thought it would be well for the House to consider, in the first instance, what would be the effect of the proposition of the Government with respect to the people of this country. The reduction of the duty on sugar to the amount of 1s. per cwt. would involve a loss to the revenue of 250,000l. the first year, 500,000l. the next year, of 750,000l. the following year, and of l,000,000l. the fourth year, making a sum of no less than 2,500,000l. entirely lost to the public Exchequer. The reduction of the proposed duty on rum, perhaps, was scarcely a fair subject for remark, as the House did not know what were the precise intentions of the Government as to the amount. But the equalisation of such duties was ah exceedingly wise and just measure, and he apprehended no permanent injury to the distilling interests of the country in consequence of such a reduction as that which had been originally intimated. With respect to the grant of 500,000l., he should also be disposed to express his concurrence in that part of the scheme. As for the protection to the West Indian interests afforded by the alteration of the scale of sugar duties, he believed it was greater than had been indicated by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, or was appreciated by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. Under the present scale the duties next July would be 14s. on colonial and 18s. 6d. on foreign sugar. Under the scale proposed by Her Majesty's Government, the duties would be 13s. on 1013 colonial and 20s. on foreign sugar, making an increase of protection of from 33 to 34 per cent. That was a very large increase, and was likely to have a very material effect in decreasing the supply which this country was otherwise likely to receive of foreign sugar. He did not understand what was the tendency of the alteration proposed to be made in the scale, unless it were to produce an increase in the price of sugar. Having paid close attention to the evidence of the West India Committee, of which he was a member, he confessed he could not find in the evidence, any justification for the measures proposed as generally remedial in the case of the West Indies. There was not a witness who did not say that labour was the great thing they wanted. The great object of Government ought to have been to propose measures for affording a supply of labour, even at any cost, to the West Indies; because it was by an act of the Government that the supply of labour there had been effected. But there was nothing in the evidence to change the opinion he had previously entertained, that the West Indian colonies were capable of competing with foreign countries. The hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich had estimated the cost of producing sugar in Cuba at 6s. 10d. per cwt. Had the hon. Baronet consulted the evidence, he would have seen that the cost of producing sugar was generally from 13s. to 15s. With prices at 18s. 8d. and 14s. 1d. per cwt., the planters of Cuba Were losing money. It was not desirable to apply one general rule to all the dependencies of the country. He could imagine no two cases more different than that of India and that of Jamaica. In the former there was no deficiency of labour, and they had another Market for their sugar. The question of laying on a tax for the sake of British India was a very different question from that With respect to the measures which the state of Jamaica required. The East Indies complained in particular of the classification of sugar adopted in 1844. He found that there was not a single witness examined before the Committee with regard to the Mauritius and the West India Islands who did not complain of the enormous cost of the local Government. There had been enormous increase in taxation within the last few years. In 1832 the total charge of the Government in Demerara was 56,000l.; in 1847 the charges amounted to no less than 225,000l. In the West India isles 1014 there had been also a great increase in the expenditure. The greatest distress existed in Trinidad, British Guiana, and Jamaica. In the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, not the least hope was held out of any reduction of such expenditure. In another respect, also, he must express himself disappointed with the proposition of the Government. There were large improvements which might be made at comparatively small cost in those colonies. One most competent witness. Lord Howard de Walden, had stated that a tramway, for example, might at an expense of 15,000l. be formed in a particular district, where it would be of the greatest advantage to fifteeen or sixteen sugar estates. It was with reluctance that he felt himself compelled to say he could not support the proposition of Her Majesty's Government. He was unwilling to resume his seat without conveying to the noble Lord who presided over the West Indian Committee (Lord G. Bentinck) the tribute of gratitude which he felt the House and the country owed to the noble Lord for the great attention he had bestowed on the subject. It was a national benefit to investigate the circumstances which attended the great loss which had occurred, and it was impossible sufficiently to acknowledge the great exertions of the noble Lord. He should be delighted if the noble Lord could infuse into the West Indian planters any of the zeal and energy he had displayed in the course of the inquiry. He had no doubt this discussion would terminate in some practical measure; and he should be glad if the Government could give any further explanation to the House with respect to their views on the whole subject, which might hold out a prospect of some measures other than the present plan, which he regarded as exceedingly inefficient.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Although it will be my duty in the course of the remarks I shall have to make to the House to express my dissent in important particulars from the plan of Her Majesty's Government, and my inability to vote in its favour, yet I hope I can say nothing inconsistent with the admission I most frankly make, that I believe not only that it is with the most sincere desire to deal justly with the different interests involved in the present question that Ministers have brought forward their proposition, but that they have also had to treat a question of most extraordinary difficulty. I Wish to state so most 1015 explicitly, before proceeding to explain my own opinion. It rarely happens that any question comes before Parliament involving so great a variety of conflicting considerations, with respect to which the utmost patience, the utmost care, the utmost ability, find such immense difficulty in producing anything like harmony. Now, I feel myself under considerable difficulty imposed upon me by the form of the proceedings of this House with respect to the vote I have to give. My general ground of objection to the measure of the Government is, that as a measure of relief to colonial distress it is less than the necessity of the case demands; and, likewise, I am bound to add that—taking our present financial circumstances and position into view—it opens objections of a financial character which to my mind are altogether insurmountable. My vote on this question cannot give an adequate expression to my sentiments on this point. I have before me the choice of voting for the amendment of my hon. Friend, that you, Sir, do not leave the chair, or of voting against him in order to negative that proposition, or to go into Committee and support the proposition, that the duty on colonial sugar be reduced to 13s. Now, under the circumstances, I object to reducing the duty on colonial sugar to 13s.; but I should not do justice to my view of the case were I to wait until you. Sir, leave the chair, before expressing the whole nature and scope of my objection. Neither can I vote in the negative that you shall not quit the chair, because by doing so I should be expressing a sentiment of indisposition to reconsider and modify, under the pressure of a great necessity, the scale of duties agreed to in 1846. Agreeing, as I do, then, with the proposition contained in the Motion of my hon. Friend—although it does not express all that I wish to express—yet, agreeing, as I do, with it so far as that I think the measure now proposed is inadequate to the necessities of the case, I must vote with him, at the same time taking the liberty of explaining to the House as clearly as I am able the views I entertain, in order that I may not be misunderstood, nor may be supposed to entertain precisely the same views in regard to the mode of administering relief to the West Indies which I rather believe he himself entertains. With respect to this case, if I may consider the reasons which must influence us in the midst of such difficulties as must beset every form of adequately dealing with 1016 the distress of the West Indies, there are two grounds upon which I can justify myself in proceeding to deal with it, notwithstanding the magnitude and costliness of that proceeding; I do not propose to raise—as others have not raised—the discussion in which many of us have frequently been engaged, and none more frequently than myself, with respect to the distinction between the admission of sugar the produce of free labour, and sugar fed and supplied by the slave trade. I confess that the opinions which I formerly expressed on the subject remain unchanged. I am as conscious of the difficulties of the subject as I formerly was. I admit that no course can be taken which is on all points satisfactory; but I must say that I do not regret having been the instrument of inserting in the law of this country that distinction, and on having, on many occasions, on the floor of this House, endeavoured to defend it. That question I look upon as practically settled, and I do not propose to raise it, although it is not without regret that I admit that such is my view of its position. But there are two grounds, as I have said, on which I think I can found proceedings. I think it is impossible for me to found proceedings upon the general doctrine of protection to a domestic and colonial interest. I think we have before us a great social problem with respect to the relations between the two races in the West Indies. It appears to me that under the circumstances of the case, it is poor and shallow philosophy to look upon the face of West Indian society and say—though it is an important fact in itself—that there are 90 per cent of the population contented, and only one-tenth suffering distress. I admit that these one-tenth have no right to be considered or cared for, except upon the ground that the property of these one-tenth, and the maintaining of a white class in colonial society, is essential, as I believe, to the continuance of the social progress of the others. But if you are content to allow these others to vegetate, and live in a mere state of material well-being, then I grant that you may adopt that language. If such is your view, then I think the best thing you can do is to pay over in hard money whatever you think is due to the suffering interest, and altogether abandon the idea of restoring the commercial prosperity of the islands. But when I speak of restoring commercial prosperity to those islands—although I think it fair to contemplate the West Indian 1017 claim of sympathy, not merely for the