The Earl of Dalhousie
moved the third reading of the Sugar Duties Bill. In asking their Lordships to give a third reading to a Bill for making certain alterations in the duties on sugar, it became his duty to state to their Lordships the objects of that measure, and the reasons on which it was founded. Their Lordships were aware that the duties which were imposed on the importation of sugar were not imposed by virtue of the Acts which imposed duties on other articles imported into this country, but that they were imposed by an Act which was annually renewed. The Bill which he now had the honour of submitting to the House, was one, however, of a very different nature from those which usually came before Parliament during every Session in relation to the Sugar Duties, for it proposed to introduce considerable alterations into the law as regarded the importation of sugar—not only as regarded the foreign countries from which the importation of sugar was admissible, but also with respect to the rates of duty at which it should be admitted in this. It was unnecessary for him on that occasion to remind their Lordships of the extreme importance of the article which was the subject of this Bill—of the immense and valuable tracts of territory devoted to its cultivation—to the enormous amount of capital involved in its production—or of the number of persons employed in connexion with that production. Their Lordships were all well aware, that these were of such an extent as must at all times afford matter deserving of the gravest consideration of Parliament. It would be superfluous for him to direct the attention of their Lordships to the importance of the 165 subject, by stating how largely it entered into the consumption of all classes, from the highest to the lowest; indeed it was an article of such common use that it could no longer be looked upon as a mere article of luxury, for it was now an article of the first necessity. No noble Lord, he thought, would dispute the proposition that it was most important that an article of such general use should be provided for the people of this country in a sufficient and abundant quantity, and that it should be furnished at such reasonable and moderate rates, as should place it within the reach, not merely of the rich and middling classes, but of that large portion of the population to whom the smallest enhancement in the price, would amount almost to a deprivation, by checking amongst them the use of this necessary of life. Until within the last ten years, this desirable object of an abundant supply and at a reasonable rate, had accomplished itself: the produce of our own possessions had not only been enough for our own wants but also enough to allow of a considerable export to other countries. It also had been provided at a reasonable price. In 1833, however, the Parliament passed the measure for emancipating the slave population in the West Indies, and the consequence of that measure, and the abrupt termination of the system of apprenticeship in those Colonies had diminished considerably the quantity of sugar produced in the West Indies, and of course enhanced the price. Their Lordships would have an idea of the diminution in the production of sugar in the West Indies, when he stated that in the three years from 1830 to 1832, both inclusive, the average supply was 3,900,000 cwts.; and in the three years from 1841 to 1843 inclusive, the average supply from the same quarter was not 3,900,000 but 2,300,000 cwts., showing a very great diminution. He knew it would be said, by noble Lords opposite, that although the quantity of sugar from the West Indies had diminished, the quantity from other portions of the British territory had in creased. It was true that the quantity of sugar produced in other parts of the British territories had increased, but that increase had not been sufficient to make up for the decrease which had taken place in the West-Indian produce. In three years, from 1830 to 1832 inclusive, the aggregate quantity of sugar which had come from all portions of British territories was 4,600,000 cwts. whilst in the three years, from 1841 to 166 1843 inclusive, the aggregate amount of sugar imported from British territories was but 4,100,000 cwts., showing a diminution of not less than 500,000 cwts., and proving that the increase in the production of sugar in other British possessions was not sufficient to make up for the diminution in the production of sugar in the West Indies. Then, with regard to the price, in the three years from 1830 to 1832 the price of sugar was 25s. 3d. per cwt., whilst in the three years from 1841 to 1843, it was 36s. 9¾d. per cwt. The average price of sugar up to June in the present year was 35s. 11¾d. whilst for the same months last year it was but 33s. 3¼d.; and although since the announcement of the present measure, by the Government, there had been a slight diminution of price, it was now 34s. 4½d. He did not wish to impress their Lordships with the idea that there was any prospect of an immediate scarcity of this article, but when they found a great diminution in the supply from one quarter, while the supply from other quarters did not compensate that diminution; when they found the supply of the past year, certainly no greater than the average of the years he had stated, and the consumption treading so closely on the heels of the supply, that former was 202,000 tons, whilst the latter was 204,000 tons; and when they could see no better prospect with regard to future