§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, it was his intention, in as few words as possible, to state to the Committee the circumstances attendant upon the very import ant question which it was his duty to submit to the House. In approaching this subject, in preference to the other orders on the paper, it was not from any want of feeling with regard to the great importance of the subjects to which they refer; but considering the nature of the question which he had to introduce, he was bound to say that he felt the highest sense of gratification at its having fallen to his lot to offer the present explanation. When he considered the great number of years that had elapsed during which the equalization of the sugar duties had been earnestly sought for, and urged upon the Legislature —when he considered the number of petitions which had been presented on the subject—when he considered the great interests involved in the discussion—he thought if hon. Gentlemen had adverted somewhat more carefully to the magnitude of the question, they would not for a single moment have interposed, but would have given their preference to this matter above all other Bills before the House. This important subject had not only occupied the attention of the House on many previous occasions, but there was scarcely a great mercantile community within the realm that had not made an appeal to Parliament in reference to it. There was not a single individual in the House, who had not recorded, by his speeches or by his vote, his assent to the principle of equalization; but still, from year to year, and on grounds which he was the last person to question, but which, on the contrary, he admitted to have been just, the consideration of the question with a view to bringing it to an effectual and final issue, had been postponed. Under these circumstances he did not feel himself called upon to argue at any very great length in favour of the general principle involved in the proposition which he was about to submit. He was rather called upon to show—what the circumstances were which had heretofore pre vented the adoption of the motion which he apprehended would now be no longer 725 opposed—that of not only assimilating those duties, but also of freeing parties from those restraints which on former occasions were imposed upon them in growing sugar in the East Indies. He would state to the Committee the position in which the case stood with reference to former discussions; be cause, in respect of this, or any other measure on the subject of discriminating duties, when presented to the House, not only the expediency of the measure should be proved—not only should it be proved fit for general adoption, but it should be shown that it is a wise application of a just principle; and that the adverse interests— for there must be adverse interests—have no just right to complain. On this point, however, he should not carry the Committee further back than the year 1834. At that period, when the question of the sugar duties was brought forward by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, my noble Friend, Lord Spencer—in consequence of a suggestion by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Ewart), that from and after that period the duties on East and West India sugars should then be equalized —upon that occasion his noble Friend said:—He was well aware of what was due to the West Indians, and was inclined to give them that due, and all that they required was time to see the working of the Act passed last Session with reference to the West-India colonists. He thought it would not be advisable to increase the pressure on the latter Colonies until the effects of that measure were seen. He repeated that the present proposition was merely for a temporary purpose, and he hoped the House would agree to it."✶Lord Spencer's opinion was, that it was only a question of time; and he stated he was ready to admit, as regarded the general principle of discriminating duties, that they could not be defended on any just grounds. Upon that occasion the right hon. Baronet (the Member for Tamworth), with great justice and strong feeling, laid down the general principle which ought to be applied to this branch of Finance. His right ton. Friend said:—He hoped that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ewart) would persevere in his intention of submitting the present highly important subject to the grave consideration of the House, in order that they might clearly understand the situation of the parties interested in its adjustment. As far as he could comprehend its bearings, an✶Hansard's Parliamentary Debates,(third Series,)vol.21, page 947.726act of greater injustice towards the natives of India could not be done, than to continue upon their produce the unequal rate of duty at pre sent levied. Although an attempt to establish discriminating duties between two countries might not by the one aggrieved be considered as an open declaration of war, yet it would not fail to make that country regard the attempt as a marked indication of hostility. The house might, at all events, depend upon it, there was a growing intelligence in the natives of India, that could not fail to make them feel most keenly the degree of favour shown to the West India colonists in comparison with that ex tended to them."✶And the right hon. Baronet added—He was disposed to agree with the noble Lord in thinking it might be inexpedient at the present moment, to add to the difficulties of the West-India 'planter, by proposing any change; but he at the same time thought, that those whose capital was invested in East-India securities, had a right to know whether the present unequal rate of duty on the produce of that country was to be kept up."†Such were the words of the light hon. Baronet, and they displayed the highest wisdom; because if it were true, as undoubtedly it was, that the establishment of discriminating duties was not a measure which could be justly resorted to between nation and nation in amity, he trusted that no Gentleman in this House —though possibly they might not feel themselves bound to the inhabitants of Hindostan by the same ties which connect them with their immediate constituents— would be disposed to reject the feeling that it was our bounden duty to give to the King's subjects in Hindostan the same full measure of justice which any foreign country, in amity with this empire, was entitled to demand from us. He had read the speech of the right hon. Baronet on the occasion in question, because he thought that in a few powerful sentences it embodied the whole principle upon which Parliament ought to act, and it would be for him to show that he was prepared to apply that general principle in a manner consistent with justice and with prudence. His object in referring to these past trans actions, in reference to the question, was to show that nothing like surprise could be charged against him;—and addition ally, to make this apparent, he should briefly allude to a speech made at the same time by the noble Member for North Lan-✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, (Third Series) vol. xxi. p. 947, 948.