sake of their commercial prosperity, but because I firmly believe that their commercial prosperity and the maintenance of these islands in a condition to continue to produce a staple commodity for export to Europe, is a condition on which depends their well-being, considered in its highest aspects; but I say that when I speak of the West Indies, I hold that the West Indies have a claim of a distinct nature, altogether apart from those protected interests ordinarily talked of when we deprived them of protection—a claim of a distinct nature, not only upon the humanity and equity, but, in the strictest sense, upon the justice of this House. I think the West Indians are entitled to say, "Our claim is a claim of money; we ask you to sacrifice a portion of the public funds for our relief, and we ask it on the ground that we suffered at your hands." This is not a matter of charge against any particular Parliament or any particular Government, as I shall have occasion to show in the course of my remarks. But to my mind it is demonstrable that, in some important particulars, the West Indians have a claim for pecuniary relief as strong as under any imaginable circumstances a particular class can have against a particular State. I will mention two instances. What was the case of the apprenticeships? I refer to an historical fact beyond dispute, when I say that the apprenticeships were as much a part of the compensation to the West Indies as were the 20,000,000l. When I have heard the West Indians and others complain that the 20,000,000l was not awarded as compensation for the slaves, but merely as a composition, inasmuch as the slave labour was estimated at the value of 40,000,000l., it has always appeared to me an unjust remark, because that kept out of view the pecuniary labour received by the West Indies under the apprenticeship system. What is the history of that system? It was first proposed that the apprenticeship system should continue for twelve years; that was the view of the Government, Lord Grey thinking that that amount of compensation for the labour of the islands a just demand. It was then reduced to six years during the passing of the Abolition Act by Lord Stanley. It is true that the West Indians acquiesced in the reduction, so I do not found any charge upon it. After four years had passed, a system of agitation arose in this country, and the West Indians were compelled to 1018 abandon the remaining two years, being a reduction of one-third of the period which had been voted as part of the remuneration. It will be remembered by many who hear me, that several divisions took place in this House on the subject—that in the first division the House affirmed by a large majority that the apprenticeships should continue; but on the next division, the House affirmed by a small majority that it should be put an end to; and that on the third division the House reaffirmed by a large majority that it should continue for the full term. But, of course, the effect of this Parliamentary agitation, and of the movement connected with it out of doors, was to unsettle the public mind on the subject, and to produce such a state of feeling, particularly in the colonies, that, whether wise or not, it was certainly found to be necessary to propose to abandon it. Sir Lionel Smith, in his speech to the Jamaica House of Assembly, on the 5th of June, 1838, said—It is my duty to declare my sentiments, and to recommend to you early and equal abolition of apprenticeship for all parties. Should your views be opposed to the policy I recommend, I would entreat you to consider well how impracticable it will be to carry on coercive labour; always difficult, it would in future be in peril of constant comparison with other colonies made free, and with those estates in this island made free by individual proprietors.I think I have read sufficient to show the House there absolutely existed no option on the part of those who were thus addressed—that it was a virtual withdrawal of the engagement of the Sovereign Power to maintain order, and enforce the performance of legal duties by that class of the community. I am not blaming any one. I am merely stating the fact with the view of showing that I am strictly warranted in saying that one-third part of the compensation voted by Parliament to the West Indian class in the form of labour was withdrawn from them by the action, partly of Parliament, partly of the Government, and much more of the public opinion of the country at home. With respect to immigration also, what was the case? The West Indians, generally exhausted in their capital and means, now find you willing to afford them great latitude in respect to immigration. But they justly tell you that they have been arguing the question with you for the last twelve or fourteen years; that immediately after the apprenticeship system commenced they began to consider how they could enlarge the supplies of 1019 labour, but that they met with restraint and opposition in every direction. And when I am referring to these restrictions, I do not exactly blame the temper or jealousy which prompted it. I think there were the best reasons, even at great hazard, for taking effectual security that there should be no paltering with the principles of humanity, philosophy, and religion on which they were acting. Of course, I do not justify you going beyond what was necessary; but up to the point of necessity I think it was right to take effectual guarantees that nothing resembling slavery, even in name, should either in name or in substance be revived. Having guarded myself on this point, I shall now proceed to state what were the actual facts. In the first place, the immigration of Coolies from the East Indies was absolutely prohibited. This prohibition was afterwards removed, but it was provided that no contract should be entered into for more than twelve months, and also that under no circumstances should a contract be formed except in the colony. Internal regulations were likewise enacted of a most minute and multitudinous character, which greatly hampered any little free agency that was left in the planters with respect to the employment of labour. Among other regulations, conceived no doubt in a paternal spirit, it was required that the doctor should visit the Coolies at least every other day, or oftener, if necessary. There were some circumstances which took place in this House to which I cannot help referring as a strong indication of the state of feeling with respect to this subject. The noble Lord, now the First Minister of the Crown, exhibited considerable courage in attempting to cheek the excessive actions of this philanthropic sentiment. In 1840, with some risk and inconvenience to himself and his Government, he introduced, for the sake of challenging the opinion of Parliament—not because it was necessary, for the power of the Executive was sufficient, but for the sake of challenging the opinion of Parliament on this subject—introduced into the Passengers' Act a clause having reference to the policy of introducing Coolies into the Mauritius. Two debates and divisions took place upon that clause; and although the noble Lord used every effort to carry it, he was beaten on the second division by a considerable majority on the 22nd of June, 1840, the Ayes being 109, and the Noes 158. Nothing could be more impartial than the composition of the majority. There 1020 was the name of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), and other Gentlemen of that school of politics. The name of the present Under Secretary of the Colonies (Mr. Hawes) was also in the majority, and he acted as a teller on the division; and the present Secretary for the Colonies was the opponent of the Motion. Certain language used on that occasion was extremely strong. Lord Grey said—He thought that in reality the only effect of this Bill would be to permit that atrocious trade, which had before existed, to be renewed under some circumstances or other; and although he had no doubt that his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies would endeavour to put an end to the evils of that trade by the appointment of agents and other means, he had the strongest doubts how far any sufficient regulation could be possibly effected.I think, therefore, that in point of immigration the West Indies have got a strong case against you when they come forward and state—"We have been anxious for twelve or fourteen years to make contracts with immigrants; but you denied us the privilege when we had full means and capacity to make use of them, and you only now declare your willingness to yield it to us after we have become ruined and exhausted in the interval." I am not now entering into the question whether it was right or wrong to check the disposition to resort to immigration. I am afraid that, in the case of the Mauritius, where the system has been carried a great length, it has led to very considerable social evils. It is possible, therefore, that in respect to the highest view of the question you may have acted with considerable wisdom; but with respect to the West India proprietors it is plain they are in a peculiar condition; we asked them to make considerable sacrifices; and the spirit of the British people will not, I am sure, refuse to acknowledge the appeal to the justice which arises out of circumstances such as these. Such is my view of the nature of the claim of the West Indians against the State. I am most anxious that it should be understood. I confess I think nothing can be more distinct than the claim of the West Indians, upon the score of positive injury inflicted upon them by the direct agency of the Legislature, and that not by Parliament, not by Government, any further than they were the organs and instruments of public opinion. I say nothing can be more distinct than their claim to money or 1021 money's worth; or, on the other hand, protection to their native produce. I now come to the mode in which Government propose to meet and satisfy this claim. I pass by one or two points which were mentioned by the noble Lord. I pass with only a single remark the question relating to the duty on rum. If we were to construe very strictly some expressions which he used to-night, we might imagine that the whole of that question remained undecided; but upon the whole, adverting to the language of the noble Lord with that construction which common sense requires, I rather apprehend that the intention of the right hon. Gentleman was more to conform to the usages of official courtesy than to imply that any serious doubt had arisen in his mind, or was likely to arise in the minds of his Colleagues, with respect to the proposed duty on rum. I pass by also the question of contracts, not because it is not important, but because it does not require a long discussion. I will only say that I am glad that the Government have embodied that matter in the measure they propose to introduce. But as I have said before, I do not think that the relief proposed to be afforded by the Government is such as the exigencies of the case demand. I will not inquire whether in every respect it is a mode of application the most judicious; but I think that a further extension of relief, over and above the measure of the Government, is necessary. I object to fixing a definite time within which we may induce the intelligence and capital of the