supply and price; they would at once see that it was the duty of the Government and the Legislature to see whether or not a measure could be devised, by which they might prevent so great an inconvenience, if not so great a calamity, to both producer and consumer, as a short supply and an enhanced price. He admitted that, the West-India planters were in an unusual position, and were fairly entitled to protection; but there was another class also entitled to consideration — the consuming population of this country. That class had been burthened with the payment of no less than 20,000,000l. for compensation to the planters, in consequence of the passing of the Bill for emancipating the negroes in the West Indies; but that was not all the pecuniary burthen imposed on them. The average price of sugar during the last three years as compared with the three years before emancipation was 36s. to 25s.; an increase of 46 per cent. on the price of the article. Taking all these circumstances into consideration,—the gradually diminishing supply, without the prospect of an 167 increased supply for the future, considering the great enhancement there had been in the price, it was their duty, not only to the consumer but also to the producer, by some means to relieve the market lest by deficient supply, an enhancement of price might be produced which would place in jeopardy that fair share of protection to which the West-Indians were entitled. These were the general grounds on which the Government had introduced the present measure, and he thought these grounds ought to convince their Lordships of the necessity for the introduction of such a Bill. He would now state the amount of duties now existing, and those proposed to be levied under this Bill. At present there was imposed on all foreign sugar a duty of 63s. per cwt.; and on all British sugar from the West Indies, the East Indies and the Mauritius, a duty of 24s. and 5 per cent. The Bill he now introduced to their Lordships' attention proposed to leave the duties on British sugars at 24s. per cwt. with 5 per cent. as at present; but with respect to foreign sugars, it made an important alteration both with respect to the descriptions introduced, and the rates at which they were to be received into the British market. By one of the Clauses of this Bill it was proposed that the sugars of China, Java and Manilla, being the produce of free-labour, should be admitted to consumption at a duty of 34s. with the addition of 5 per cent.; it further gave to the Queen in Council the power of admitting sugars from other foreign countries, if satisfied that they were the produce of free labour; and there was also a Clause enabling the Queen in Conncil to extend the operation of the Act to those other countries with which we had reciprocity treaties if required to do so. These were the principal provisions of the Bill. He was not sanguine enough to suppose that the measure which was now before their Lordships would not meet with any objection; he believed that it would be objected to, and he could, from what he had already heard, anticipate some of the objections. He believed it would be urged by noble Lords opposite that the principle of making a distinction in this measure between slave-grown sugar, and sugar the produce of free labour was an unsound principle, and one which ought not to be recognised, as the article of sugar ought to be regulated, like other articles, according to the general principles of trade. Now, in answer to that objection he (the Earl of Dalhousie) was prepared 168 to contend that the article of sugar was not one, which, under existing circumstances, ought to be confined merely to financial or commercial views alone, but that both from the peculiarity of the position in which it had been placed, and from the uniform course this country had adopted with reference to slavery, it could not be regulated without reference to the general considerations of national policy. Having placed the Colonists in difficulties by the course of legislation they had pursued, it would be an act of the grossest impolicy and injustice to sanction the free admission of the cheap sugar of slave-labour countries on the same terms with sugar the produce of free labour; and he could adduce in support of that view the opinion of Mr. Deacon Hume, who said that Colonies ought to be on an equality in all respects with other countries, in order to have a fair competition, but that in such a case as this they were out of the category of free trade. It was, in fact, impossible for the warmest supporter of the doctrines of protection, or indeed of prohibition, to have given a stronger opinion than that, and it was an opinion which was fully coincided in by the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade during the period when noble Lords opposite were in office. On the occasion of a discussion upon the subject, when the last Government were in office, the President of the Board of Trade said,He believed that the people of this country required that the great experiment they had undertaken should be fairly tried, and he was satisfied it would not be fairly tried, if, at the moment when the Colonies were struggling against the difficulties he described, they opened the flood-gates and inundated the British market with sugar the produce of slave labour.He (the Earl of Dalhousie) would therefore maintain that this was not a question which ought to be regulated solely by the principles of trade, without any other