and this would have compelled the importers of West India sugar alone to pay annually 120,000l. of duty upon sugar which had absolutely leaked or wasted, and had ceased to exist. This intention, however, after a similar process of resistance and concession, as in the case of the drawback, was also abandoned. But when we consider that, duty included, a sum of nearly 13,000,000l. a year is paid here for sugar, all these questions, affecting as they do the market of this great necessary of life, assume a very grave importance, and they prove with how very little caution and foresight this measure has been framed. The ground, however, upon which the noble Earl chiefly claims for it the support of your Lordships, is the one on which I most object to it; for this Bill, like the one of last year, is, in my opinion, discreditable to our national character, and it must in the eyes of the whole world place the stamp of hypocrisy upon our legislation. Is there any one human being who will think us sincere in prohibiting Brazilian sugar, because it is produced by slave labour, when at the very time we introduced this distinction last year between sugar the produce of free and of slave labour, we took off 25 per cent. of the duties upon Brazilian coffee, which constitutes three-fifths of the exports from that country, and is, as far as quantity is concerned, a much more important production than sugar; and when we actually levy between three and four millions of revenue upon the slave-grown to- 470 bacco from America; when the Government, most wisely and properly, takes off all duty from the 500,000,000 lbs. of slave-produced cotton which we consume; and when the First Minister of the country declares that we must under our Treaty obligations receive all the slave-grown sugar that may be sent us from Louisiana. The noble Earl contends that the Americans cannot produce enough for their own consumption, and that they already import largely; but supposing they export to us all their own slave-grown sugar, and allow a drawback upon it equal to the amount of duty leviable upon a like quantity of Cuba sugar (and we ourselves afford them a precedent for such a course by our own Grinding Act), the noble Earl knows we cannot refuse it, or any quantity of Cuba sugar they may choose to send us of their own growth; and I am astonished that the noble Earl should rely upon the difference in the mode of package in order to distinguish between these sugars. Why, if it answer their purpose, the Americans have only to send a few coopers to Cuba to pack the sugar according to their own method before it is exported to the United States, and then the noble Earl will upon his own showing be deceived; and it will answer their purpose to export sugar to us—for the people of Louisiana, after supplying themselves and other States by inland navigation, send annually to the Atlantic parts of the United States upwards of 600,000 tons of sugar, and the freight of a hogshead of sugar coming as ballast in the cotton ships is less from New Orleans to Liverpool than from New Orleans to New York—they will only have to procure the required certificates of origin upon which the noble Earl seems also to rely very much for protection, but which are in fact absolutely valueless. Every one acquainted with the practical details of business knows that as a guarantee they are not worth the paper they are written upon. Why our own authorities at our own Custom-houses in Canada were never able to certify with any thing like accuracy as to the origin of the timber exported from that country. They cannot do so with respect to corn; and how can we expect that a Consul should do it at New Orleans, or Java, or other places, where he must be utterly unable to bring any proof against the declaration or the oaths of the supposed growers of the sugar, or the exporters? With respect to Java, however, it is said, I know not with what truth, that the Dutch Government will not 471 permit us to send any Consuls there, but that the certificates of origin are to be given by certain British subjects residing in the island; and if that is so, can there be a greater farce than the guarantee of men connected with the planters and traders of Java, that no slave labour has been employed in producing the sugar? We do not yet know, however, whether these gentlemen will not have a complete sinecure; for by the present arrangement between the Netherlands Trading Company and their Government, the whole of the sugar produced in Java must be brought to Holland, and there sold; and it is doubtful, therefore, whether the exportation of any sugar from Java to this country will be permitted by the Dutch Government. But supposing that other arrangements are made, and that we thereby get an additional quantity of sugar—the President of the Board of Trade, if I am not mistaken, said last year that 90,000 tons were produced in Java, a very large proportion of which would find its way to our market—we may perhaps, therefore, get 40,000 or 30,000 tons; and from Manilla nearly the whole of its exports, which by the latest official returns amounted to 25,000 tons, all of which went to Spain. And does the noble Earl suppose that that quantity, so abstracted from the markets of Europe, where it now meets the slave-grown sugar upon equal terms, will not be supplied from elsewhere? It will come from the Brazils and Cuba, and it will probably be taken out of our own bonding warehouses—the very sugar that we ourselves have fetched from those slave-trading countries in our own ships, and have paid for by our own manufactures, only we shall make the virtuous distinction of taking it out for exportation instead of for home consumption. Our morality will consist in selling it, instead of eating it; and this, too, at the very time when the productions of slave-trading countries actually constitute a great medium of exchange with us—when they are the very commodities with which we go to market, and buy the timber, and wool, and hemp, and tallow of Germany and Russia; and when we carry on a great refining trade of slave-grown sugar—when we export slave-grown sugar refined to the West Indies, and permit its unlimited importation into our Australian Colonies. Such being the state of our law, its practical result might be thus stated to the Governments of Brazil and Spain:—"We know that you 472 have landed 10,000 slaves this year in Cuba and Brazil. Well, we will take as much coffee the produce of their labour as we want for our own consumption; and we will take as much of the sugar they make as we can possibly refine, or sell, or dispose of to our own advantage; but Heaven forbid that we should touch a morsel of it ourselves — expect no such encouragement from us as that—we will pay any price for our own sugar rather than do it, and we shall thus compel you to abandon your disgraceful and inhuman traffic." Now that is just what our law and our practice, and our declarations in Parliament, give the Governments of slave-trading countries to understand; and can we hope to impose upon any one human being in the most ignorant country on earth by such pretences of morality? Does not our practice unmask the hypocrisy of our principles? Does it show any knowledge of human nature to expect that by this kind of legislation, levelled directly at the system prevailing in other countries—hateful and horrible though that system be—that we shall make them follow the example which we ourselves have but recently set them? We who for nearly 300 years, be it remembered, were the largest slave dealers and carriers in the world—who were the crimps and kidnappers not only for our own Colonies but for Spain—who organized that Slave