country to give a fair trial to the experiment of free labour in the West Indies, now that we have determined to bind the hands of the planters with respect to the assistance you are to give them in the importation of labour. I do not think we ought to entertain a measure of this kind at all, unless we make up our minds to go to such an extent as we have reason to believe will be sufficient for effecting the relief required; and this measure, I think, does not go to the extent which either justice or policy demands. Then I come across the question—in what form you propose to give the relief? If we refer to the opinions which appear in the organ of the purest principles of free trade in this House, we may assume there is a disposition to acquiesce in the proposition that some part of the relief should be in the form of the continuance of protective duties. But, on the other hand, it seems to be the opinion of the hon. Baronet who 1022 moved the Amendment, that we ought to look to a large increase of protection, and to a retracing of our steps in the matter of protective duties; and that in the mean time we ought to give 10s. a cwt. for six or more years. Without saying that if there are no other modes of giving pecuniary relief, we should fail to increase protective duties, I would say that I would admit that plan with great reluctance. I feel that reluctance on two grounds. In the first place, with every disposition to acknowledge our duty to our East Indian fellow-subjects and the Mauritius, I think there are some most important peculiarities in the West Indies that do not apply to them; and, in calling upon the people of England to make a considerable sacrifice to satisfy the claims of justice—not to relieve distress merely because it is distress, but to do justice to the West Indies, I think it would be a very fair objection to a very high protective duty, such as 10s. would be, if those other colonies were allowed, in an equal degree, that relief, placed as they are under very unequal necessities and with very unequal claims. But, further, I cannot avoid the apprehension that a great reaction in point of protective duties would diminish, perhaps, that stimulus to energy and the economy of labour upon which, after all, our principal hopes of success in interposing must depend; and I fear also that such a reaction in protective duties would lead to a corresponding reaction in the wages of labour in the West Indies. I am not looking to protection as a matter of policy, but I argue it as a mode of paying British money; and if I am asked, taking the present condition of the British population, on the one hand, and the present condition of the negro population in the West Indies, on the other, I say that to that relief which you are called upon to vote, the negroes of the West Indies manifestly have no public claim. It is our delight to know that they are in their material condition superior, perhaps, to any peasantry in the world. As regards their social and moral condition, they have made a most extraordinary progress, and their prospects are of the most promising kind; but that is no reason why we should throw away the funds of the country in giving a further stimulus to that condition, which is one of comfort fully adequate to their scale in society and their desires. I am not, therefore, in favour of retracing our course as to protection duties; and I should rather prefer 1023 the plan of Government, of a simple descending scale of duties for a series of years. I think, if we are to consider how we can make a proposal that shall he as far as it goes intelligible and attractive to the capitalist, it will he much better, having determined the amount of protection we ought to give, to say to him, "You shall have such an amount for so many years," than to present a beautiful scheme of this, kind, arranged in two parallel columns, and requiring him to tax his ingenuity to comprehend all its bearings. To make the preparation attractive for competing with slave-labour sugar in the markets of the world, is not to be done by teaching a man to do with 5s. protection this year and 4s. next, like the person who tried to teach his horse to live upon nothing, and reduced his food to a handful of straw, but then the animal died; that, I say, is not the preparation we want; but it must be such as will lead to a considerable application of capital and intelligence to the cultivation of sugar in the West Indies, by sending out machinery and attempting the best modes of agriculture and manufacture, and thus trusting to what that will do. I think, therefore, that an uniform scale for a term of years would be better than the descending plan of the Government; and I must confess that I doubt whether the object is adequate; for the operation of it may be, in fact, to fix the higher duty upon the immensely larger quantity of sugar, while a very small proportion of sugar would pay the muscovado foreign duty, whilst it tends to blind the public mind to the real amount of protection you are virtually going to give. It would be better for the Government to say," We will give you the protection the law affords you at this moment, of 6s. a cwt." I must also say that I think, upon the grounds I shall presently explain, that the reduction by 1s. of the duty on colonial sugar, reducing it from 14s. to 13s., on the 5th of July, a most impolitic measure. Until we have brought the finances of this country into a sounder and more healthful state, I am not prepared to reduce the duty on colonial sugar; and especially because a reduction is attended with this great disadvantage, that on account of that very minute reduction, the noble Lord, if I understood him right, is going to restore the exclusion which formerly existed, and not allow the use of sugar in breweries. I contend that that prohibition is most undesirable, unless there are very strong 1024 reasons for inducing us to adopt it. It cuts off one source of consumption, and you must, in speaking of the consumption of sugar, allow for the quantity that will be withdrawn on that account, whilst it restores to our commercial code a prohibition after we have been so long engaged in abolishing everything that savours of that principle. I will now go on to say that I have seen with deep regret the disposition to jealousy still subsisting in this country. I know not whether it is ascribable to the personal opinions of the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary, or the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, or not; but I think there are still some unnecessary remains of jealousy with respect to the internal legislation of the colonies as regards such subjects as vagrancy and squatting. I thought that the speech of the noble Lord was very vague and meagre on that part of the subject, considering its importance, when he said he could assure the House that his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies would be willing to attend to all proposals that were made to him. Upon occasions like this, what we rather anticipate is, not that the Secretary for the Colonies should sit in his office receiving proposals, but that, being in perfect possession of all information in the case, he in his office should make proposals. [Lord J. RUSSELL: The proposals came from the Colonial Legislature.—Mr. HAWES: They have full power to legislate on this subject.] I think not, and I doubt whether it is wise to trust the Colonial Legislatures with absolute power on this subject. I assume that we have Governors in every colony upon whose humanity and philanthropy you can rely; and when you have such Governors I should be inclined to place implicit confidence in them upon this subject. I find this subject was referred to by the Sugar and Coffee Planting Committee; and I cannot refer to that Committee without offering my tribute of praise to the noble Lord who presided on that Committee for the great service he has done to the cause of truth and justice by the assiduity, unwearied zeal, and talent with which he conducted that inquiry. But I will refer to the Coolie regulations which were devised in Trinidad by Major Fagan, and sanctioned by Lord Harris. Major Fagan was recommended there by the East India Company; and no one will suspect, therefore, that the Coolies would not be taken care of under his regulations. With re- 1025 spect to the character of Lord Harris, I rejoice to say it is now perfectly established in the public estimation of this country. Lord Harris sanctioned certain regulations devised by Major Fagan for the management of the Coolies, but they were disallowed by the noble Lord now at the Colonial Office, first, because the Governor had no sufficient authority to give to them the force of law. That was an intelligible ground of objection. But the noble Lord likewise said he objected to many of those regulations. Now, I wish to exemplify what I mean by instances; and I say that, upon such such a question as that, and with the confidence which I suppose to exist in your Governors, I think a Secretary of State in Downing-street in 1848 ought to be very shy indeed of enforcing his opinions against opinions sent to him under the sanction of undisputed character and impartiality—of undisputed intelligence and of local knowledge. The noble Lord, in his despatch upon the subject, has numbered some of the heads of the regulations to which he objects; and, in particular, one of those to which he objects is a regulation for checking the increase of drunkenness amongst the Coolie labourers. I know that that might be a very strange regulation to issue to the master manufacturers in this country; but considering the circumstances of the Coolies, and how notorious it is that a large proportion of the people introduced into the West Indies, Englishmen as well as Coolies, do fall a sacrifice to the use of ardent spirits, I cannot see why a Secretary of State should disparage by his veto a regulation to discourage drunkenness amongst the Coolies. Then I come to the question of the loan proposed by the Government; and here I cannot help regretting that to that loan has been given an exclusive direction in favour of immigration alone. It is plain now that a very great variety of circumstances prevail in the different colonies as to the amount of immigration that is required, and also the greatest diversity of opinion amongst the best informed persons as to the amount. I think the mind of the West Indian people is quite sufficiently directed to the subject of immigration relatively to other countries, and I must confess, without at all presuming to form a conclusive judgment upon a subject which would require fuller information than I possess, I think it is doubtful indeed whether it would not be wise to include the improvement of the cultivation of the West 1026 Indies amongst the objects to which any grant of public money—for I do not shrink from that idea—might be applied in the West Indies. I have avowed that to a demand for money I think the West Indies are entitled; and I believe that, whatever the hon. Member for Manchester may think, the House of Commons will not be disinclined to acknowledge it. Then I come to what is a very important question, although it is scarcely a matter of general legislation in this House. I wish I had heard in the speech of the noble Lord some assurance with respect to the