consideration. If there was any question on which this country had given a distinct and deliberate opinion—if there was one point on which it had unequivocally declared its mind and will—it was that it would in no degree countenance the existence, or give encouragement to the continuance, of slavery, but on the contrary, would adopt every practicable measure for its discouragement and suppression. This had been their constant policy from the abolition of the Slave Trade forty years 169 ago, till emancipation was effected in 1833, and the whole course of their legislation up to last year undeviatingly aimed at the same objects. In 1841, the country did deliberately and most unequivocally declare their disapproval of the plan which was then broached for the admission of slave-labour sugar; and he was not surprised at the fact; because if they opened the British market to the sugar of slave-labour countries, they would enhance its price and extend its cultivation, and thus, not merely increase the rigours of slavery where it already existed, but tend inevitably and directly to renew all the horrors of the Slave Trade itself. How, then, was it possible that Parliament could adopt such a course without exhibiting themselves to the world in the attitude of pretending to menace the very existence of slavery with the one hand, while with the other they held out a bribe, and a very rich one, to its continuance? When the subject was before the House four years ago, the right hon. Gentleman, who was then President of the Board of Trade, expressed sentiments in perfect accordance with the views which he (the Earl of Dalhousie) had expressed: he said, "the question which he had to ask himself was, whether he would this year consent to give such a stimulus to slave labour in the Brazils, and other countries where slaves were employed, as would be produced by throwing open the market of this country to the reception of their sugar: He owned he was not able to make up his mind that that was a course which he ought to recommend to the House: he did not believe that it would be agreeable to their constituents, when they came to understand all the facts of the case." Those were the opinions which were expressed four years ago by the then President of the Board of Trade, with respect to the introduction of slave-grown sugar. Were he now moving their Lordships to agree to the second reading of the Bill, he should not trouble them any further; but, considering the short period that remained before the present Act would expire, the Bill had been allowed to reach its last stage, and, therefore, he did not feel justified in leaving any part of the measure undefended. It had been said that by the provisions of this Bill the Government did not attain the object in view, or act upon the principle it professed to go upon; that is, that in some of the countries where the sugar is considered as free grown the labourers are not entirely free. But 170 in Manilla slavery did not exist, and in China, although a species of slavery existed, it was purely of a domestic character, and had not any reference to agricultural labour. With respect to Java, he could speak even more positively; he had not any hesitation in saying that in the system of labour in Java, there was not a shadow of ground for asserting there was any degree of slavery. It was true that there was a certain amount of connection between the labourer and the soil; but that was entirely a matter of contract; the labourers did as they liked, and could leave the land if they performed their duty to the owner of the land according to the terms of the contract. But it was said that by one of the provisions of the Bill, from the 10th November, sugar, the produce of the United States of America, where slavery existed, would be admissible; but he was prepared to show that such sugar would not come to this country, for there would be no inducement to bring it. The tracts of land in the United States adapted to the growth of sugar were limited; they were in Louisiana, within two degrees of latitude; the crop was a most precarious one, and the supply was not sufficient for the wants of the country itself. The utmost amount grown was 50,000 tons, whereas America imported 150,000 tons over and above that amount, and there could be no inducement to raise sugar in Louisiana, for exportation to this country. He found that during the years, from 1831 to 1843, the price of that quality of sugar which could come into competition with our own, was 35s. 4d., whilst the price at New York, by the latest advices, was 33s. 10d. It was impossible if, during ten years, the price of Louisiana sugar was 35s. 4d., and was now 33s. 10d. that any individual could have any object in bringing that sugar here. At New Orleans the price of sugar during the last ten years was 26s. 2d., and if the duty and freight and charges were added, it was impossible considering what had been the price of sugar here for the last few years, that it could come into competition with our Colonial sugar. But it was argued that if United States sugar would not come, Brazilian and Cuba sugars would be imported into the United States and from thence exported here as free American sugar, and we should then be after all encouraging slave labour — he would reply, that he felt full confidence in the precautions which the Bill took against the introduction of any surreptitious 171 produce in this way. In the first place, there was the system of certificates of origin, and he