†Ibid. (Third Series) vol. xxi. p. 951.727 cashire, who then represented in the House the Colonial-Office, and who, in addition to his being officially bound carefully to watch over the important interests of our colonies, was peculiarly connected with this subject, by the glorious measure which he had the year before been the instrument of conducting through Parliament. His noble Friend, on that occasion, referred more especially to the point, that full notice would be due to the parties before any such measure as this should be passed. His noble Friend's words were these—The feeling which every Gentleman had expressed upon the subject of freedom of trade, and more significant than all; the strong hint conveyed by the decided opinion expressed by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth against any protection being afforded— would give sufficient notice to those parties in the West Indies, that they must not expect a continuance of those duties in their favour." ✶His noble Friend considered this sufficient notice, and he was of the same opinion. In the course of the last Session of Parliament he had stated his opinion of the general principle. He stated then, that he thought it better to defer the alteration of the duties rather than to violate an under standing, although not accompanied by any specific declaration. That was the way in which he put the question last year. Two years ago it was distinctly stated, that Parliament was disposed to consider the whole of the circumstances attendant upon the equalization of these duties; and last year specific grounds,—only applicable to that, year, prevented the House doing so. These grounds no longer existed. Under these circumstances it was, that he felt himself bound to proceed with the question of the equalization of these duties. He should like to know whether there was any peculiarity in the circumstances of the times which ought to arrest us in the progress of this measure? In the first place he would ask, with reference to the West-India Colonies, whether any difficulty had been thrown in the way of the payment of the compensation under the Slavery Abolition Act? On the contrary, so far from this being the case, he was sure that the parties interested would readily admit, that at any hazard, at any inconvenience, at any trouble, Government had taken measures to provide funds to meet this purpose be fore they could possibly be called upon to✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, (Third Series) vol. xxi. p. 951.728 pay the demands of the West-India proprietors; and that not a moment's delay, which could be avoided, had interfered between the time at which the payments became due, and their being met. He would ask, had that measure failed? Had the public expectation, in reference to it, been disappointed? On the contrary, he was enabled to state, that even on the part of those who entertained the least confidence in that measure, the result of it had been allowed to be more successful than was anticipated for it by its most ardent advocates. He should now proceed to advert to the mode in which it was proposed to carry this measure into effect, assuming, as he justly might, that the time was come at which this question must be finally settled. There were two modes, only, in which the subject could be discussed;— the one turning upon the question whether the equalization of the duties should take place at once; and the other, whether it should take place by gradual steps? It was urged on the part of the West-India planters, that the change should not be made suddenly, and all at once, for that they ought not to be subjected to competition with sugar grown in more advantageous soils; and that the equalization should take place by gradual steps, Parliament following, in this respect, the course which had been adopted with safety and utility in other cases. In short, it was suggested that the East-India sugar duties should be reduced so much per cent, per annum, until gradually they arrive at an equality with the West-India duties. He was ready to admit that there might be some plausibility in this argument, and that there were many cases in which a principle, however useful, should be applied gradually; but he was prepared to say, in reference to the present subject, that after the fullest consideration of all the case, and after communicating with all the parties connected with it, the determination of his mind was, that it would be for the interest of all, that the alteration should be immediately carried into full operation. He was convinced that if he approached the subject in any other spirit, he should not only be conferring no protection on the West-India planters, which would be of any importance to them, but should at the same time be throwing discouragement in the way of those who are disposed to advance capital and enterprise in East-India commerce, a step which would be productive of great 729 and permanent injury. In order to make out his case, he should lay down the general principle, that if there were any result of a useful nature attainable by natural means, it were a mere absurdity to interfere by an Act of Parliament, for the purpose of producing a like result. That being an admitted principle, he was in a condition to prove, applying it to the present subject, that though these duties would be immediately and absolutely altered, yet the competition which the West-India planters had reason to apprehend from opening the market would be but gradual. If this were the case,—and he knew that it was,—the result which that interest seemed to think they could only gain by a gradual equalization of these duties, would be attained by natural means, without the interposition of any law; and he therefore thought that natural means were the only ones to which we were entitled, in this instance, to look. Gentlemen most conversant with the subject of sugar produce in the Eastern colonies, were all of opinion, that without a very extended additional growth of sugar there, the quantity of sugar which they could immediately bring into the market would not be materially increased for some time. The raw material of sugar in India was in itself a very perishable commodity, and could not, therefore, be kept for any length of time. Moreover, it was produced by the natives of the country, who, being extremely poor, could not afford to keep any great stock, even if it were not so perishable a commodity; nor, further, could there be any great stocks kept up in India, where the rate of