intentions of the Government to afford to the Legislatures of the West India colonies a very free management at least of their own financial affairs. When reference was made by the hon. Member for Coventry to the enlargement of the constitutional powers of the colonies, the noble Lord referred to the difficulties arising out of the difference of race in those colonies; and it is impossible not to feel that there is much in that circumstance to check the application of those principles you have acknowledged, and are acknowledging from day to day, with respect to the other colonies of the Crown; but as regards the expenditure of the public money, I should be glad to see far greater liberty given to the colonial authorities than they now possess. Here are certain papers relative to British Guiana. There have been conflicts in that colony between the Government and the Colonial Legislature. The Legislative Council of the colony says, that one-third of the exported produce is swallowed up in the expenses of the colonial government. Now it is impossible to look at the returns lately made of the expenses of the various colonial governments, without observing the immense difference in the expenditure between those colonies where they have assemblies, and those where they have no assembly. The expenditure in Jamaica, with a population of 400,000, is 289,000l. In British Guiana, with a population of 126,000, the amount is 269,000l., of which nearly 200,000l. is independent of immigration; but in Barbadoes, the expense to that colony, with its assembly, for the government, is only 53,000l. Running through the list of colonies, there is much greater economy in those colonies where they have a colonial assembly; and it is therefore presumable that in giving to the colonies more liberty in managing their own affairs, there would be a reduction in the expense, to the great relief of those 1027 who are engaged in growing the exported produce, upon whom a large proportion of the tax must fall; and I do not hesitate to say, that being ready to grant money for the relief of the West Indies, I think there is one way in which it appears to me that the money might be usefully granted. If you give to the colonies more power over the expenditure, it is obvious that the official salaries will become the subject of consideration, and whether they cannot be reduced. Now, I think that the salaries of the governors cannot with propriety be reduced. It is necessary that you should place in those offices persons of high station, intelligence, and character, upon whom you can thoroughly rely. It is therefore necessary that they should be paid by a high salary; but I am by no means sure that it would not be a wise economy, if you grant money to the West Indies, to throw upon the consolidated fund the payment of the salaries of the governors during the number of years this exceptional measure will be in operation. I think I have said enough of my view of what a measure of this kind ought to be to make the House understand that I do not wish to shelter myself under vague generalities when I speak of the measure of the Government being less than the necessity demands; but, on the other hand, it would not be fitting for me to venture to pronounce an opinion on the details of such a measure, which can only belong to those who have the advantage of official position, and the means of official information. I therefore pass from that part of the subject to another, upon which I confess I touch with less pleasure, and that is the financial aspect of the present proposition. I do feel that this plan, as it stands, is open, on financial grounds, to insuperable difficulties. In the first place, it is obviously impolitic, if you believe that a sacrifice of money is about to be made. But my next objection is, that I think we are going to make, if we act on the statements made by the noble Lord, and particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a very much larger sacrifice of money than we have been allowed to know. I speak of the mere argument; but I differ toto cœlo from the argument of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the financial effect of his measure; and I think he greatly—I might almost say ludicrously—underrates the burden it will impose upon the country. I question the right hon. Gentleman's estimates 1028 as to the increase of consumption in the present year; and I question his right, if it takes place, to attribute it to the operation of the measure of 1846. In the financial statement which the right hon. Gentleman made at the commencement of the Session, he took that increase into consideration, and therefore we are not to inquire now whether there will be that increase of consumption or not, but whether, as the measure of the Government will obviously make a sacrifice of revenue in the first instance, that sacrifice will be repaired by bringing about an increase of consumption. As to the general question of an increase of consumption, I entirely dispute the grounds upon which this increase has been assumed by the Government. The noble Lord quoted a number of years in which there were great variations in the price of sugar; and in consequence of these variations, or in connexion with them, there was a large increase or decrease of the consumption; and I say, that when even a small variation is made in the price, you have no right to look for an increase in the consumption. When my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he took off 3s. per cwt. of the duty, reducing it from 27s. to 24s.; and what was the increase of consumption? I believe 1,000 tons. The noble Lord said there would be a considerable change in the consumption attending a large change in price; but even if we take this as the measure of consumption, I find it very rarely happens that there is such a corresponding increase. What right, then, has the Government to say that we are going to reduce the duty 1s., the first effect of which will be, it is true, to take away some 240,000l., but by the increase of the consumption there will be no loss to you resulting from this measure? The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) has therefore no right to anticipate an increase of consumption from a reduction of 1s. in a price of about 40s. But he may have a right to anticipate this great increase of consumption on other grounds. If that should be the case, you have no right to take the credit of it for your measures; but I think this result will not occur. The right hon. Gentleman refers the House to the years 1845, 1846, and 1847; and because he finds an arithmetical progression in the consumption of sugar in those years, he calculates upon a somewhat similar increase in 1848. He says we 1029 must have an increase of 20,000 tons of sugar in the present year. Now, there has been an increase of 2,000 tons in the first four months of the present year; but the right hon. Gentleman must calculate upon a decrease in the foreign sugar consumed, and a decrease in the amount of duty received thereupon. But these first four months do not fairly represent the case, because it is a comparison of a term of low-price with a period of high price. The average price of sugar during the first four months of last year was 34s. 6d.; during the last eight months of last year it was 25s. and 26s,; and during the first four months of the present year it was 24s. So that in comparing the first four months of this year and last, you have to take into account a reduction of 10s. 6d. in the price. The right hon. Gentleman does not estimate that for the next eight months prices will be higher than last year. The price last year was 25s. or 26s., and he expects that during the remainder of the present year the price will be about the same. I know that this is a dry and wearisome branch of the subject, but it really lies at the root of the case. Let it not be said that the reduction of duty will bring about an increase of consumption. The truth is that we are going to lose 400,000l next year, if the Government plan should be adopted, because we have no right to anticipate an increase of consumption. The duty is not the duty on the entire amount that comes to the market, but the duty on the protected article is that which you are going to reduce, and you are really going to increase the duty on the foreign article. The tendency will be to a diminution of consumption rather than an increase. Having sufficiently wearied the House with this part of the question, I now propose to look at the financial view of the subject. The sum of about 240,000l. will be sacrificed in the first year by the reduction of the duty on the colonial articles; you are also going to prohibit the use of sugar in breweries, which may be stated to consume 12,000 tons, and which will cause a loss of 150,000l, making, altogether, a loss to the revenue of 400,000l. If your plan has a tendency to discourage the consumption of foreign sugar, which it probably will do, the revenue will suffer still more, and what it loses in this way next year it will lose on a larger scale in successive years. This duty on foreign sugar is likewise to be increased in future years, and you are, in point of fact, about to impose 1030 a heavy burden upon the finances of the country. I cannot bring myself to view this question without regarding its relation to the finances of the country at the present moment. We have a large loan recently contracted for the relief of Irish distress. We have a deficiency of 3,000,000l. on the estimates of last year, and a deficiency of about 2,005,000l. on the estimates of the present year. We are now-asked to vote 400,000l. more of the public money, and we are further asked to consent to a larger sacrifice of revenue from this source in future years, before we have fulfilled our first and primary duty of making provision for the sound and healthy condition of the Exchequer. Now I do not inquire, at the present moment, whether it must be by increased taxation or by a reduction of expenditure that the income and expenditure of the country are to be equalised. But the question of your financial position is a most serious one, and it is becoming more serious every day. I say, then, that we shall not be doing our duty to the country without showing that we have not neglected this subject of public economy, and that we do not return to our constituents without having given them the first fruits of the measures by which we propose to restore the revenue to a state of sufficiency and of equalisation with the expenditure. I am not prepared to vote, then, for the plan of the Government—involving, as it will, a loss of 240,000l. from loss of duty on sugar, and 150,000l. from the prohibition of the use of sugar in breweries—without having a clear indication of what the intentions of the Government are, and not only an indication of their intentions, but also the proof that they are taking the steps necessary to place us on the road for fulfilling their intentions. In making these financial objections to their plan, I do not urge them to postpone the measures which they and which I myself think necessary for the West Indies—I do not mean a postponement for a week, but for a Session. As I have said, I think it our first duty to take care to provide the means out of which the relief is to be given, and that it ought not to be our