did not see why the certificates of consuls should not afford as effectual a protection in this case as it had in others. But this was not the only protection; the quality of the sugar would of itself be a protection; for the sugar of Cuba is different from that of the United States. There was another protection, in the mode of packing; for, whilst the sugar from the West Indies and the United States was in hogsheads, that from Cuba was in boxes. Moreover, there did not exist in New Orleans any bonding warehouses, and the duty upon foreign imported sugar must be paid on landing. It was true, a drawback was allowed, but only where the article was exported in the same package in which it had been brought, which in the case of Cuba sugar could not be done for this market; so that these marks and guarantees, coupled with the certificates of the Consuls, afforded a sufficient protection against the substitution of Brazilian sugar for that of the United States. Then it was said that the protection to the West-Indian interest was insufficient. It was proposed by the Bill to give a protection of 10s. per cwt. The prices of Java and Manilla sugar ranged upon an average about 20s.; the protection to the West-India sugars, therefore, was 50 per cent. upon the value of the sugar. Now, no person could say that a protection of 50 per cent. upon the value of the article was an insufficient protection. It was true the fall from 63s. to 34s. was great; but 63s. was a prohibitory duty, acted upon as such and meant to be such. If a monopoly was not to be maintained, what was the amount of protection which should be given? Only two years ago, upon the introduction of the measure of the Tariff, certain principles were laid down as the standard for the imposition of duties, and it was resolved and acted upon, that, generally speaking, the largest amount of duty levied on articles fully manufactured should be 20 per cent. If, then, the general principle was, that no more than 20 per cent. should be imposed on articles fully manufactured, surely by a protecting duty of 50 per cent. on the value of the article, the West-India colonists had a just consideration shown to them. He submitted to their Lordships that 10s. was a sufficient protection, and, it being utterly impossible any longer to maintain the monopoly, considering the state of supply and the enhancement of prices, the Government had done 172 the best for the consumer, and pursued the safest course for the producer. It was said, that if the Government opened this question at all, they should have concluded it; but it was utterly impossible for the Government to have done so. He would remind their Lordships that in the course of next year the law imposing the Income Tax would expire; it would then be necessary for the Government and for Parliament to review the whole of the financial condition of the country; and, for the more effectual performance of this duty, it would be desirable, that the changes operated by the Tariff should have had as full a development as possible, and that the effect of the alteration of the other duties, should be fully tested. Were the Sugar Duties definitively settled now, the Government would be placed in a very different position when they came to the consideration of the financial condition of the country, on the expiration of the Income Tax Act, than they would be if their Lordships assented to the proposed arrangement. Then it was said, "If you are not prepared to settle the question of the Sugar Duties finally, you should have left it altogether till next year." But such a course would have been extremely unadvisable. In altering the Sugar Duties it was necessary that notice should be given by Parliament of some of the principles upon which it was intended to legislate. If there had not been such notice to foreign countries, whatever alternative Parliament might have adopted with regard to the Sugar Duties next year, it would have placed the consumer in a position of great inconvenience. He had now noticed the main objections to the measure. It was unnecessary for him to assure their Lordships that this question, being of infinite importance, had from the first received the most anxious and careful consideration of the Government, and he trusted that their Lordships would be of opinion that in adopting the present course with respect to the Sugar Duties, they had acted upon the whole as was best for the consumer of sugar in this country, for the producer of sugar in the Colonies, and for the interests of the revenue. He would now move that the Bill be read a third time.
§ Lord Monteagle
said, a more clear and satisfactory statement of a complicated question he thought it was impossible to have made to their Lordships than that of the noble Earl. He (Lord Monteagle) had no objection to make to the general 173 principles laid down by the noble Earl, nor to his estimate of the importance of the question to the commerce and the revenue of the country. It was not upon general statements and general principles, but upon the mode in which those principles to the present question, that the noble Earl and he were at issue. Before he approached the subject, he must state that he differed from the noble Earl as to the justification which he had offered on behalf of the Government for bringing forward the present Bill, and as to the description he had given of its enactments. It was a measure involving questions of a peculiar character, containing within itself elements entirely