HL Deb 28 May 1861 vol 163 cc149-51

said, that seeing the noble Duke the Colonial Minister in his place, he wished to call his attention to a matter which, in his opinion, was at the present moment one of the greatest possible importance; he referred to the growth of cotton in our various Colonial possessions. He would abstain from alluding to one part of the subject, because it would lead him, however unwilling, to make some observations on that very lamentable state of things existing in the United States of America, and which filled him and all friends of peace and freedom with sorrow; but he considered it had become absolutely essential, independently of those events in America, that Her Majesty's Government should promote by every means in their power the growth of this great staple; and he would urge upon his noble Friend the importance of losing no time in recommending the different Colonial Governments to encourage by all means in their power the growth of cotton in the districts under their control. He had received from Jamaica samples of cotton which had been submitted to persons of known skill in this country, who had pronounced them to be the finest sorts they had seen, and they had fixed the price so high as to show that the cultivation of cotton in that island would be highly remunerative. They said that this cotton would in the market be worth 1s. per lb.; but even if it should not be worth more than 6d. per lb. its cultivation would be profitable, if, as he was informed, they could on one acre of land in Jamaica, at an expense of £8, grow 600 lbs. of cotton, that would produce £15. He had been furnished with all the items relating both to the cultivation of cotton and to the expenses attending it, and he found that all the expenses would not exceed £8 an acre. There could be no doubt whatever that, with due encouragement, cotton might be grown to an unlimited extent in our colonial possessions—not only in Africa, but in the East Indies; and he looked forward with confidence to the time when those countries would be capable of furnishing the supply necessary to this country. He wished to ask the noble Duke whether the Government proposed to hold out any encouragement to the growth of cotton in the British possessions?


would first remind his noble and learned Friend that he had not observed the usual custom of giving notice of his question; but as he was in a position to give an answer at once he had no objection to do so. He could assure his noble and learned Friend that the Government—not only the Colonial Department, but also the Indian Department—had not neglected the important question of the growth of cotton. But the real difficulty was not to find districts that were suited for that staple, but to find districts where there was an adequate supply of labour to allow it to be produced at a remunerative price. The noble and learned Lord, in alluding to Jamaica, said that that island was capable of producing large supplies of cotton. He (the Duke of Newcastle) was aware that in Jamaica there was land capable of producing the finest qualities of cotton; but he was by no means clear that it could produce those large supplies that his noble and learned Friend suggested. His noble and learned Friend asked whether the Government proposed to offer any encouragement for the growth of cotton. If the noble and learned Lord meant anything in the shape of a bounty, then most undoubtedly they were not prepared to adopt any plan that would be so prejudicial to the object they had in view. If the noble and learned Lord's statements were accurate—but he feared they were not—if they were accurate, and cotton could be grown for £8 and sold for £15–100 per cent profit—surely that could be encouragement enough in itself. The Government considered that the best encouragement they could give would be by facilitating the introduction of Coolie labour into such of the British colonies as had land applicable to the growth of cotton; and with this view he had sought the sanction of the Indian Government to the removal of the restrictions now existing as to Coolie labour, and under new regulations Queensland would be able to participate in these advantages. "When those restrictions were removed, and ample supplies of Coolie labour was introduced the various colonies would have the opportunity of trying the experiment of growing cotton.


entirely agreed that no encouragement of a pecuniary nature, and no forced encouragement of any kind should be given. Lord Canning's despatch on this subject laid down the true principles most soundly and discreetly; to encourage by increasing information, but above all to remove every possible obstruction, was all that Government either could or if it could, ought to do.

Back to