interest of money was so very high. This circumstance, in itself, was sufficient to deter persons from entering very largely into the business there, merely upon the speculation of an Act of Parliament, which might, at a future time, be passed upon the subject of their commodity. Even in cases where an alteration in the price of sugar calls for but a slight increase in the produce of sugar, it takes a long time to get together any such in crease in the raw material. To increase to any extent the growth of sugar in India, it would be necessary to increase the number of plantations; and these could not be established in a day. An extended growth of sugar could not be effected except by the application of British capital and skill; and applied, too, for the purpose of improving machinery for the manufacture of sugar. All this must be a work of time; 730 the new competition could but slowly come into operation. On these grounds then, he thought it unnecessary to propose a graduated reduction of duty. Would it not be a hardship on the East-India interest, if Parliament were to say, that discriminating duties should exist for the remainder of the term of negro apprenticeship,—or that the duty should only be reduced by steps during that period,—because the effect of that course would be, that during that whole period the great object of embarking capital in India would be defeated? No person would like to advance his capital under such circumstances; when circum stances were fluctuating from day to day, the equalization of duties should be immediate; and in that case, capital would be embarked accordingly. Though he did not admit, that the West-India interest, was entitled to the protection which they asked, yet there were matters in respect of which they were entitled to protection. He said that there could not be a greater fraud in legislation, than would take place, if the House were to enact a new law, under which law foreign grown East-India sugar should be introduced under the colour of being the produce of the British East-India colonies. What act of justice would it be to the people of Hindostan, if sugar could be introduced from Siam, or other places, into India? This country owed an act of justice to its subjects of Hindostan; but it owed no such act to the inhabitants of Siam. We had to take especial care that the limits of our legislation should be the limits of the actual justice of the case. The first and most obvious protection as regarded the West India interest, and which it was well en titled to ask was, that no East-India sugar should be imported, into this country with out a certificate of origin, and a certificate of origin was more likely to be genuine in India than anywhere else; because, in as much as the revenue system of India extended over the whole face of the country, and was connected with the territorial payments, it would not be difficult to get from the officers of the district a certificate connecting the sugar not only with the place at which it was produced, but even almost with the name of the person who produced it. It would not be difficult to accompany that sugar with a certificate as to the port at which it was to be embarked, and it would also not be difficult to get from the competent officer of the port a document to show that the sugar imported 731 here was the identical sugar grown in the British possessions in India. His first principle was, that a certificate so guarded and so particularised, should accompany all sugar imported into this country. But this was not enough—justice required that they should go further; because all the provinces in India did not grow sugar, and those which did not should he allowed to receive sugar, the growth of foreign countries, or else that circumstance would influence the market. But then, as foreign sugar might be imported into those places in the East, where sugar was manufactured, and exported from thence as domestic produce, it was necessary to guard against that fraud. He said, therefore, that the West-India Colonies had a just right to be guarded in this way; and he was the more justified in this proposition, in consequence of the law which had been imposed on them. If the Mauritius, for instance, were allowed to import coffee into this country, it was not allowed to import foreign coffee. The West Indians, then, asked for a protection just in its principle, being one to which they had themselves been subjected already. But a most extravagant request had been made, namely— that all India should be prohibited from receiving foreign sugar. Now, that proposal needed only to be mentioned to carry its own defeat with it. It was said by Peter Plimley, in one of his letters—" Brother Abraham, whatever you may have heard to the contrary, Ireland is bigger than the Isle of Wight." So he might say, that India was larger than any sugar island. Bombay, for instance, did not grow sugar. In admitting that, on this score, the West-India interest had a right to protection—which those most eager for the opening of the sugar trade in India are quite ready to acquiesce in—he felt bound to state that these were the most broad and general terms upon which it could be accorded. He should therefore propose that, into those districts of India whence sugar is imported into this country, the importation of foreign sugar should be prohibited; but that there should be permitted a free importation of foreign sugar into other parts. This would have the effect of not disturbing the exportation trade in that part of India whence the supply of sugar was likely to come, and would reserve the whole principle which the West-India interest had a just right to demand. There was another branch of the subject upon which he wished to say 732 three words—he alluded to the subject of bounties—[An hon. Member: Draw backs, I suppose.] Well, he would use the term "drawbacks;" but as to draw backs or duties, or by whatever name they should most properly be called in Parliament, he wished to say, that he did not consider the present state of the law upon the subject to be satisfactory. He believed the whole of this part of the subject required revision; but he did not mean, on the present occasion, or in the Bill he proposed to introduce, to make any change in the drawbacks. He thought it, however, proper to state, that the subject was under the consideration of his Majesty's Government; and if he continued to fill the office which he now had the honour to hold, in the next Session of Parliament he should consider it to be his duty to call the attention of the House to it. He was the more anxious to avail himself of the interval, because he wished to see the effect of the equalization of duties upon the sugar of India. He would further observe, the House must be aware, that of the high discriminating duties, the consequence or tendency