repugnant to the broad principles on which it was said to be founded, and involving infinite confusion, contradictions, and incongruities. In the first place, the Government admitted it to be only an imperfect, a temporary measure, and spoke of the trade in this important article as being in a transition state. Now he objected to this transition state legislation as being most unjust to all the great interests concerned, and, above all, most unjust to the West-India planters. When he, a few nights ago, asked their Lordships to assent to a Motion for inquiry into the state of our imports, it was objected that the tendency of such inquiries was to unsettle the minds of men engaged in commerce, and thereby to check commerce itself, in all its contracts and its speculations. If such were the consequences anticipated from a mere inquiry into a particular subject, how much greater must be the evil to be apprehended from a declaration on the part of the Government itself that introduced a measure like this, not as a final settlement of a great question, but merely as a sort of stop-gap until something further could be done, and by way of giving notice to all parties engaged in this great branch of commerce to hold themselves in readiness for other changes which the Government had in contemplation, but of the nature of which they did not choose to give any intimation. For his own part, he could not conceive a mode of proceeding more calculated to injure an interest already unhappily depressed. At all events, Government ought to have stated the principle of what they intended to do, so that people might have some notion what they were to expect, or what they were to do hereafter. They might thus form some notion whether they might form any plans at all, or act upon them under such circumstances. 174 The first objection to the principle of this particular measure was, that he believed, for the first time we were called upon to make our legislation fluctuate with and depend upon the morals and laws of other countries; a most unsafe principle; and he objected to this all the more, because the Bill, upon matters so perfectly indefinite and precarious, left to the Executive Government the power of acting without the control or even the knowledge of Parliament. If the measure set forth that, under given circumstances, in definable and definite contingencies, the Government should be empowered to take a specific step, that might be another thing; but here all was uncertain and vague, all was left to the control, the caprice, the unchecked will and the uncertain opinions of the Government. Thus, the principle was, that no slave-grown sugar should be admitted under any circumstances; but the noble Earl had already shown of what modifications this principle might be rendered susceptible, if Government were left to its own discretion. China, he admitted, held slaves; but then, said the noble Lord, these slaves are not the slaves contemplated by the Bill; they are only domestic slaves, having nothing to do with the growth of sugar. Perhaps not; but what security had we that this would continue to be the case? What control had we over the morals and laws of China? Again, the noble Earl admitted that in Java, too, there were slaves, though he spoke of them as merely persons connected with the land, as bound by a species of slavery which did not come within the category contemplated by the present Bill. This was the admission of another modification, and it was impossible to say how far these modifications might be carried in practice; for the matter to be left to the discretion of the Government was not one of fact, but one of opinion; the Government being at full liberty, as it would seem, to decide exactly what quantum of slavery, what number of slaves, as compared with the population, what extent of slave-labour, the Act intended should operate as prohibiting us from admitting the sugar of a particular state. The interests of a large and important class of merchants, the value of the property of our colonists, the stocks of sugar in the hands of our traders at home, surely ought not to be trifled with by such vague, utterly indefinite plans as this. The Government 175 ought at all events to have been enabled to say decidedly what countries should, and what countries should not, supply us with sugar; they ought to have been prepared with the fullest and clearest information to satisfy the House why such and such countries were accepted or were rejected as producers of the article for our consumption. Was Siam, for instance, to be allowed to send us sugar? Surely Government ought to be able at once to answer the question. As to Java, they had the undeniable testimony of Sir Stamford Raffles, that in 1814, at all events, there were no fewer than 27,000 slaves in that island. We know that in China there was a distinct code of laws applicable to slaves; but it was said, that was not a species of domestic slavery, not of a predial character nor applicable to the cultivation of the cane; their Lordships were called upon to legislate, with regard to China and Java, upon that hypothesis. But, might not those countries alter their law of slavery? There was nothing to prevent a change of laws in the two countries; and suppose we made it profitable to them to cultivate sugar by slave-labour, we had no security that the day after the Royal Assent was given to this Bill, slave-labour would not be applied there to the cultivation of cane. And what would the Government say