Trade which, not forty years ago, after continuous labour and perseverance, and in face of a most determined opposition, we succeeded in abolishing—who only twelve years ago abolished slavery in our Colonies at the enormous sacrifice of twenty millions sterling, which, although to our immortal honour it was made cheerfully, was always an indispensable condition to that great measure, as long as respect for property acquired and held under the sanction of British law is to characterize our proceedings. But that indispensable condition no other nation but England is able, even if disposed, to fulfil; and we may be assured that distinctions such as we are now carrying out, will never detach other countries from their abominations. On the contrary, they will be the more rivetted to them by their national pride; they will not be dictated to by us as to their morality or their interests, any more than we should submit to similar dictation from other countries. Supposing that the United States, or Brazil, or Spain, were all at once to express their horror at the system prevailing here, and to say, 473 "We have read your blue books and the speeches of your philanthropists—we have seen the woodcuts and Pictorial Reports laid by your own Commissioners of Inquiry before Parliament—we know the dreadful labour that the people in your mines are compelled to perform—we have heard of the immorality occasioned by men and women working together nearly naked in your pits, and that, although you pass laws to prohibit dogs drawing in carts, you have permitted your children to be harnessed to trucks, and on all-fours to drag their loads in darkness and fetid atmosphere—we have read how mothers are separated from their families in factories, how children of the tenderest age are worked beyond their strength, and how the average duration of life is shortened. We know all this from your own official Reports, and we are determined to put an end to this sordid and disgraceful barbarity. Don't tell us that it will ruin your manufactories, and expose your artisans to starvation—manage about that as you can—what we insist upon, and without delay, is a ten or an eight hours' Bill for adults, and no women or children in factories, otherwise we will receive none of your cotton goods—we will have none of your manufactures—we will pass stringent laws for the protection of our own—and if we cannot produce enough, we will take them from Germany or Switzerland, of which countries, we know, indeed, very little, and have made no inquiry, but we have been told that labour is there exceedingly light, and performed in the way most agreeable to the workman." Now, I will ask if such language would differ very widely from that with which, mutatis mutandis, we have for the last twelve months become familiar at home; and whether if it were so addressed to us it would be likely to have the effect of coercing us into humanity — whether our national pride would not unite with the interests of our manufacturers and our capitalists, and at once reject such insolent interference with our domestic affairs? And we may rely upon it that the same feelings will be generated in other countries—that they will seek to find the means of retaliation—that they will pass prohibitory laws against our manufactures, and defeat our laws, by sending to us, directly or indirectly, the articles we prohibit. I yield to no one, either here or elsewhere, in sincere and earnest desire to see the iniquitous traffic in slaves finally extinguished; but I wish 474 that the part we take towards it should be one likely to produce success; as I contend that measures which render it absolutely a point of national honour with slave-trading countries to persevere in the traffic, can only be attended with failure. The means we have already pursued for thirty years to repress the trade, have been proved by experience to be powerless, notwithstanding the lives that have been lost, the millions that have been spent, the constant risk of quarrel with other Maritime Powers, and the universal obloquy and misrepresentation to which our sincere and disinterested humanity has exposed us; we have unfortunately succeeded in nothing but in rendering the Slave Trade a smuggling one. We have not checked the demand, we have not diminished the supply, but we have incalculably augmented the horrors of the middle passage; and it is no exaggeration to say, that in order to supply the losses by death on the passage, or by captures at sea, twice as many Africans are now kidnapped and torn from their homes as when the trade was free, and the miscreant shippers of these cargoes, for their own sakes, treated their victims with greater humanity. Having so failed, notwithstanding the assistance we have more or less received from Foreign Powers in our attempt, we now give out to the world we will discourage the trade by such laws as that of last year, and the one now on your Lordships' Table; and by its enactments we inform the people of Cuba, that we will ourselves consume none of their sugar, unless it is sent to us fraudulently by way of Louisiana, but that we will sell and refine as much of it as we can with advantage to ourselves. We tell them, at the same time, that we will consume, ourselves, all their copper ore, the production of which carries with it far more deadly consequences to the slave, than that of sugar. We, at the same time, take all the slave-grown coffee and tobacco of the United States, where a Slave Trade, if possible more appalling than the African, is daily carried on—where the slaves are bred for sale and for rapid consumption by excessive labour—where they are more civilized than in Africa, and more acutely feel the severance of those ties which they are permitted to contract — where this revolting system is exalted by the highest authority of the country into a domestic institution—and where recent circumstances lead us to fear that it is destined to be indefinitely extended. I say, then, that as this will not 475 only be the practical working, but is our own exposition of the law, it is impossible that in any quarter of the world we can obtain credit for sincerity, having in reality done nothing to constitute the smallest claim to it. Had we determined to grow tobacco at home, or import it from those countries in Europe only where it is produced—had we determined to rely upon the East Indies for our supply of cotton—had we said to the Government of the United States, "It is true that by our Treaty with you, we are bound to receive all your slave-grown sugar, or the sugar of other countries that you may chose to send us as yours, but we are so determined to set our faces against the production of slave labour, that we give you the stipulated notice of a twelvemonth for the Treaty to cease;"—and had we then and for ever closed the doors of our warehouses and the works of our refineries against slave-grown sugar—had we addressed ourselves to the Governments of Spain and Brazil, and in a manner not offensive to their national honour, offered to make a bargain with them, and in exchange for a bonâ fide extinction of the Slave Trade and the gradual abolition of slavery, to admit their sugars upon the same footing as those of our own Colonies, and if those Governments had refused to listen to us—then, indeed, after having given such practical proofs of sincerity, we should have been justified before the world in making any distinctions we pleased. But to proceed as we are now doing, is really to cast a stain and to stamp hypocrisy upon the character of this country, where I firmly believe there exists more honesty, more morality, and a more ready acquiescence in sacrifices to carry