was, that only the best description of East-Indian sugar was imported. But put an end to those discriminating duties, and there would be various qualities of East-Indian sugar introduced; and an opportunity given of then ascertaining what the effects of these drawbacks would be. He would say a few words more, and then close his observations. Hon. Gentlemen who had done him the honour of attending to him, would perceive, that if the certificate of origin were required —and required it ought to be—the effect of the Resolutions, or rather of the Act of Parliament to be hereafter founded upon them, would be, that it would only act upon cargoes introduced from India under the provisions of the Act. This was a matter of strict justice; because, if they applied the rule at once to East-India sugars now in warehouse—inasmuch as the high discriminating duty only had reference to the highest quality of sugar— it would be most unfair were they to allow those sugars to be entered for consumption at the lower rate of duty. He had now stated to the House the principles upon which, in justice to all parties, he felt himself called upon to act—he had stated his decided opinion to be in favour of immediate equal ization—he had stated why he thought the discriminating duties should no longer exist—he had stated the nature of the pro- 733 tection which he considered due to the West-India interest, and the mode in which he considered that the measure might, without difficulty, he carried into effect. He trusted that when the House came to a rote on this subject it would be remembered how long and how anxiously this measure had been desired and prayed for on the part of the rising population of Hindostan; that every account which had been received from that country showed that its intelligence, its knowledge of what concerns its own interests, and the true relations which exist between it and the mother-country, strengthen daily; that a knowledge of our institutions and of our language was constantly extending in Hindostan; and that, finally, such a measure as this would he gratefully received by the people of India as a pledge, that the Parliament of Great Britain knew their interests and were anxious to promote them; and that though there were no actual Representatives of India in this House, yet that there were in it men who entertained an anxious wish to promote the happiness and prosperity of their fellow-subjects. Such a measure| as this, too, would give great satisfaction to the great commercial communities of our own country, who had over and over again applied to Parliament through their Representatives in this House to do justice to India, and by so doing to promote the best interests of the commercial world. He thanked the House for the indulgence with which he had been listened to, and he begged to move, "That towards raising the Supply granted to his Majesty, the following duties shall be paid on the importation of Sugar on and from the 5th day of July, 1836, for a time to be limited, and under such regulations and conditions as shall be provided by any Act to be passed in this Session of Parliament, namely:—
Sugar, viz.— £ s. d. Brown, or Muscavado or clayed sugar, not being refined, the cwt. 3 3 0 —, the growth of any British possession in America, and imported from thence, the cwt. 1 4 0 —, the growth of any British possession within the limits of the East-India Company's Charter, into which the importation of foreign sugar may be prohibited by law, and imported from thence, the cwt. 1 4 0 —, the growth of any other British possession within those limits, and imported from thence, the cwt. 1 12 0
Molasses, the cwt. 1 3 9 — the produce of and imported from any British possession, the cwt. 0 9 0 Refined, the cwt. 8 8 0 Candy, Brown, the cwt. 5 12 0 —, White, the cwt. 8 8 0
said, he thought that the general wish of the House was, that any discussion upon the details should be deferred till a future stage. There had been an understanding on the part of the hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, who had been present, that it would be more for the general convenience of the House that no debate should arise that evening; but in abstaining from a discussion, in this instance, he felt himself placed in a difficulty principally arising from the speech of his right hon. Friend, who had dealt so largely, and had expatiated so much upon the importance of showing to the people of Hindostan that as they were not represented in that House, there were, nevertheless, in it those persons who took an interest in their welfare, and were prepared to protect their commercial interests; and that right hon. Gentlemen had so carefully avoided all such allusions with reference to the West-Indians, that it became the more incumbent on those who felt an interest in our West-Indian possessions, to show that there were also persons in Parliament who felt a deep interest in that population—a population which was equally unrepresented, in that House with that of Hindostan. The people of the West-Indies were more particularly deserving of care and attention, because they were emerging from a comparative state of barbarity to a state of complete civilization. Yet not with standing the inducement to enter upon a discussion, he would forbear entering into the subject at any length. He thought, however, that they had some little reason to complain of his right hon. Friend for having proposed his plan at so late a period, seeing that when they should come to the consideration of the next stage of the proceeding, they would not have the opportunity of giving the question that sober deliberation which ought to be applied to it. This was the great difficulty in the case, for it was not merely a question of reduction of duty, or one of general principle only, as it was one which imposed the consideration of those various details upon which must mainly depend the successful working out of the plan of his right hon. Friend, for they were essential to the fulfilment of this object. And yet they were to be 735 called upon in the course often days, or less, when they should go into Committee, to enter into all the minute details as to certificates of origin, which were required to carry out the object in view, and which the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted to be essential to the proper and due execution of his plan. He confessed it did appear to him that it would have been much better that they should have had more time to enable them to judge of those details; and if, therefore, he made this matter of complaint on the present occasion, he was sure his right hon. Friend would not suppose that he did so from a wish to raise any factious opposition, or to interfere with the conduct of the public business of Parliament; but this, he repeated, he did think, that those details required much