then? He would now reply to the argument with respect to the United States of America. The noble Earl did not state the whole of the question, and to the part which he had omitted he (Lord Monteagle) would now direct the attention of the House. He knew that in America, very sanguine hopes were entertained as to the increase in the cultivation of maple sugar, and also that an experiment was in successful progress for the manufacture of sugar from Indian corn. But on these speculations he would not rely. He was content to refer to cane sugar only, and to assume that the produce of American sugar would remain much as it was at present. The noble Earl said, that much sugar could not come from America, as that was an importing country, and that there was a protective duty on foreign sugar, and also that the planter of Louisiana could get more money for his sugar at New York than he could get in Liverpool; so far the question was one of comparative profit, and it was not to be supposed that the American merchant would send his sugar to a place where he would get a lower price. It was clear that the free importation 176 of sugar from Cuba or the Brazils into the provinces of the United States, would be more profitable than the consumption of the home produce of the United States; for it was in consequence of this, a protective duty of 10s. was imposed on foreign sugar. And even, notwithstanding this duty, there was a considerable annual importation of slave-grown sugar into the United States. Under these circumstances, it was not improbable that for the portion of domestic American sugar sent to this country, there might be an equal amount of foreign slave-sugar substituted, and thus for every additional hundred weight of Cuba sugar, which could be brought into the United States, there would be set free for exportation an equivalent in American sugar, and this would be entitled to admission into our markets on the terms of the most favoured nations. But, besides this, could there be any doubt but that this might be aided if a law were passed in the United States similar to the grinding Act in this country, by virtue of which, for every hundred weight of native sugar exported, so much foreign sugar would be allowed to be imported into that country for consumption free of duty. He would ask the House whether it was not a gross piece of folly to legislate in this extravagant way on our estimate of the state of morals in other countries or to suppose we could compel them either to enact or to repeal laws regulating their importation of foreign sugars? You say that a great quantity of sugar will be exported from the United States, because there are laws there for the protection of American produce, and that under those laws foreign sugar is liable to a protecting duty. True; but if it should appear by your proceedings that the removal of this protection would be rendered more profitable to them than its maintenance, the protective duty would be repealed in America as it would be repealed here the moment it was found more profitable to do so. Under these circumstances, he contended that the whole of the American sugar might hereafter be transferred to this country, and its place supplied by sugar from Cuba or the Brazils. It appeared to him that this was a strange species of legislation to adopt, for by it our legislation became dependent upon the legislation of other countries. With respect to another point, he did not differ in any essential points from the statement of Mr. Deacon Hume, which had been 177 quoted by his noble Friend. He had himself admitted, more than once, that until they saw a probable realization of the great experiment which had been tried in the West-India Colonies, the colonists were entitled to protection. He had made a similar declaration in that House to that which had been made in another place by Mr. Labouchere; and, if a Motion was now made for the immediate equalization of the duties on foreign and colonial sugar, he should vote against it. He had shown how one description of sugar might be substituted for another; he contended also that it could be done by a fraud against the Customs Laws. Against this no certificates of origin, or peculiarity of packages, would be any adequate protection, but the noble Earl denied that any thing of the kind could take place. His noble Friend's experience of office had not been of any very long duration; and he seemed to rely upon the restrictions which would be imposed by the Custom-house with all the tender confidence of a bridegroom, and with so much innocent simplicity as to astonish him (Lord Monteagle); he was sure, when the noble Earl had had a little more experience of office, he would find that such regulations could not be depended on to secure the attainment of the object which the noble Earl had in view. The noble Earl depended on the certificate of origin in this Bill, on the same ground that it was to be relied on as the certificate of origin required under his (Lord Monteagle's) Bill for the equalization of East and West-Indian sugar. But the Indian certificate of origin was a very different thing from taking a cargo of sugar before the British Consul at New Orleans for a certificate. Under the Equilization Act every security was taken to secure the prevention of fraud as to the place of growth of the sugar. From the nature of the Company's establishment, the sugar exported was traced and identified from its place of growth. How could this be done in the valley of the