out a principle, than in any other country in the world. It is damaging the great cause in which we have so nobly taken the lead; it is a delusion so thinly veiled, that notwithstanding our professions of philanthropy — notwithstanding our pharisaical thankfulness that we are not as other men are, all mankind must see that in reality we mean nothing all the time but protection to our West India Colonies. Into the question of protection, whether it be a great principle, as it has lately been called elsewhere, or a great nuisance, as I cannot but consider it, either in its application to the Colonies or to ourselves at home, I shall not now enter; but if there be anything in the condition of the West Indies, arising either from the abolition of slavery, or the deficiency of 476 labour—any peculiar burdens or obligations imposed upon them—anything unavoidably defective in their mode of agriculture, or repulsive to capital and enterprise—any reason, in short, which should induce the people of this country to forego an abundant supply of a necessary of life, and to submit to heavy taxation for the maintenance of those Colonies, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government, in my humble opinion, to make up their minds upon those various points, and then to lay their conclusions fully and fairly before the country, in the certainty that on the part of the public there would now be no more disposition than there was twelve years ago to shrink from any sacrifice that can be justly called for, either to indemnify individual loss, or to sustain our Colonial Empire. But we should then know what we really are about; we should know at what cost we retain the West Indies, and what prospect there was of that expense being diminished or otherwise adjusted. But to continue year after year, upon pretences which are not true, tampering with great interests, producing fraud and confusion, loss to the Revenue, and little or no benefit to the consumer, is a course so impolitic and so ill adapted to the wants and wishes of the country, that the universal belief in the temporary character of the present arrangement is not to be wondered at. Nothing, indeed, has fallen from Her Majesty's Government, and nothing has passed in the debates of the House of Commons, to induce a belief that this law was likely to be permanent, or consequently to lead us to doubt, that before the expiration of the renewed lease of the Income Tax, some better measure, and one more calculated to last, will be introduced; for looking at the fact, that in 1844 we consumed 15,000 tons less sugar than in 1835, notwithstanding the increase of our population and wealth—bearing in mind, too, the statement of the noble Earl, that the annual consumption of sugar per head in this country now amounts to only 171bs., which is 12 per cent. less than it was ten years ago, and 30 per cent. less, I believe, than it is in some of our Colonies—remembering also how all evidence goes to prove that the consumption of sugar might be enormously extended with equal benefit to the Revenue and the public, I am convinced, that upon a fair and equitable adjustment of the Sugar Duties, we must mainly rely for ultimate relief from that odious tax to which your Lordships 477 on Friday last reluctantly gave your sanction.
said, he had so often addressed their Lordships in reference to the subject to which the noble Earl had alluded, that he would cheerfully abstain from speaking at large upon it, since it must be only repeating arguments and topics which had been exhausted by himself and others. But there were one or two things which he desired to note in the speech of the noble Earl, lest he should be supposed to acquiesce in them, in respect to the policy of this country—he hoped it would be its permanent policy—of refusing to make such a reduction of duty, generally, upon the importation of foreign sugars as would give access to our markets to sugars grown in the colonies of countries—not where slavery existed; that was not the question—but in the colonies of those countries which refused to abolish the African Slave Trade, or which, pretending to abolish the African Slave Trade, still underhand continued that infernal commerce. This was a distinction which must be kept in mind in all arguments respecting slavery and the Slave Trade. If a country had property in slaves, and by its laws, domestic or municipal, protected such property and the existence of negro slavery, we had no right to interfere with the internal policy of such a State. We might lament such a condition of things—we might blame those who maintained it; but, on the other hand, he (Lord Brougham) was not one of those who would ever visit too harshly the conduct of such Foreign Governments, and thus act inconsistently with the recollection of what had recently been our own conduct. He would not say, pharisaically, "We are purer than you are; we have abolished slavery; why do you not follow our example?" and for this obvious reason. When he had heard it said, "Why does not America follow the example of England?" the answer presented itself immediately, that it was because she did follow our example too closely that America was cursed with the pest of negro slavery. It was not what our example had been in Middlesex and Yorkshire; but what our example had been in Jamaica and Barbadoes. Would negro slavery have been abolished in Jamaica and Barbadoes if those Colonies had been left to themselves? He had heard a speaker at Exeter Hall, who, giving him credit for reasonableness, and even memory, had exhibited not the slightest sense of jus- 478 tice, say, "Americans, I despise you; why do you not follow the blessed and pious example of England?" But if Barbadoes and Jamaica had been left to act as they pleased, they would not have abolished slavery to the end of time. Middlesex and Yorkshire, where not a slave exists, might easily abolish it; not so the islands where there are seven or eight blacks to one white. Therefore, when he expressed his sorrow and even reprobation of the United States for continuing slavery, it was not for their not abolishing slavery as soon as we did; but it was for the language which their authorities held on the subject, in crying up slavery instead of crying it down as a flaw and pest of society which they ought to get rid of if they could, that he blamed them. To talk of it as a sacred institution—to talk of cherishing it, instead of putting themselves in the way of getting rid of it—to cling to it and to take a pride in it, and to hold it up as if they were proud of it, and gloried in it—(he spoke of a certain part of the people of the United States)—to keep millions and millions of their fellow-creatures in the bondage of slavery without a hope; and then to hold up another principle, namely, that it was their right and high privilege to conquer the neighbouring nations for the purpose of extending into their valleys the blessings of self-government, as they called it; at the same time to hold up to the admiration of themselves and their fellow-citizens domestic negro slavery as a cherished institution, and to talk of their country as the only country in the world in which true freedom was enjoyed by mankind—was an inconsistency, a shameless misstatement of the facts, an injustice, and an inhumanity, for which he blamed the agitators among that people. That being his opinion, he so far went along entirely with his noble Friend behind him (Lord Clarendon); but he differed with him as to the extent of his objection with regard to excluding sugar, not from slave colonies and countries, but from Slave Trade colonies and countries. He had no right to refuse to introduce