endeavour, in order to make our measures more popular, to reduce the duty on sugar, and thus to increase our financial embarrassments, which are already, in my opinion, of the most formidable character. In the present position of affairs, our first measure is to restore the due relation between public income and public 1031 expenditure; and, secondly, to do that which our duty requires from the relation in which we stand to our West Indian colonies. I know that legislation for classes is justly unpopular, and that when the hon. Member for Manchester exposes me, as he will no doubt do, for saying, as I have done in plain words, that money ought to be given to the West Indian colonies, the hon. Member will be representing a feeling which has great support out of doors. But it is necessary also to meet the argument that this claim of the West Indies is one of justice, one of compensation, one for losses and injuries Inflicted, and one which we are bound to acknowledge; and, if so, do not let us fear any unpopularity. Do not let it be said that the plan of emancipation, mighty and gigantic as it was, was based upon the ruin of private fortunes, and that while it overspread the whole world with its fame we took the glory upon ourselves, that we laid the burden on the West Indies, and left the debt to posterity. Let us not shrink from the burden that our own shoulders ought to bear—let us not shrink from making the return which is due to the colonies, and necessary to complete the work of regeneration for the negro race by whom they are inhabited. It is not to court favour with the West Indies that I oppose the reduction of the duty on sugar, but because it imposes a burden upon our Exchequer, which has no strength to bear it. Let us not shrink from maintaining those financial principles which are at the root of all faith in public affairs. Whatever interests we may sacrifice, whatever popularity we may lose, let us not sacrifice the interests of the public revenue, but study to maintain at that high standard which it ought to hold that condition of public income and credit which is absolutely necessary in order to uphold the commercial system, the revenue, the trade, and the employment of the country.
§ MR. JAMES WILSON
said, that he had listened with considerable interest and no little surprise to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. When he (Mr. Wilson) heard the early part of that speech, he thought the right hon. Gentleman was disposed to vote for the general propositions before the House; but he then heard the grounds which the right hon. Gentleman stated induced him to take the course which he intended to follow on this question. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the course taken by Her Majesty's Government on this occasion. First of all, he objected to 1032 the mode in which it was proposed to give a continuance of protection to the colonies; but it did not appear that he was prepared to increase the amount of protection; but he thought he could show that, by the plan proposed, it would in this respect be satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman, in voting for the Amendment, said that this amount of relief was not sufficient; but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman made out his case on this ground; for although it might be less in amount than he would ask for, still it was to be apportioned in a way which would remove many burdens from the colonies. The next part of the proposition with which the right hon. Gentleman did not agree, was not to the amount of the loan, but to the application of the loan. He thought he could satisfy the House that there was no other mode in which the loan could be made effective for the benefit of the West Indies, and any other mode must be attended with so much delay, if carried out at all, that it would not have any effect in the present crisis, or that it would tend in any way to induce a return of confidence. With regard to this as a question of finance, he was fully prepared to meet the right hon. Gentleman's objection. The right hon. Gentleman had viewed on all points and in various lights the subject-matter before the House. If they took the interest of the revenue on the one side, and looked to the interest of the consumer on the other, he (Mr. Wilson) thought he should be able to show that while it was least oppressive to the one, it would prove most advantageous to the other; and he confessed he should be glad if no objections of a more grave character than those of the right hon. Gentleman could be urged against the measure. The basis of the Amendment was the amount of relief, and it went on to show that it was not sufficient to meet the emergency of the case. It would be in the recollection of many hon. Members who heard him, that the meaning of that Amendment was to carry the amount of protection to 10s., as recommended by the Committee, of which he had the honour of being a Member. No one could entertain greater respect for the decision of that Committee than himself; and he could say, during the three months of its sitting, nothing could exceed the conduct of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), the Chairman of that Committee, and other Members opposite, who were members of it, for they most fully and fairly discussed every subject that came before 1033 them. He might also add, that although several West Indian proprietors were members of it, he never saw any desire on their part to take any advantage for themselves, and he completely exonerated them from every such charge. He therefore entertained the greatest respect for the Committee as to the mode in which that inquiry had been carried on; and also as to the mode in which they adopted the resolution, although he was not disposed to assent to such a recommendation as they had agreed to. The proposition before the House was mainly to recommend the adoption of a 10s. protecting duty, and the leaving all the other matters out of consideration. The right hon. Member for Cambridge and himself had supported a resolution which involved other important objects of relief; but this was successfully opposed, and then the resolution recommending the raising the protection to 10s. was adopted. On looking to the form in which the Amendment was proposed, it was clear that it was impossible to view it in any other light than a simple proposition to return to a 10s. protecting duty on colonial sugar. They had heard much in the course of the debate of the great list of West Indian grievances. He was sure several hon. Gentlemen opposite knew that he had long been an ardent advocate for the removal of restrictions of every kind which fell upon them; and when free trade was adopted in this country, he had contended for the removal of every restriction which pressed on the colonies. One restriction had been removed after another, and anxiety was constantly manifested on the part of the Government to remove every cause of complaint; but still the West Indians had always returned to protection. In looking through the reports of the West India body, which for the most part were drawn up in an able manner, they would find a great number of grievances specified. First, there was a complaint that the West Indians were obliged to take their lumber and provisions from this country, or from the British colonies. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) in 1844 removed a number of those restrictions, and, amongst others, the one to which he had just alluded. The colonies had also been enabled to obtain foreign manufactured goods by the removal of the differential duty. Then the duty on rum had been reduced from 1s. 6d. a gallon, to 9d., and now it was proposed to reduce it further to 4d. a gallon. This was equivalent 1034 to a large reduction of the duty on sugar. It had been calculated that the recent reduction of the duty of 1s, 1d. would be equivalent to the reduction of from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per cwt. on sugar. There was a complaint in the Mauritius of the export duties imposed upon sugar. He (Mr. Wilson), in the Committee of which he had the honour to be a member, moved a resolution to the effect that all these duties should be removed; but it was rejected, and the Committee adhered to the single resolution of a 10s. protection duty. The privilege of refining in bond was an advantage to all those colonies in which there was a scarcity of labour. With regard to the question of labour, it had been argued as if the importation of free labour had been altogether prohibited. He (Mr. Wilson) did not intend to go into the question of labour; but hon. Gentlemen did not seem to know that as early as 1840 there was an importation of free labour into the colonies; and that in 1843 Lord Stanley had sanctioned the admission of Coolie labourers from India to the West Indies. So that in fact there was no prohibition. There was no single complaint, no ground of distress, put forward, excepting only the demand for increased protection, which had not been satisfied in some degree. But he was perfectly willing to admit, with the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, that, although the restrictions had been removed, they had left a certain amount of debility behind them, and that, therefore, the House was called upon to endeavour to give relief in some shape. But the only question was, in what way that relief should be given so judiciously as to be productive of advantage to this country and to the colonists themselves. Now, the distress was admitted on all hands; but as to the causes, they were not so completely agreed. He knew that it was customary in that House, as it had been in the Committee, to allege that the distress was all to be attributed to the Act of 1846; but he should say that the influence of the Act of 1846 had been greatly exaggerated both by the witnesses before the Committee, and by those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken in the debate. A great effort had been made to prove that the Act of 1846 had been peculiarly prejudicial to the colonists, by showing the great losses which they had sustained by comparing the cost of raising their sugar with the prices they obtained for it in this market. Now, he believed the most exaggerated notions prevailed 1035 with regard to the exact amount of loss attributable to the Act of 1846. The low prices of last year had been made use of, and they had been much dwelt upon in the very able report of the Committee of which the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) was Chairman. But then he (Mr. Wilson) begged to say, that in the numerous and ably detailed statements which the noble Lord had worked out, the noble Lord had been, he believed, assisted by most competent gentlemen of the City—gentlemen of the highest integrity and honour—gentlemen known to him (Mr. Wilson), and in whom he would place the highest and most implicit confidence. And they were gentlemen not only of large experience and sagacity, but they were gentlemen of such intimate knowledge of the subject, that their statements were fairly entitled to the greatest consideration. Now the noble Lord had drawn up a statement in the report which he (Mr. Wilson) now held in his hand, in which he had shown the cost of cultivation of the sugar imported from our colonies in 1846, together with a