grave deliberation. Nothing was so difficult as to establish a satisfactory system of certificates of origin; and yet on the proper arrangement of that and the other details, the success of the whole working out of the question must hinge. One point more he would refer to, and he would not go further. He begged to reserve to him self the full right to discuss every part of these resolutions, and of looking with every possible jealousy at an arrangement by which sugars, not the produce of Hindostan, might be brought into this country; and he did so because, agreeing as he did on the general principle with which his right hon. Friend had opened his speech, he had his fears that this would not be a matter of free competition as between the East and the West India interests. But be had apprehensions of danger on a point to which his right hon. Friend had argued generally, but to which he had not sufficiently adverted—he meant as to what might be the moral effect of an arrangement of this kind being come to by the Parliament at the present moment, when the great measure of West-India Slave Emancipation was in progress of execution. He would say, that the moral effect of all this might be, to alarm those who entertained exaggerated fears of the consequences of the measure on the one hand, which fears were exaggerated by those on the other side, who took an exaggerated view of the benefit to be derived from that experiment. But, though he was of opinion that both parties deviated from a just view of their own interests, yet he could not undervalue the moral effect which this view would produce in the West-Indies, where it was most necessary that the minds of those who 736 were most interested should not be distracted or annoyed by views of pecuniary interests; for they would militate against the success of that great experiment. Believing, however, that it was not the intention to go into the discussion, he thought he should best comply with what appeared to be the wish of the House, by forbearing to say anything further.
§ Mr. Hume
was anxious to avail himself of the first moment to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the proposition which he had brought forward. He had a few nights since presented a petition, which was agreed to at one of the largest public meetings ever held in Calcutta, and one of the prayers contained in that petition was, that sugars, the produce of India, should be introduced on the same footing as those the produce of the West Indies. He considered that this was an act of justice which had been too long delayed; but he received the intimation of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with pleasure, and as a pledge of the policy which his Majesty's Government intended to pursue. He accepted this measure, as an act of justice to India, and he hailed it as the commencement of other equalizations of duties, as suggested in the petition to which he had referred; and which further equalizations he should on the 29th bring under the notice of the House. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in speaking of India, and of allowing her produce to be admitted into this country, no doubt, was anxious to do justice to the inhabitants of Hindostan; but he (Mr. Hume) looked also to the advantages which would accrue to the consumer; but he did not think, that the very stringent regulations which had been proposed were called for. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Goulburn), had expressed his regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had brought forward this motion at so late a period; but he (Mr. Hume) thought that the Government had acted wisely in not giving an earlier intimation of what their intentions were. There was one point, however, to which he considered it only fair he should allude. Now, while there existed ample grounds of complaint in the East Indies, still, there the people were allowed to receive food from every part of the world; whereas, in the West Indies, they were shackled by 737 innumerable restrictions and penalties in this important branch of commerce; and he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be doing equal justice if, while giving to the East Indians the means of competing with the West Indies, he should refuse to the West Indies, the privilege of obtaining their food from any and every market, and thus continue to support a most unjust monopoly. The hon. Member concluded by adverting to a petition which had been presented to his Majesty from Canada, in which they sought for the facilities of free trade.
§ Mr. Ewart
joined his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, in thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this wise and just measure. He thought the West India interest had no right to complain, for the protection given to them by the Bill was, in his opinion, sufficiently strong1. That protection was threefold:—First, the right hon. Gentleman would not allow foreign sugars to be imported into those portions of India from which Indian sugar was exported — a strong measure certainly, somewhat uncommercial in its character, and one which nothing but the necessity of the case could justify; secondly, by requiring a certificate of origin; and lastly, that the sugar now here should not come under the new regulations as to duty, because it was purchased under the expectation that it would have to pay the regular duty. With these three restrictions he thought the West-Indian interest might well be content. He hailed the general measure as one of justice and wisdom, and promoting an enlightened spirit of free commerce. By promoting the cultivation of sugar in the East, and by inducing capitalists to invest their capital in such an undertaking, they would also be the means of promoting the cultivation of the important articles of cotton and tobacco, for which the adjacent soils to that in which the sugar cane was grown were exceedingly favourable; and thus, as had already happened with respect to indigo they would give another great impulse to the prosperity and welfare of the British empire in the East. He hoped that Government would also take off the duty on pepper, and place rum made in the East Indies on the same footing as that made in the West. Indeed this seemed as a natural corollary of reducing the duty on sugar and encouraging the cultivation of the sugar cane. The 738 article of cotton was likely to become a very important article of cultivation in the East Indies. Some specimens of East-Indian cotton had made its appearance at Liverpool last year, of very superior quality, and if properly encouraged it was not impossible that our colonies in the East might be enabled to compete even with the United States in supplying England with this important article of her commerce, and fertile source of her commercial prosperity.