sugar from foreign nations, because it came from a country where it was the fruit of slave labour. He was sorry for the existence of slavery in that country, but its existence gave him no right to say, "I won't traffic with you so long as you cultivate sugar by slaves." But it was a very different thing, when he was called on to give his sanction to the introduction of 479 sugar or any other produce from a country which, instead of growing it by the labour of slaves already in that country, grew it by the labour of slaves imported from Africa, which infernal traffic he might thereby increase. For, then, by every hogshead of sugar that he allowed to be imported into this country more than came in the year before, he increased the demand for slaves in Brazil and Cuba, and that demand could only be answered in one way—by bringing over more slaves from Africa. If by bringing over Brazilian and Cuba sugars he doubled or trebled the average consumption of 17lbs of sugar a head in this country—not gradually, in which case the demand would be met by the natural course of cultivation and improvements in Colonial agriculture, and by increased industry and production, and by the natural increase of population, and there could be no objection to it—but suddenly; that sudden increase could be met only in one way, namely, by the sudden and rapid increase of the Slave Trade. We took the coffee of Louisiana, where slavery existed, under a Treaty. But there was much difference between the cultivation of coffee and sugar. It was true the cultivation of rice was notoriously unwholesome everywhere; but sugar was the cultivation of all others which was most cruel to the negro; and when they talked of the evils of slavery and the Slave Trade, they had regard of necessity to sugar, and to sugar alone. The letting in slave-grown sugar meant, and could practically mean, one thing only—the sugar of Brazil and Cuba; for there can come none other. Then it was said the Slave Trade was abolished in North America. To their great credit they preceded us in that. We abolished the Slave Trade of our own Colonies in 1807, and made its continuance subject to a penalty. This was found only to alter the letter of the law, as persons ran the risk of the pecuniary penalty for the chance of the great profit they might secure. To remedy this, in 1811 slave trading was made felony by his (Lord Brougham's) Act. America in the same manner had put down this trade first by tine, and then by making it felony. It was not to be denied, that when any country had a number of slaves, and that when some districts were favourable to breeding slaves, and others were not, a commerce of the most abominable character was thereby created, and that, as was said, the civilized negro felt greater pain at his sale and 480 transfer. That was a strong additional argument for abolishing slavery; but unhappily so long as slavery existed they must allow such intercourse and commerce to take place between different parts of the same country. It existed in our own Colonies as long as slavery existed. But he totally denied that this was as bad as the African Slave Trade. Could any man who ever heard of the horrors of the slave ship and traffic; of the wholesale murders committed for the purpose of forcing or kidnapping the negroes on board a ship; and, above all, of the wholesale massacres committed on board ship in the countless horrors of the middle passage—could any man of ordinary reflexion and reason put those horrors on the same footing with the intercourse between different parts of the same country? For these reasons, he was of opinion that they could not refuse to take the produce of countries merely because that produce was raised by slave labour, and that they not only could, but ought to refuse to take the produce of slave-trading countries, because the increased demand could only be met by increasing the amount of the slave traffic. It was not any argument to say we were inconsistent in our humanity for taking the sugar of the Brazils and Cuba, and refining it in this country in order to re-export it, because it did not increase the slave traffic; it only increased our own traffic and manufactures at home, by bringing the sugar refiners to this country instead of their carrying on the same trade in Holland or Germany. Upon these grounds, apologizing to their Lordships for even touching upon a subject which had been already, both by him and others, completely exhausted, he was obliged to differ from the view taken by his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon); and although he was ever ready to extend all the relief that could be given to the suffering people of this country, by the reduction of duties, yet he fervently hoped that no change would ever take place that might endanger the principle of a discriminating duty which could in the smallest degree increase the horrors of the African Slave Trade. The position to be ever borne in mind was, that though by shutting out Foreign sugars you seemed to shut out out the produce of countries that had abolished, as well as those of which still continued the African traffic; yet, practically speaking, you did no such thing, as all that can come must be from Cuba and 481 Brazil, the great patrons of the Slave Trade.
§ Lord Monteagle
had on a former occasion suggested that the Bill now before their Lordships should be printed previously to the discussion of its principle; and he rejoiced that it had been so printed; yet he was afraid it had not been read by all their Lordships. By one it was evident it had not been read; for the defence which he had just heard from his learned Friend was of some imaginary Bill, and could not, he conceived, be intended as a defence of the Bill on their Lordships' Table. The whole argument was a defence made on the assumption that some very different Bill from the present had been introduced, founded upon different principles, and wholly irreconcileable with any one of the principles of the measure of the Government. Much ingenuity and much eloquence had thus been expended by his noble and learned Friend to recommend a Bill to their Lordships, but which, unluckily for his purpose, was not the Bill then upon the Table. Undoubtedly the arguments to be urged on this occasion would vary considerably if the provisions of the Bill were such as had been stated by his noble and learned Friend; but he (Lord Monteagle) would show that the provisions were of a totally opposite character. He agreed with his noble and learned Friend—indeed it was part of his (Lord Monteagle's) case—that this country had no right to interfere with the municipal arrangements of other countries; and therefore, that their Lordships' legislation ought to be directed against slave-trading countries, but not against countries which use slave labour. And the argument of his noble and learned Friend was founded upon the mistaken hypothesis, that by the provisions of this Bill, the produce of those States by whose authority the Slave Trade was carried on, was to be subjected to high discriminating duties. It was no such thing. This Bill did not even name the Slave Trade. The Bill prohibited another and a very different thing. It prohibited the introduction of sugar into this country, not as being the produce of countries which traded in slaves, but us being the produce of countries which used slave labour. These two things were entirely different. By the second clause of the Bill, Foreign sugar, not being the produce of slave labour, was admissible into this country at a low duty. Under the strict construction of this clause we might 482 admit sugar from countries in which the Slave Trade was carried on at