calculation of the cost of freights and charges paid upon it, and also a calculation of the cost of brokerage, landing, and insurance. And he had thus made out 4,536,000l. to be the entire cost of the 159,000 tons imported and to be sold at the low prices of last year. And yet out of the whole 4,536,000l. the noble Lord made out a deficiency of only 170,000l. at the prices, low as they were, which would be a loss of only about 4½ per cent on the whole West India produce of last year. Surely hon. Members in that House would agree with him (Mr. Wilson) in saying that there was not a single interest in this country which had not sustained a loss during the last year of more than 4½ per cent. The noble Lord said, that, according to Mr. Greene's statement, there were 129,000 tons of colonial sugar sold, which brought 3,500,000l. at the market price, and which would show an apparent loss of 982,000l. But between 129,000 tons and 159,000, there was a difference of 30,000 tons, which must be still left to cover the loss. There was a very curious paper which he held in his hand. It was a very valuable document—it was a report from Jamaica, which gave a statement of the actual condition of a large number of estates—of sixty or seventy or eighty estates—with the precise produce of each—the quantity of sugar produced—the cost of production—the price of rum, and the cost of the sugar in each year, deducting 1036 the amount received for the rum. The inquiry showed that for the average of the two years 1846 and 1847, the cost of production was 22s. 7½d. per cwt.; but hon. Gentlemen should bear in mind that it was hardly fair to take an average of 1846 and 1847 as to the cost of growing sugar in the colonies. He begged their attention to the point, because it was one which would probably be referred to again during the debate; and it involved the deeply important question of whether we should ever successfully enable free labour to compete with slave labour—a question which he was sure every hon. Gentleman, without exception, looked to with the greatest interest, as being one of supreme importance. It was not fair to take 1846 and 1847 as years from which to draw an average, because 1846 was a year of unusual drought and short crops. He would refer upon that subject to a Parliamentary paper, presented some weeks ago, relating to Jamaica. It appeared by that paper that the quantity of sugar grown in the West Indies in 1845 was 742,000 cwts., in 1846 it was 572,000 cwts., in 1847 it was 751,000 cwts. He did not think, therefore, that it was exactly fair to take an average of the two years as to the cost of production. He had taken the case of the sugar produced in 1847 in the whole of the island of Jamaica upon fifty-two estates referred to in the reports of the Jamaica Committee, and it amounted to 143,000 cwt., the cost of which was 192,000l. The rum produced 72,000l., deducting which from the cost of the sugar, will give a net cost of 16s. 9d. per cwt. for the sugar. But on several estates the cost of production was as low as 4s. 4d., 6s., 9s., 10s., and 11s. per cwt., taking into account the entire contingencies. He thought, therefore, in referring to the present state of the colonies, and their condition last year, they were not borne out by the facts in attributing their losses to the low price of sugar. He believed, that with regard to the distresses of Jamaica and of the West Indies altogether, a very large portion of the cause was attributable to the small crops of 1846; for he found that on several estates the cost of production in that year was enormous. They would find, on looking to those returns, that on some estates the cost was as high as 3l. 18s. 3d. the cwt., on others it was 3l. 17s., and on others, 6l. 19s., in consequence of the shortness of the crops. He perfectly admitted the distress as existing, and he had 1037 thus endeavoured to show some reason for its existence. But they had been told by the hon. Baronet who opened the debate, that the distress had been comparatively unknown before 1846. He (Mr. Wilson) did not mean to refer to the complaints that had been made before 1846, but he should just beg to remark that in the seventh volume of the report of our own Committee, they had statements of the estates in Demerara and Essequibo which had been sold under executions; and it appeared that in 1847 there were nine estates sold under execution. In 1846 there were thirteen. But as the hon. Baronet thought there was no distress existing before 1846, he should tell him that whereas there had been only nine estates sold under execution in 1847, and thirteen in 1846; there were twenty-one sold under execution in 1845, and in 1844 there were fourteen, whilst in 1843 there were eighteen. So that there were actually fewer estates sold under execution during the last two years, than there had been ordinarily for some years before. But he might be asked to what he did refer the present distress of the West Indies? In reply, he should very much like to refer to the circulars of those who were most immediately connected with the trade. He should like to refer to the circulars of the sugar brokers of London, Liverpool, and Glasgow, no one of whom referred to the Act of 1846 as any cause of the distress. All of them stated that in consequence of the measures admitting sugar to the uses of breweries and distilleries, a large speculation had arisen, and the consequence had been the large introduction of foreign and East India sugar to supply the demand which was expected to have followed. To that the sugar brokers added the great pressure on the money market, which compelled the holders of sugar to sell their stocks at any loss. Now, he could not overlook altogether the evidence of these men. The hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir F. Buxton), when addressing the House, and speaking of the large quantity of foreign sugar which had been imported, said that in future years they should expect still larger supplies. It might be some consolation to the hon. Baronet to know that in the present year as compared with the last, the importation of slave-grown sugar had been materially reduced. In the first four months of last year the quantity of foreign sugar imported into this country was 26,000 tons. In the first 1038 four months of the present year there were only imported 11,000 tons. Again, there were taken into consumption in the first four months of the past year 22,000 tons. In the first four months of the present year there were only consumed of this sugar 12,000 tons. In the first four months of 1847, there were exported from Cuba for this market, 79,000 boxes of sugar. In the corresponding period of 1848 there were only 8,000 boxes. Not that the entire shipment of sugar from Cuba had fallen off, for it was nearly the same this year that it had been last year, thereby showing that the export to this country had been stimulated during the last year. The general exports from Cuba, from the 1st of January to the 30th of April, 1847, were 361,000 boxes. This year, in the corresponding period, they were 353,000 boxes, so that it would be seen the entire number of boxes exported had not materially diminished. He had already alluded to the failure of the crops in 1846. And if hon. Gentlemen would have taken the trouble to look into those Parliamentary returns they would have discovered a good deal both of interesting and instructive matter in them regarding the complaints of the colonies, and the course of legislation which had been adopted towards them during the last fifteen years. He was ready to admit all that hon. Gentlemen said about the course of legislation in 1834 and 1838, and those measures which were then carried by that House and the country with the very best motives; but which had nevertheless been adopted Indiscreetly and rashly, and which were contrary to the best interests of the colonies, and of the classes who were to have been (it was hoped) benefited by them. He believed that it would have been better for the negro population if their emancipation had taken place more gradually, and they had been brought progressively to a state of independent industry with more care than had been used. In 1834 the whole produce of the colonies was 3,800,000 cwt. He found a gradual decrease until 1841 (when the sugar colonies appeared to have been in a state of the greatest depression), when the produce was 2,100,000 cwt. But from that up to the present time, with the exception of 1846, he found a gradual and rapid increase in the quantity. He did not take the gloomy view that some hon. Gentlemen took of the condition of the West Indian colonies. He saw in the facts before him, and in the 1039 evidence which he there saw, great sources of hope for the colonies; and he believed the turn in their affairs had taken place. He should show, not only that the colonies had seen their worst times, but that they had opened sources of increasing prosperity. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh at this statement if they pleased; but he was discharging what he believed to be his duty to them as well as to the West Indies. He had stated that he found a gradual decrease from 1834 to 1841, and the reason was clear to any one who would take the trouble to look into the matter. He held in his hand a very valuable document. It was a book which contained the evidence taken before a similar Committee to that which had been appointed by the House of Assembly of Jamaica. It was taken in Trinidad, in 1841, and there were a few passages in that evidence that were so instructive, so enlightening on the question before the House with regard to labour, that he would beg to read them. The great complaint in 1841 was that of insufficient labour. The Sub-committee of that Agricultural and Emigration Committee had before them the question of wages, and the cost of labour in the colony; and Mr. Burnley, the Chairman of that Committee, came to this country expressly for the purpose of promoting the inquiry which was instituted here in 1842, of which Committee the hon. Member for Droitwich was the Chairman. In the evidence taken before the Trinidad Committee, he found the following:—The question was asked of one witness, 'Were the expenses greater now than previous to the emancipation?' and the answer was, 'Yes, greatly.' He was then asked, 'Had not their revenue increased in proportion, in consequence of the rise in sugar in 1840, as compared with 1838 and 1839?' and he said, 'By no means, it was decidedly less in 1840.' The next question was, 'Do you consider that the increase of price had only the effect of raising the price of labour, and that it was but of little benefit to the planters?' and the answer was, 'Decidedly so.' Another gentleman accounted for the fact of wages having gradually risen instead of having fallen, to the continued competition for labour among the planters, coupled with the gradual rise in the price of sugar.The evidence before the Committee distinctly showed this, that the cultivation of sugar was carried on at a considerable loss, and yet during the whole of that year the average price of sugar in bond was 48s., and yet this high price, instead of being thought an advantage, was declared by the witnesses to have been a decided disadvantage. Now when this evidence from Trinidad 1040 was sent to him, it was accompanied by a