had only one observation to make. He did not think that the hon. Member for Liverpool, in the excellent remarks which he had made, had stated the case so strongly as he might have done, in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Cam bridge University, who apprehended some dangerous moral effects from the adoption of this measure. The West-Indian interest had been long prepared for this; and they had 20,000,000l. given to them as a compensation for the abolition of slavery; and during the discussions on that question it was frequently stated, that the people of England would never consent to pay this large sum unless the duties on East-India sugars were equalised as an equivalent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had put a clear bonus into the pockets of the West-India proprietors; for he believed that estates in those colonies were now more valuable than they had been. For his own part, he was one of those who congratulated the House and the country on the introduction of the present mea sure. Indeed, this was an exceedingly right step.
§ Mr. Patrick Maxwell Stewart
did not rise to complain of the proposition of his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, especially as he understood that the important details would be discussed on a future occasion; but he did complain of the manner and tone in which it had been introduced, because it came with a startling effect on not only the West-India, but also the East-India interests, who certainly did not expect it would be brought forward in so sweeping a manner as was proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had noticed the warnings which had been given by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and he admitted, that they had been received as warnings that these alterations would be made; but there were particular circumstances which were specially to be 739 considered. The West Indians were, in consequence of the Act of Emancipation, restricted in supply of labour, and saddled with the cost of all their labourers, though they performed only limited labour. "What the West Indians understood—and he appealed to his right hon. Friend if such was not the case—was, that they were to be prepared for a graduated process of reduction. He admitted, indeed, the reasoning of his right hon. Friend, that, practically speaking, such an arrangement might not lead to any good. He admitted the new light which had been thrown out, that it was right to come to a conclusion on the subject, if he conceived that a graduated system would deter the application of capital and skill from being embarked in West-India property. With regard to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. O'Connell), he had reiterated the observations which he had before made on the subject of the twenty millions grant to the slave proprietors. Now he believed it was a generous and a fair settlement of the question, and he must express, as he always would do, his gratitude for that grant. But then his interpretation of the matter was, that it was a bargain on both sides; and when he was told that the public lost the twenty millions, and that they had given a bonus to the West-India proprietors, he must deny it. Again, the value of estates in the West Indies was not what it had been, and estates might be purchased at a very reduced rate; and property was torn to pieces by the fervour of the one side and the folly of persons on the other. He wished to ask the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer two questions, in order that there might be no mistake, as, unless the matter were clearly explained it was more than probable that some such apprehension would arise. First, it was said that with regard to the stuff of East-India sugar now here, this principle was not to apply; and the principle ought not in fairness to apply to any produce or sugar of India now coming home even under certificates of origin. This should be distinctly under stood in order to allay misapprehension, if it should arise; and it should be also distinctly understood and provided for, that India was not to be an exporting and importing country at the same moment. Now, there was another point. The West Indies were subject to certain restrictions, which amounted to a positive prohibition of 740 commercial intercourse with the United States. Now be begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he was prepared to restore that communication direct and uninterrupted as before? He was aware it might be objected to on many grounds, and that, though amounting to a heavy burden on the West Indies, it was part of the late colonial system. But if the free trade system were to be introduced—if the protecting duties on West-India sugar were to be reduced—then it was but fair that the trade and commercial intercourse of the Western colonies should be as free and unrestricted as those of the East. This was a part of the bargain on which the West-Indies must insist. This was more important now, for the Americans, having formerly taken a great deal of our West-India produce, were forced, by the commercial restrictions imposed on them, on their own resources of cultivation; but, after various experiments, they had found that their climate was not suitable, and if the restrictions were removed they would, in all probability, become the principal customers of the West Indies. Such, indeed, was the state of colonial productions amongst the Americans, that they had become great buyers of these productions in the markets of the Spanish colonies of the Continent, and even of this country. He was quite sure the House would see, that in the principle of free trade it was impossible that they could allow any remaining restriction on the commerce of the West Indies with America, however sanctioned by length of time, or any other feeling or opinion whatever. If this were not granted what what would be the result? America would resort to Cuba, and foreign colonies who were ready to receive her produce in exchange without restriction. If the advantages now possessed by the West Indies in respect to the supplying of the mother country were taken from them, they had a right to claim, on the other hand, those advantages which they could obtain for themselves from American intercourse; and this they asked, not as a been but as a fair and equitable adjustment, and as the only fair and equitable adjustment to which the House could come. Waiting, therefore, for the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to these two points, he had nothing more to say than that this arrangement, if carried fairly and justly into effect, would be, in his opinion, productive of the greatest advantages to the East Indies, and would 741 be an act of justice to our colonists generally, between whom no distinction ought to be made, when the competition between them was conducted upon a fair and just footing.