the low duty, if it could only be proved that the sugar in question was not the produce of slave labour. Although the whole of the ingenious, powerful, eloquent, but inapplicable arguments of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had been directed against slave trading, yet it would be seen that there was not one single word, from first to last, in the Bill, in which the question of slave trading was referred to. If the argument of his noble and learned Friend was at all applicable to the present question, it would show that the admission of sugar from the United States of America ought to take place, not by virtue of reciprocity treaties, but because the Americans had abolished the Slave Trade. One great objection to the policy of the Government was fully admitted by his noble and learned Friend's argument; for he condemned all intermeddling with the internal affairs of other countries — he had most justly objected to prying inquiries into their institutions—he had protested against our adoption of a principle that would not be tolerated if it were attempted to be applied by foreigners to this country; and which, if applied to other countries, this country had no means of following out to its legitimate consequences. Suppose that Brazil should abolish slavery and substitute apprenticeship, which, though not slavery in name, might in substance be worse than slavery itself, Brazilian sugar might claim admission at the low duty. Could this country say to Brazil, "Although you have abolished slavery, still we think that in your state of apprenticeship there is still left so much at which humanity recoils, that we will not receive your produce under favourable conditions, but will subject it to a high distinctive duty?" To carry out such a principle, it would not only be necessary to inquire into the state of the internal law of the country with which we traded, but into the mode of its administration. But that was an interposition which no country valuing its independence would submit to. In reference to the speech of his noble Friend (the Earl of Dalhousie), no statement could be more fair, more clear, or more satisfactory. It was delivered with such temper and such moderation, that if he (Lord Monteagle) were inclined—which he was not—it would be impossible for him to convert this into a debate involving any party feeling. It was most unfortunate that great commercial questions should ever 483 become matter of party conflict; because all questions affecting the great commercial interests of the nation, and involving the accumulation and distribution of wealth, and bearing upon the profits of one class and the wages of another, ought to be impartially and dispassionately considered. It would be obvious to every one who heard him, that this measure of the Sugar Duties was the main financial measure of the Session. Now, as there was a surplus in the present year, supposing no repeal of taxes to take place, he confessed it did appear to him advantageous that some change in the Sugar Duties should be amongst the alterations proposed; and it further appeared to him that Ministers being disposed to have dealt with it at all, were bound to deal largely with this branch of revenue. If they had made a small reduction, even such a change would have been a benefit so far as it went; but, as they had made a large reduction, he was all the more satisfied. He only wished the reduction had been made in a wiser manner, so as to secure augmented consumption and increased revenue. It was a fact well worthy of notice, that in the case of sugar, price and consumption bore towards each other nearly a constant relation. The quicksilver in the barometer was not more uniformly under the influence of the atmosphere than the consumption of sugar was under the influence of its price. The most trifling changes of price manifested themselves in their effects upon consumption. From the year 1826 the changes in the price of sugar acted upon the consumption of that article during each of the ten succeeding years, with the exception of 1835. On these grounds, then, he would repeat, that a change, however small, would be a good, so far as it might go; he should also say that the bolder the measure was, the better, provided the change rested upon sound principles. Those principles rested wholly upon an increase of consumption. If this were not secured, a gratuitous sacrifice of revenue was made. It must be remembered that the change now under consideration was one which affected the public Revenue to an enormous amount; the Sugar Duties formed one-tenth of the whole ordinary Revenue. Ministers in bringing forward such a proposition anticipated fiscal advantages of a considerable amount; in which, however, he was afraid they would be eventually disappointed. Nor was the importance of the subject to be measured 484 only by the amount of the Revenue; the value of the consumption was about 13,000,000l. or 14,000,000l. — the least proportionate reduction of price on such an amount would, therefore, be a great benefit to the community. But this depended on increased production, or at least on an increased supply, either from our Colonies or Foreign countries. Before he proceeded further, however, he wished to guard himself against any misapprehension. He wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not contend for anything like a perfect equalization of duty at the present time, between Foreign and Colonial sugars. So long as labour in the West Indies was inadequate to Colonial wants, he did not think that it would be just to the Colonists to put those two descriptions of sugar upon the same ground. He, therefore, for the present, conceded the principle of some distinctive duty. This, it might be said, would not apply to the sugars of the East Indies or the Mauritius; because in those countries the argument of a want of labour could not be urged. The case of the West Indies rested solely upon the difficulty of supplying the demand for labour; but though this was the case, he was unwilling to retrace our steps, and again to make any distinction between the sugar of the Hast and the West Indies. On the contrary, although the argument in support of protection to the West Indies did not apply to the East, still the principle of perfect equality towards all our Colonial possessions was so indispensable to be preserved, that he would not sacrifice that principle for any peculiarity of circumstances that might otherwise distinguish one portion of those possessions from the rest. But the question now immediately to be argued was the admission at different duties of sugar the produce of free labour, and of sugar the produce of slave labour. It was on this ground that the differential duties under this Bill rested and were defended. This, it is said, was justified by humanity; but it should not be forgotten that a differential duty existed in favour of the West India Colonies very long before the abolition of slavery by this country; how was it possible, then, to believe that other nations would attribute the discriminatory duties now proposed to a desire on the part of this country to put an end to slave labour? Would they not attribute them more naturally and more consistently to a desire of maintaining a Colonial protection? The noble Lord then 485 proceeded to contend that by this Bill we should be precluded from entering into new Treaties containing the most-favoured-nation clause. If the Brazilian Minister were now to tender us a Treaty containing that clause, we should be bound to reject it if we retained the principle of the present measure. For the first time, we were restricting ourselves in freedom of negotiation. But