letter from the hon. Gentleman who had acted as Chairman of that Committee, in which there was one passage with which he would beg leave-to trouble the House. [The hon. Member read an extract from the letter to the effect, that up to the present period they had been supporting high protective duties, which rendered sugar twice as dear in England as elsewhere, thereby convincing foreigners that they were on the wrong road, and the effect of which conferred little benefit on the planters, and only went to increase the rate of wages, and diminish the quantity of work performed.] That letter was written by the brother-in-law of the hon. Member for Montrose, who now sought for higher protection for the West Indian colonies; and yet they had, then, his own brother-in-law objecting to protection, as a matter which conferred no benefit on the colonists. But they had undoubtedly duties to perform to the colonists, and the question to consider was, how could they perform those duties with the least cost to this country, and with the most benefit to the colonies. His belief was that they could not, in the long run, do a worse thing for the colonies than to secure protection to them. Were hon. Members aware of the exertions that had been latterly made to effect an arrangement between the employers and the employed in these colonies, for the reduction of the price of labour from the enormous rate to which it had reached in 1841, and of the success which had attended those struggles?' He held in his hand a paper, which showed the reductions that had been effected in the rate of wages in various places, and he found by it that in Barbadoes the cost of labour had been reduced from 1s. to 5d. a day. In Antigua the reduction had been from 8d. to 6d.; in Guiana labour had deceased 25 per cent. ["No, no!"] An hon. Member said "No;" but he must beg to say "Yes." He had the evidence before him to prove that the facts were as he stated. In other islands the cost of labour had been reduced from 25 to 50 per cent; and he would ask would it be wise in that House to increase now the amount of protection?—a change which, as the hon. Member for Leominster had told them, would become known to the negroes by the first packet, and thus in the midst of the struggle that was going forward, to give an excuse to them to raise again the demand for wages which they had so recently, and so unwillingly relinquished. He believed that 1041 nothing could be more prejudicial to the colonies than such a course. But supposing that they were to follow the advice of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and increase the duty on foreign sugar, what would be the effect? The first effect would be not only to increase the cost of raising sugar in the colonies, by increasing the rate of wages that would have to be paid, but also to increase the cost to the consumer at home, and, as a necessary consequence, to decrease the quantity consumed. The effect of a reduction in the consumption, would necessarily be in the long run to decrease the price. The consumption during the last year had risen to an unprecedented amount, but it did not rise more than the supply. But any disturbance which would raise the duty, would inevitably raise the price of sugar and lessen the consumption, and thus injure the revenue. The great difficulty which they had to deal with in the colonies, was the large amount of production of which they were capable, compared with any possible demand that they could ultimately look for in this market. In the last year the production of the British colonies amounted to 292,000 tons weight of sugar, while the consumption in this country amounted to very nearly the same quantity. Now, it was clear that if they were to increase their production beyond the quantity consumed in the home market, they would have to send the remainder to the European markets; and the moment that they sent any portion whatever of their sugar into the general market of Europe, the effect would be to bring down the price in this country to the level of other markets. All the witnesses examined before the Committee, admitted that the inevitable consequence of a greater supply of sugar in the colonies than would be taken by the home market, would be to bring down the price of sugar generally to the level of Continental markets, which were supplied from Cuba and Brazil. He would ask hon. Gentlemen who found so much fault with the Acts of 1844, 1845, and 1846, to consider for one moment the position in which they would have been placed at this moment if those Acts had not been passed. He believed that he could show them that they were greatly indebted to the Sugar Act of 1845 in particular, for not having their position much more aggravated at the present moment than it was. By that Act of 1845 the duty on colonial sugar was reduced from 24s. to 14s., and on foreign sugar from 34s. to 23s. 4d. The 1042 consequence of this decreased charge was a reduction of price and an increase in the consumption, which had gradually gone on up to the present time. The result was that whereas the consumption was but 200,000 tons a year at that period, it increased last year to 290,000 tons. Now supposing they had continued the rate of duty of 24s. and 23s. that prevailed up to 1841, and that they had thus succeeded in excluding entirely foreign sugar from this market, what, he would ask, would have been their position now when their own production had risen to 290,000 tons, whereas the average consumption in this country under the high duties ranged from only 207,000 to 210,000 tons? If the consumption increased so rapidly within the last few years, it could only be attributed to the greatly diminished price, which greatly diminished price could only be attributed to the diminution of duty and to the introduction of foreign sugar to a small extent. But if in 1847 they had a suddenly increased supply of 70,000 tons of sugar more than in the preceding year, what would have been the effect when 40,000 or 50,000 tons of that quantity must have gone to the Continental markets? Would it not be that during the past year they would have been exposed to free competion with Cuban and Brazilian sugar? The Bills of 1845 and 1846 had the effect, however, of gradually increasing the consumption in this country, so as during the past year to make it equal the increased supply. But how much more strongly would this view appear, when they recollected what the capabilities of the colonies were; when they recollected, that in the island of Trinidad alone, about one-seventh of the soil would be fully capable of supplying the whole of the British Islands with sugar; and that there was at this moment one million of acres of Crown lands in that colony, wholly unoccupied. When they considered, farther, the vast supply that was capable of being raised in British Guiana—and still more, when they considered the vast settlements which they held in the East Indies capable of being devoted to the production of sugar—when they considered these facts, how, he would ask, could they look forward to maintaining any increased protection in the market of this country? No man could have sat upon the Committee and not have come to the conclusion, that whatever protection was given to the colonies, that protection must, by the effect of other measures which had 1043 been passed, be accompanied by supplies to a much larger extent, and that there was no possible safety but in viewing the colonies as exposed to the competition of the world. Unless we based our legislation in relation to this fact, whatever we did would prove fallacious—a deception and a delusion. With these views it was impossible for him to recommend the adoption of the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, inasmuch as it would tend to raise the price of sugar, whilst operating prejudicially upon the revenue. It was on all grounds a dangerous and delusive proposition. He now came to the proposition of the Government. The first point the Government had to consider was to give permanent encouragement to the cultivation and the increased consumption of sugar. The cultivation would be encouraged; and with regard to the consumption, he called the attention of the House to the result of the measure proposed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) in 1845. It was a fact that in the three years between 1845 and 1848, by the reduction of the duty, the consumption had been raised from 207,000 tons to 290,000 tons. Considering that the colonists required protection in their transition state, he considered the Government had acted wisely in reducing the duties on West India sugars gradually. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had found fault with the mode in which this protection was granted; but what was his proposition? To maintain the present rate for six years, and then let it cease. The right hon. Gentleman knew, however, that price must be regulated by the foreign and not by the colonial duty, and consequently the consumption during the whole of that period must remain the same, and thus he would not have provided for an increased growth in the colonies. The right hon. Gentleman also objected to the descending scale, because it would infuse into commercial transactions a certain degree of insecurity. His plan, however, was more open to that censure than that of the Government. Nor would the Government measure prejudice the revenue, as the right hon. Gentleman contended for. What had been the effect of a reduction in the scales during the last two years? A large advantage to the revenue. He held that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman would be infinitely less satisfactory in this respect than that of the Government. The hon. Member would not lower the 1044 duty to the West Indies, which the present proposed plan of the Government would do. He would not increase the revenue, which the plan of the Government would also do. Under these circumstances he did not think for a moment that either a merchant, a consumer, or a Chancellor of the Exchequer could hesitate as to the plan which ought to be adopted. With respect to the interest of the consumer, it was quite clear that the higher duty must be the duty which regulated the price. As the scale proposed by the Government would descend year by year, so the price would also descend to the consumer in the same proportion, while the protection to the producer will be equal in amount to that proposed by the hon. Gentleman, and even of longer duration. So that protection to the West Indian producer, as well as the interests of the consumer, were better provided for by the plan of the Government, than by the scheme of the hon. Gentleman. The consumer would year after year have the advantage of the descending scale, and the consumption would be in proportion to the reduction of the price; so that by an increased consumption they could make good anything which had been lost by reason of the diminished duty from colonial sugar. With regard to the slight alteration which had taken place in the scale of duties as fixed by the Act of 1846, he had to say that no one could have heard the evidence brought before the Committee without being convinced that there was a practical inequality in our present scale; the whole of the foreign sugars imported being of a high quality, while those of the colonies