§ Lord William Bentinck
said, he believed that there would be no difficulty in the system of certificates of origin.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
was glad to hear the first part of his hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster's speech, because it was couched in the spirit consonant with his general kindly feeling. As his opinions on the subject were well known, hon. Gentlemen must be aware how deeply anxious he had been for a long time to effect the removal of the differences in question. But at the same time he had always considered that there had been much exaggeration upon both sides. He believed that the alarm of the West Indians was entirely groundless with regard to the possession which they might have of any monopoly in this country; and also that the expectations entertained on behalf of the East-Indians had been greatly exaggerated. The change of system introduced into that country, which would enable British capital to be employed, and British industry, energy, and intelligence to be exerted, and from which they might confidently anticipate that great advantage would result, was but of late origin. His hon. Friend, the Member for Lancaster, had completely understood his right hon. Friend in supposing that, with regard to all sugars, the produce of the East Indies, now in this country, the alteration would not apply; certificates of origin would be required, and no sugars now on their way from the East Indies could be admitted at the reduced duty—nor indeed any which might be on their way for a considerable time, that is to say, till the provisions of the Act should be known in that country. He was surprised at the extreme length to which his hon. Friend went upon this subject; he seemed to adopt what he had not always been ready to adopt—the principles of free trade, and to carry them to rather a wild extent. When his hon. Friend said, "because you are prepared to equalise the duties on West and East India sugars, therefore, you are to sweep away all remnants of the old colonial sys tem," he certainly did seem to have very wonderfully changed for a very small cause. Did his hon. Friend think, that because they were effecting an equalization of the duties, they were doing away with all pro- 742 tection to the colonies? The resolution showed the contrary; for it said that foreign sugars should not be admitted under a duty of 3l. 3s. per cwt., while West and East Indian sugars would be admitted at II. 4s. per cwt. Was that no protection to the colonial interests? Then again did his hon. Friend propose to sweep away the navigation laws, as applying to our East and West Indian possessions? His hon. Friend might, in deed, say that he was not prepared to do that; but still, that he claimed for the West Indians that they should be put on the same footing as the East Indians, with regard to what they imported for their own consumption. Now he had given much attention to the subject; he had heard many complaints made upon it, but he had always found that the parties from whom they emanated had not stated the facts of the case correctly. If they had established their case, he should always have been ready to do everything in his power which they required; but he had found that in almost every case of that kind which they had adduced, their facts had failed them. His hon. Friend said, that they would be satisfied with nothing less than the positive removal of the duties to which the West Indians were subject; but surely it was necessary to look to the interests of the colonies as well as those of the mother country. The only articles on which he had been able to find that the West Indians paid any higher duties were lumber, staves, flour, and articles of that description, coming from our North American possessions; and on that point he could answer his hon. Friend, having brought in the Bill of 1831, on which the whole of the settlement existing in reference to it were based,—which Bill had been left pretty nearly in the state in which it had been introduced. That arrangement had been made at the request of the West Indians themselves, on the principle that it was not advisable for them to be left entirely dependent on the United States, but that a trade in those articles so essential to them should be encouraged with our North American possessions. This, however, was not a well-founded principle, as experience had shown. In former years they had been dependent on the United States; and the United States, thinking that they must necessarily continue so, had imagined that we should be obliged by their prohibiting the export of the articles in question to these colonies, 743 to concede to them certain propositions, which were contrary to the law and spirit of the policy of this country. A commercial warfare was carried on for four or five years, and the West Indians had been found to benefit considerably; at last the existing arrangement had been made, with the concurrence of the West Indians, for their interests especially, and for their interests he believed that it now continued. His hon. Friend, however, now complained of it, and if it were thought by the West Indians that it was not for their interest that the arrangement should continue, let a proposition to that effect be made—let the question be fairly considered, and he for one should be happy to give it his best attention. But there was no necessity on that account to delay the present measure. It should be borne in mind, too, that, in one respect, the West Indians had a decided advantage over the East Indians— they could import all British articles free of duty, while the East Indians paid a duty of 2 ½ per cent, upon them. They might say indeed that, although the East Indians paid 2½ per cent, on all imports of British articles, the average of the duties paid upon all imports into the West Indies was higher. If his hon. Friend would bring forward any particular tax in illustration of that assertion, he should be happy to give it his full consideration. He would turn now to what had fallen from his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex. His hon. Friend had said, that this was the beginning of a sys tem—that they were putting East Indian produce on the same footing with West Indian produce, and that it would be unjust if they did not remove the differences existing in other duties. He called on his hon. Friend to show him any articles in which there was a difference existing—with the exception of two— tobacco and spirits. As to the first, he had always contended that that was not an article to which they ought to look with any consideration as to the duty to be levied on it—that it was one which could not find its way from the East Indies here, if it were not favoured. He had himself removed the inequalities of duties existing on sixteen articles, including cotton wool, to which his hon. Friend had adverted; so that those articles were now admitted at the same duty from all British possessions. His hon. Friend had alluded to the high duty 744 existing on pepper. He would admit, that the duty was a very bad one, and he should be happy if the state of the revenue would allow of an alteration; he had had it under consideration, and he had been deterred from attempting it only by the sacrifice of money which it would occasion. He hoped, however, that before the lapse of any long period, he should be able to try an experiment upon that duty. He was glad to find, that the pro position of his right hon. Friend had been so well received by the House; the only exception to the general favour with which it had met, had been afforded by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn), but if there were any serious objections to the measure, he, for one, should be ready to discuss them with fairness and candour.