the most strange anomaly was to be observed in the inconsistency which pervaded their entire proceedings respecting the duties on Colonial produce. How could they go on taking cotton, coffee, tobacco, and, above all, metals, the produce of slave labour, and so strenuously object to take slave-grown sugar? His noble and learned Friend had argued that the cultivation of sugar was so much more deadly, so much more fatal to human life and happiness than all other employments, that it represented within itself the worst species of slavery. But how did that argument stand as regarded the production of metals? Was it not a matter of perfect notoriety that the labour of slaves in the mines of slave countries was by far the most severe and unhealthy labour that could be endured. A noble Lord (Lord Strangford) who had now left his place, but who was formerly the Minister of this country in the Brazils, had cheered and given his marked assent to an observation respecting the greater intensity of the labour of slaves engaged in mines, when compared with those working on sugar. Now, they had been diminishing the duty on metals both in former years and in the present; but, according to the views of the framer of this Bill, so far as this acted on slave labour, they must have been doing so most cruelly and unjustly. What right had they to reduce the duty upon metals, and then turn round and contend for maintaining the duties upon sugar? He was willing to believe, for his own part, that noble Lords were sincere. He did not attribute bad motives to them; but if he were a foreigner, he doubted whether he should be so candid. On the contrary, he should be disposed to say to the Cabinet, "You are maintaining distinctive duties upon sugar, because you are interested as planters in the production of British sugar, and you abandon the duties on metals because, as British manufacturers, you are interested in obtaining a supply of the produce you require to increase your commercial wealth." He now passed on to 486 cotton; and with regard to that article he could cite an authority which could not fail to have weight with their Lordships, and to prove conclusively that the reduction of the cotton duty, or, if no reduction had been made, the admission of cotton at the old duty, was inconsistent with the principle of this Bill. If any one contended that the importation of cotton did not promote slave labour, he would remind them of the words of Mr. Huskisson in 1822, who said, "Every ounce of the cotton consumed was produced by the labour of slaves in the United States and the Brazils, and the demand for cotton was one of the main causes why the Slave Trade still existed upon the latter station in so dreadful a degree." On the authority of Mr. Huskisson, therefore, cotton cultivation aggravated, if it did not produce, the Slave Trade in Brazil. But he would go further. As far as the Bill encouraged the admission into a new market of any portion of foreign free-labour sugar heretofore absorbed in the general markets of the world, in that proportion must it raise the price of the whole article, both slave-grown and free. Suppose, for example, a foreign country were to make analogous distinctions as regarded the parts of this country where our manufactures were produced. Suppose they were to say that in Lancashire the workpeople are well paid and properly treated, but in Yorkshire the manufacturing population were dealt with inhumanly and cruelly. Suppose that such a foreign country were to enact, consequently, that bales of cotton goods should be admitted from Lancashire at a low duty, but at a high duty from Yorkshire; if, under this state of things an increased export of 100,000 bales of cotton should take place from Lancashire? — was it not obvious that a rise in price in Yorkshire must be the consequence, and thereby a stimulus be given to the very description of labour which it was the object to discourage? But, in addition to prohibition and absurd discrimination, there was complexity of the worst kind introduced in this Bill. He believed that there were no fewer than seventeen rates of duty applicable to different kinds of sugar. It had been said that there had been no complaints at present on that head; but he believed he could satisfactorily explain the cause of this satisfaction which was said to pervade the commercial world. The Bill had been materially altered since he first introduced the subject at the commence- 487 ment of the Session. The East India Company took alarm. The petitions of the East India and China Associations were presented; and he now held in his hand the original and amended Resolutions, by which it most clearly appeared that "a change came over the spirit of the dream" of the Government, and a more satisfactory solution of the question had been arrived at. But at what expense? The result had been a sacrifice of the small surplus revenue upon which the Government had depended to realize the calculations of their Budget. The noble Earl stated that a sample was to be provided, and that all references were to be made to determine the quality of every importation in colour, in granulation, and in saccharine matter. By raising this standard far above the sugars likely to be imported, the Government had practically abandoned their principle, and in so doing, had sacrificed the estimated duty receivable on white clayed sugars. They were commercially right, but financially wrong. Their contemplated plan and test would have been wholly impracticable. If any one thought it possible practically to enforce such a test with accuracy, they must have recourse to an enlightened artist to determine upon colour; next, to an experienced sugar broker to determine upon granulation; and, lastly, to a chemist, to go through some of the most laborious and delicate processes in his science, to determine on the genuine state of saccharine matter. Year after year Dr. Ure had performed experiments on this subject, not in the long room of the Custom-house, but in his own laboratory, with all the appliances of science surrounding him; and it proved to be one of the most difficult investigations that could be carried on by a scientific man. Perhaps it was intended to decide the matters as at a University examination. It appeared that so many marks were to be given for colour, so many for granulation, and so many for saccharine matter; and if the whole amounted to 100, the sugar might come in at the lower duty; but if the marks chanced to amount to 101, the higher duty would be enforced. When the duty was a fixed one, it was the interest of the importer to bring in the finest quality; but pass this Bill, and the case would be altered; then he would be guided by your Parliamentary standard; he would ascertain how much molasses he might leave in the sugar, would regulate it by that standard, and so defeat your Bill 488 as a revenue measure. The revenue calculations were, that of the higher priced sugars, white clayed sugar, or sugar equal to white clayed, 70,000 tons of British Plantation sugar, and 15,000 of Foreign clayed, were to come in; or, in other words, that out of a supply estimated at 250,000 tons, 85,000 tons were to be of the higher description. But if all the British sugars were admitted at 14s. the difference of duty as between the higher and the lower duties would be lost; and it might have been something like an anticipation of this result which led the late President of the Board of Trade to estimate the sacrifice of the Sugar Duties at a higher amount than his late Colleagues. Now, if that sacrifice of revenue did take place, the small surplus of 100,000l. would be converted into an absolute deficiency. So