were of a low. It would only be an act of justice to the West Indies to remove this inequality. With regard then to the-scale of duties as fixed in 1846, there would be little or no alteration, except as far as regarded this unintentional inequality. He considered it was right that they should alter to the least possible extent the laws regulating their duties; but he did consider that no alteration could have been made which would more fully meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman and the objects of the Government, than that which was proposed. The whole of the duties would remain precisely as they were fixed by the Act of 1846, excepting the duty upon brown clayed sugar, which would be raised by 1s. 6d. per cwt. The Government had received several complaints from gentlemen who sent orders to purchase sugar in Cuba and Bahia on the faith of the 1045 anticipated reductions on the 5th of July next. Now he would ask what would have been the state of the case if the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford had been acceded to? Would there not have been a larger ground for complaint, for the loss would not have occurred only upon one particular kind of sugar, but upon the whole of the sugars imported? An objection had been made by the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) against the reduction on clayed sugar, on the ground that the foreign planter would introduce brown clayed and pass it off as muscovado; and he expressed an apprehension that thus what was intended for an advantage to the colonies would confer none at all. He, however, was glad to tell the hon. Baronet the arrangements which were proposed to be made rendered such a proceeding impossible. There would be two standards of sugar—one for muscovado and one for brown clayed; and sugars above the standard would have to pay the higher duty. The Member for the University of Oxford said that they would be taking a retrograde step by excluding the use of sugar in breweries; and a very general impression prevailed in the City that it was the intention of the Government to exclude sugar from breweries. But the Government had no such intention. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated was this, that when sugar was admitted into breweries at a duty of 14s. per cwt., it was, in point of revenue, quite equal to the duty upon malt; and that when the duty fell below 12s., he would then be obliged to exclude sugar from breweries—not from distilleries—or fall upon some other mode of remedying the inequality which would be occasioned to the revenue. But that would not come into operation for three years, when the duty would fall to 11s. And that would, at all events, be but a question of time. With regard to the rum duties, he had already remarked that the various changes which had been made upon this article, had been productive of very great practical relief to the West Indian colonies. The reduction now proposed was equal on the rum exported from Jamaica in the course of last year to 50,000l.; and if they added the reduction which had taken place within the last two years, it would give an increased income to the colonies of no less a sum than 300,000l or 400,000l on the quantity of rum exported from the colonies. He had not the pleasure of listening to the speech 1046 of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington), but he had read the report of the speech, and he learned that the hon. Gentleman stated, that by the evidence received before the Committee, the average cost of the production of sugar in the slave-grov-wing colonies was, in Cuba, 6s. 8d. per cwt.; in Porto Rico, 5s. 2d.; and in Bahia, 5s. 9d.; making an average cost of 6s. 10½d. per cwt. He was exceeedingly surprised that such a statement should have I been made, because it was fresh in his re-: collection that they had evidence before them which led to very different results. I He found at page 366 in the seventh report of the Committee, a letter from Mr. Crawford, consul-general at Havana. The result of his statement was, that sugar cost one penny three-sevenths per lb., or 13s. 4d. per cwt. But he said further, that that included nothing for the interest of capital and the other costs of replacing of slaves—a most important item in slavegrowing countries. He said still further, that in addition to that cost, there was a tax something like a tithe, which amounted to 2s. per 100 lbs. or 2s. 2d. per cwt., making the cost of the sugar 15s. 6d. per cwt. He further added that there was an export duty upon that sugar of 2s. a cwt., making the cost of sugar 17s. 6d. per cwt., irrespective altogether of shipping charges, merchants' commission, and other charges incidental to shipping the produce. Now, that statement of Mr. Commissioner Crawford was wonderfully corroborated by the evidence of a gentleman, a trader, who had lived in Havana for many years, and who was well acquainted both with the Continental and the British markets. The result of that gentleman's calculations, given at page 5 of the seventh report, was, that the cost of producing sugar upon unencumbered estates was 15s. 3d. per cwt., and upon estates encumbered with debt 19s. 4d. per cwt. Next with regard to Bahia, Mr. Porter, the consul, stated the total cost of production at 16s. 5d. per cwt. The export duty was 7 per cent in addition to that, and there were also all the other charges connected with the shipping and conveying of the produce to the market, of which he was unable to give an estimate; but he made the cost at Bahia 17s. 6d. per cwt. Then in Porto Rico, Mr. Lindegren, the consul, made the cost of production 12s. 6d. a cwt., without any charge for loss of slaves and interest on capital. He should here observe that that cost of 12s. 6d. 1047 was upon a small portion of the richest ground in the world for producing sugar. It produced between 26 cwt, and 35 cwt. per acre—a quantity he believed not equalled in any other part of the world. The average, then, of those throe countries, instead of being, as the hon. Baronet had stated it, 6s. 10½d., was no less than 15s. 10d. per cwt.; and if it were taken altogether, irrespective of the export duties which were charged by the respective Governments, and might be said to a certain extent to be optional, the average cost of those three slave-producing countries would be found to be 14s. 8d. per cwt. That average cost comprised three qualities of sugar, namely, 3–12ths of white sugar, which went almost exclusively to Russia, 6–12ths of yellow, and 3–12ths of brown. With regard to slave labour, he would trouble the House for an instant with what he was sure they would consider a most gratifying statement made by Mr. Lindegren, the consul at Porto Rico. That gentleman said—From that abatement, compared with that of slave labour, it appears that the cost of free labour is about one-fifth more only than that of slave labour. One, however, of the principal proprietors of estates in the island who employ both free labour and slaves, says, that taking into consideration the feeding, the clothing, the interest on capital, the life assurance, and loss of time from sickness and other causes, he does not consider that there is any difference in any work done by slaves and free labourers, and that the cost of each will be about the same; and that was, where the proprietor paid the people employed by him 1s. 6d. a day for field labour, and 2s a day in the boiling-house, where they worked longer.Now, had the statement of the hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich been true, he, (Mr. Wilson) for one, would have been disposed to have relinquished the whole of this case as the most impracticable and difficult and forlorn that could be entertained with the view of benefiting the colonies. If it had been true that sugar could have been produced in slave-grown countries, at the average rate quoted by the hon. Baronet, then he must say that he could not have entertained any hope in any reasonable time of free labour being able to compete with slave labour; and he thought it must be a matter of great consolation to those who looked forward to the period when free labour should be exposed to the competition with slave labour, and who were nevertheless as anxious as any could be to sec slavery abolished, to perceive that the average cost of producing sugar in the island of Jamaica last year 1048 was no more than he had shown it to have been from the consular returns which he had quoted in Cuba and South America. Upon this question of slavery he must say that he was a good deal surprised the other evening to hear the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex (Sir E. N. Buxton), a strong free-trader in other respects, object to this proposition of the Government, because it encouraged slavery, and yet not object to cotton and coffee, the productions of the United States of America, because, he said, there was no slave trade there. He (Mr. Wilson), however, asserted—and it could not be denied—that a slave trade most indubitably did exist with all its horrors, nay, in its very worst shape, in North America, and that the largest portion of the rice, cotton, and tobacco produced in that country was the result of slave labour. If hon. Gentlemen were willing to say that there was no difference in the two descriptions of slave trade, then he could not see on what grounds they could base their support of the introduction of slave-grown cotton, whilst they declined to introduce slave-grown sugar. He was obliged to omit a number of important points which he should have noticed if time had been allowed him; but he would not detain the House longeir. If he had one feeling that was stronger than another—if he was desirous of seeing an end put to slavery and the slave trade—if he was desirous of seeing the British colonies raised from their present state of depression—if he had a strong desire to see these two great objects accomplished, then he most conscientiously believed that nothing could be more prejudicial to the one or the other than for the House to revert back to increased protection on sugar. He believed that by so doing you would only interfere with those measures which were now being taken in our colonies to reduce the cost of production; and he believed that you must rely upon the reduced cost of production as being the only means by which our colonies could be themselves restored to a state of prosperity, or by which the planter could hope successfully to compete with slave labour. He conscientiously entertained this opinion, and was quite sure that the Gentlemen who sat with him on the Committee would give him the credit of having paid every attention to the evidence of the witnesses they brought in—for he did not think it necessary to bring any witnesses—and say, that after that inquiry, if you had these two great objects at heart, 1049 there were no means by which you could permanently and successfully carry them out, but by persevering in the system which you had commenced, by which the cost of production in the colonies would be economised; by which sugar would be reduced in cost to the producer, and price to the consumer; and by which alone your own planter would be able to carry on a successful competition with his competitors in slave-grown countries.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at half-past One o'clock.