Mr. William Crawford
rose to remove the alarm which his right hon. Friend opposite seemed to entertain with respect to the introduction of foreign-grown sugars, under the change about to take place in the law. He would make one observation, which would, he thought, be conclusive on the point. There was in India but one port of export from which India-grown sugars could come—the port of Calcutta; and the history of that port did not afford an instance of the introduction of foreign sugars, for such a step would indeed have been "carrying coals to Newcastle." The certificate of origin could without difficulty be so managed as to preclude the possibility of imposition in that respect. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in the views and explanations which he had given in respect to the time at which the East-Indian sugars would be admitted at the reduced duty. It would be satisfactory, perhaps, to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, to know that a period of nearly two years would elapse before any British-grown sugar from India could come in under the certificates of origin which the Act would require.
said, that it was hardly fair on the part of the right hon. Gentle man to taunt him with not opposing the resolution, after he had specifically risen on the understanding which had been thought to prevail — that it was not in accordance with the inclinations of the House that a discussion should take place, so many Gentlemen having expressed a desire that the other business of the even- 745 ing should be brought on. He did not mean to say that he should oppose the Bill, — he should examine it with the tranquillity and care which the question deserved. But if he were to be taunted with not entering into the discussion be cause he endeavoured to forward the views of the House, very little encouragement was held out to hon. Members so to act in future.
§ Mr. P. Thomson
explained, that he had merely observed that the right hon. Gentleman had not detailed the reasons of his objection.
§ Mr. G. F. Young
said, he would not have risen but for the observation of the hon. Member for Lancashire. He had been surprised to hear him refer to the present measure as a relaxation and breaking up of the colonial system, and call on the Government, in consistency, to sweep away the navigation laws and all the other arrangements for colonial protection, and by which, in fact, the West-India Islands were at present held. When that question was brought more regularly before them at a future period, he would be pre pared to show that the protection which those ancient laws extended to the navigation and the colonies of the British empire was but a fair equivalent for many restrictions imposed on those interests, for the general benefit of the State, and that the whole system had been arranged with regard to the reciprocal rights and interests of various parties. The subject would be very imperfectly discussed unless a general vote were taken on the merits of the whole system of our commercial relations.
§ Dr. Bowring
hailed the proposition with great satisfaction, as evincing a regard for the interests of the community.
§ Mr. Pease
avowed that he took a considerable interest in the welfare of 100,000,000 of his fellow subjects, and could not help feeling that a difference of twenty per cent, on prime articles of their produce was too serious to be overlooked. His hope was, that the legislature of this country would give all its colonies fair play. He believed that they would best consult those distant interests, under all the circumstances in which they were placed, by giving them every fair chance of competition. He thought that the Government could not have offered the commercial interests of this country a more advantageous been than the present liberal and equitable measure promised.
§ Mr. Phillip Howard
must thank the 746 Government for the Bill before the House. He was happy to find that it was not made a party question. He thought the West India proprietors would have but little to dread for some years to come from this change.
said, that the produce of the West Indies in sugar last year was much less than that of former years, yet they had received a million more than they did the year before, but that million was a, tax on the people of this country. He wished that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had gone somewhat further in his labours for their relief. He anticipated that the time would soon come when it would be necessary to relieve them of the tax on sugar altogether. He could assure the House that the merchants of Brazil were very much dissatisfied with our prohibition of their sugar and coffee, and had declared that if we continued our exclusive policy of keeping out all the produce of their soil except cotton, when the time of the present treaty expired we might expect to see a very high duty placed on every article of British manufacture admitted there.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
re plied, and stated that his intention in bringing forward the present measure was simply to place the produce of the West Indies on an equality with the East. He had studiously taken care to protect the West-Indian planter, and while doing justice to the East Indian to avoid doing injustice to the West. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton went to the increase of the supply of sugar in the home market, and would certainly benefit the consumer, but he thought it would be unjust to the West Indians to throw all the sugar in bond into competition with theirs on such unequal terms. The hon. Member should recollect that the article he wished to throw into the market was foreign sugar—slave sugar. The hon. Member for North Lancashire, who had heretofore taken a considerable interest in the affairs of the West Indies, had evinced great liberality in his views for the advancement of those colonies, and he hoped that the present measure was framed in a spirit that would merit his approval and support.