long as the principle was adhered to of drawing a distinction between the produce of slave labour and of free labour, he feared it was impossible for them to augment the supply until after the lapse of a series of years. He believed that a series of years would effect that; because, from the best information he could obtain, he believed that a vastly increased supply might hereafter be expected from India. The import of sugar from the East had augmented tenfold, and during the last few years upwards of a million of duty had been received from India — a faint promise of what that part of the British dominions might accomplish hereafter. The noble Lord concluded by saying that, if by any means within our power we could put an end to the Slave Trade, he might not consider any sacrifice too great that they were called upon to make; but he objected to the Bill because he believed that no fiscal regulations could effect this important object. Without attaining this object, the interests of the Revenue and of the consumers would alike be sacrificed. The title to the Bill might be very properly altered from "An Act to grant to Her Majesty certain Duties arising from Sugar," into, "An Act for the Perpetuation of the Income and Property Tax."
said, that he could hardly feel surprised that even all the ingenuity of which the noble Lord was master, should have failed of introducing anything of novelty into the discussion of this question; nor did he imagine that he himself could impart much of that character to the observations he was about to make. He must in the first place, however, call upon their Lordships to bear in mind the great ad- 489 missions the noble Lord had made with respect to the principles on which this Bill is founded. With respect to the comparisons which had been instituted between the proceedings of the late and the present Government, the difference was this—that the Government were dealing with a country in a state of distress, and now they were dealing with a country in a state of prosperity; then they were dealing with a deficit, and now they were dealing with a surplus—and the question was how they were to dispose of it. His noble Friend had admitted, that of all the articles upon which a reduction in duty lowering the price would tend to increase the consumption, and consequently the comforts of the lower classes of the community, sugar was that which was most immediately affected by a slight reduction, entering as it did into the consumption of the poorest. His noble Friend had admitted, that if there were a surplus revenue, and it were intended to reduce duties, no article in the Tariff could be selected with greater propriety than sugar. His noble Friend had further conceded, that the Government had acted wisely in securing the advantage of the reduction to the consumer, and taking care that it was not absorbed by the retail dealer by making that reduction on a large and not on a small scale. But his noble Friend had gone further, and admitted that if by this measure real substantial discouragement could be given to the Slave Trade, a temporary sacrifice in regard to price was desirable for the promotion of so great an object; and that if he could agree with the Government that such discouragement as they anticipated would be given, an increased price of sugar would be a sacrifice the country ought properly to be called upon to make. Further, he had admitted that the West India Colonies had a claim to protection for this reason, that we have substituted in those islands, by our own legislation, a system of free labour for one of slave labour. [Lord Monteagle: On account of the deficiency of labour.] But that deficiency in labour had arisen from our act. It was the effect of our abolition of slavery. It was that that had made labour artificially dear in the West Indies. Comparisons had often been made between the relative cheapness and dearness of free labour and slave labour; but he held it impossible to make comparisons of the kind without taking into account the circumstances of the 490 country in which that labour is to be exercised. In an old country like this, for example, where the population were pressing beyond the means of employment, free labour might be found cheaper than slave labour, and might compete with slave labour without disadvantage. But comparing the price of free labour with slave labour in Colonies like the West Indies, it required no argument to prove slave labour the cheaper, because, by concentrating itself in one spot, it prevented that diffusion of labour which tended to augment its price. Therefore, it was the substitution of free for slave labour which had made labour there artificially dear. The same argument did not apply to the East Indies; but his noble Friend had admitted that the East and West Indies could not be placed upon a different footing. With respect to the East Indies there was no country which, in justice, humanity, and policy, had a stronger claim for protection in their articles of export than those immense territories dependent upon the British Crown. Under your government—you regulating their trade and controlling their industry — their manufactures had been destroyed, to be supplanted by your own. Year after year there was an enormous drain from that country into this. They had this article, sugar, which only required the application of British capital to secure an inexhaustible supply from a source wholly unobjectionable; and at the moment when, by this measure, discouragement was given to the Slave Trade, a stimulus was given to that branch of industry in a part of our dominions which most required temporary protection. His noble Friend objected to this measure, because, as he had said, there was gross inconsistency in the whole proceeding—that cotton, coffee, and other articles, the produce of slave labour, were not refused, but that sugar was selected and fixed upon as the sole and only article to which the principle of exclusion was to be applied; and that no human being would give credence to sincerity in such a proceeding. Now, take the article of cotton. He (Lord Stanley) did not pretend that when the demand in this country rendered the introduction of an article positively indispensable — when the refusal of that article would plunge the country in all the horrors and confusion resulting from the derangement of the greatest branch of our industry—that the whole manufacturing interests should be sacrificed to the object 491 of imposing an indirect discouragement upon slavery. But because they hesitated to take the frightful step of refusing to admit cotton—because they hesitated to stop all the mills, and put an end to the staple manufacture of the country—because they refused to commit this inconceivable absurdity, were they to be told that they acted with hypocrisy and inconsistency, when, in a case involving no such ruinous consequences, they did submit to a temporary and not inconsiderable sacrifice, for the purpose of carrying out their own views, and imposing a discouragement upon the continuance of the horrors of slavery. He did not pretend to go so far as his noble and learned Friend who had left the House, in saying that they would not be justified in applying discouragement with reference to the produce of countries in which slavery existed, but only to countries in which the Slave Trade was carried on. But the result of this measure was, that they did apply discouragement practically, and, on the whole, in the very way urged by his noble and learned Friend. All the world knew that the object of the Bill was not to prohibit the importation of sugar from the United States, Venezuela, or countries where a mitigated slavery existed; but to prohibit its importation from Cuba and Brazil, where not only did slavery exist, but it was fed by a constant stream of slave importation, and where sugar was the main object for which slavery itself and the Slave Trade existed. How were they to judge where slavery was carried on? It had legally no existence in Cuba and Brazil. If they chose to draw this distinction, that they would admit sugar from countries where slavery existed, but where the Slave Trade was prohibited, they must immediately admit sugar from Cuba and Brazil. The noble Lord said they were inconsistent in admitting slave-grown sugar to be refined in this country. But by the importation of sugar from Cuba and Brazil to be refined, not one pound was added to the consumption of slave-grown sugar. The carrying trade and manufactures of this country were encouraged, and that was all. If the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government were not a discouragement to Foreign slave-sugar, and an encouragement to free-labour sugar, why did noble Lords opposite complain that Brazil and Cuba were so ill treated? Were they not interposing by its provisions a real and substantial impediment to the progress of the Foreign 492 Slave Trade? If they did not propose to exclude or discourage slave-grown cotton and coffee, there was no ground for arguing that they were merely encouraging slavery and the Slave Trade. The more you could, with the same population, increase the production of cotton and coffee in any country, the more effectually would you discourage the cultivation of sugar, which was the most laborious, and that for which slave labour was most essential. His noble Friend objected to the Bill, because by it they were binding themselves by the legislation of foreign countries. Now, though the Bill was in its character temporary, and its enactments annual, it was the object of Her Majesty's Government to indicate clearly and distinctly the principles on which they proposed to proceed, and the terms on which merchants, British and Foreign, might be invited to enter into the sugar trade. They proposed to lay down, not as an experiment for the year, but as the principle by which they were to be guided, the rule of protection to British against Foreign sugar, and to free against slave-grown sugar. His noble Friend suggested that Brazil might introduce something in the nature of an apprenticeship, and asked how they would deal with that case when it arose. He feared they were very far from seeing anything like the introduction of an apprenticeship in Brazil; but this he said, that if that country bonâ fide and honestly suppressed the Slave Trade, and as a proof of its sincerity in doing so abolished the institution of domestic slavery, and thought it necessary at the same time to introduce some temporary provision which might to a certain extent restrict the liberty of its subjects, such a course of policy ought fairly and generously to be taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Government, with a view to the introduction of some relaxation in the law; and they were not precluded by the terms of the Bill from so taking it into consideration. His noble Friend said, the classification to be established would be of a most complex character, and that there would be seventeen different denominations of sugar. His noble Friend might have said so if he pleased, as to the rates of duty; but the fact was, that there would be only three denominations of sugar — one more than now existing. His noble Friend said that every hogshead introduced must be made matter of scientific examination and chemical analysis. He (Lord Stanley) would 493 venture to say that not one out of ten thousand that were imported would create the smallest difficulty or impediment, or raise the smallest doubt in the minds of the Custom-house officers. It was true, that as under the present law there were some descriptions of sugar which approached so nearly to refined sugar that they had been actually refused admittance, questions might also arise approaching so nearly the confines of the duty, as to lead to doubts whether one or two shillings more ought by the terms of the Act to be imposed on the sugar. But the great bulk of the import would be admitted without any difficulty whatever. In 1841 the Government of the day had found it necessary, pressed by the impossibility of admitting the sugar of Cuba and Brazil on the same footing, to introduce a third scale of duty—the very thing for which Government was now censured. In order that no doubt should exist as to the intention of the present measure to arrange the duties, according to quality as well as colour, we here introduce the words "equal to white clayed in quality." His noble Friend opposite admitted that the principle on which they proceeded was a fair one; that they had chosen a proper article; effected the reduction of duty wisely; adopted properly the principle of protection to British industry, and properly put East and West India sugar on the same footing; and having made these concessions, he objected to some points, from apprehensions which he himself entertained, but which the Custom-house officers did not, or from doubts which he threw upon the accuracy of the original Estimates made by Ministers. These were admitted by his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Dalhousie) to be matters of little more than guess-work, excepting as regarded this important point, that they had, by their introduction of Foreign sugar, secured to the people of this country an adequate and more than adequate supply, and that at a very moderate and reduced price. When the present Government came into office, the price was 37s. a cwt., and a year before it had been at 40s., 40s., and he believed even 58s., without the duty? The late Government said they should succeed in all the objects of their measure, if they could secure an adequate supply at a price of not more than 59s. duty paid, or at the rate of 6d. per lb. What was the case now? They had secured to the people of this country a supply of sugar in the present 494 year exceeding by 100,000 tons or upwards the largest consumption which had ever taken place in this country. In the face of this measure, the price of sugar had not risen but fallen—at this moment the average price was certainly not higher than 30s. per cwt., the consumer had obtained the full benefit of the reduction, and with this state of the market, there was a supply exceeding by one-third the largest consumption ever known. So much for the present; and his noble Friend admitted that by the principle they had followed in encouraging the production of sugar in the East Indies, they had provided for future years an annually increasing supply. If they had relieved the consumer by diminishing the price, and secured an adequate supply, giving a guarantee against any increase—if they had obtained a prospect for the future of a yet further fall in price, and a more abundant supply to meet an increased consumption—he asked the House not to stultify the course which Parliament had pursued, to render vain the noble sacrifices made by the people of this country, or to abandon the principle laid down by the Legislature of waging war against the continuance of the Slave Trade, but to maintain a constant determination to exclude slave-grown sugar from competition with free grown. By so doing they might be certain of obtaining a most abundant supply of this commodity from unobjectionable sources, and would pursue a steady and consistent policy, in furtherance of all the principles and interests of humanity.
§ Bill read 3a and passed.
§ House adjourned.