Mississippi? The noble Earl said that one description of sugar was made up in a different way from others; for instance, that one kind was packed in hogsheads, while another was sent in boxes; and that they could easily distinguish the one from the other. For his own part, instead of relying upon any such regulations as affording a mode of detection, he should be much more disposed to believe that they would be turned to account by the ingenuity of the smuggler, whose 178 every exertion was constantly in exercise to counteract the best framed regulations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was satisfied that any attempt to carry out practically this part of the Bill would altogether fail. The noble Earl said that when the question of the admission of foreign slave-grown sugar was under discussion a few years ago, the opinion of the people of England was deliberately taken at the hustings, and that they had decided, by a large majority, against it. Now he (Lord Monteagle) denied that the opinion of the people was fairly taken on that subject—he was convinced that if ever there was a case where delusions had been unfairly excited and widely spread, and in which pledges had been as inconsiderately given as they were afterwards inconsiderately broken, and in which every deceit practised on the minds of the people of this country, it was at that time. Did the noble Earl and his Friends venture to rely on the permanance of that support which was thus unfairly obtained. Some of the questions which had been raised on that occasion had subsequently proved marvellously harrassing to Her Majesty's Ministers, and others no less so to their supporters. He did not mean this as an attack on the noble Earl; but when he was told that this question of the sugar duties had been decided by judgment pronounced by the people at the hustings at the last election, he would appeal against that judgment on the ground of misdirection; the charge then given to the jury was an unfair one, and contrary to evidence. Those who committed themselves to certain opinions on that occasion, whereby they had achieved a great political victory over their opponents, were now suffering the consequences of having obtained power under false pretences. But, supposing that the question of slavery was of paramount importance—and no one estimated it more highly than he did—if they relied on the beneficial effects of discriminating duties as enacted in the Bill under consideration ought they not to carry out that principle on all points, and not confine it merely to the question of sugar? If, however, they did so, what would become of the whole of the most important manufactures and branches of trade in this country? Let them look to the cotton-trade, and the tobacco and coffee trades, all which depended upon slave-labour. But they were told, it was true that these articles were the produce of 179 slave-labour, but that they were produced by a species of labour which was not so detrimental to human life, and was not productive of the same extent of suffering which resulted from slave-labour in sugar plantations. This was the case unquestionably, but it was slave-labour still; and there was no doubt that the consumption of such produce stimulated the Slave Trade, and held out inducements to the importation of slaves. Upon various occasions when the subject of slavery was under consideration, it was stated by great Statesmen and by great West-Indian proprietors, that the admission of the articles he had enumerated being the produce of slave-labour must operate as a stimulus to slavery and the Slave Trade. Mr. Huskisson, in 1822, said distinctly that every ounce of cotton raised by slave-labour imported into this country operated as an inducement to the system of slavery. Mr. C. R. Ellis, (now Lord Seaford) expressed an opinion nearly similar to this. But, it is now said in reply—we find all this existing, this we cannot remedy—but we will do nothing to increase it. But they had been increasing it. He recollected that it was not long since that the Government claimed credit—and claimed credit justly for the success which had attended the reduction of the duty on coffee. Let it be remembered that by that reduction, slave-grown coffee was brought into nearer and more extensive competition with our own free colonial coffee. Where was the feeling against slavery when this was done? Had it been entirely exhausted by Lord Sandon and his friends in that memorable discussion of eight nights in the House of Commons upon the united questions of slavery and sugar and a change of Ministry, or had this zeal evaporated on the hustings? Certain it was that since those occasions but little of the feelings at that period so ostentatiously put forward had been exhibited by the Government, and not much more by their supporters. Nay, he would undertake to prove, that if this mighty principle to which the noble Earl, and, according to his statement, the country also stood pledged, were to control their legislation, they ought to reject this Bill altogether; for, while it had not the honesty to deal with the question as the interests of the consumer most required, it covertly and by insinuation made as great an inroad upon that very principle on which it was founded, as if it directly admitted foreign-grown sugar into this country for British consumption. Withdraw the amount of 180 free-trade sugar at present consumed in the other markets of the world, and you cannot fail to create a void in those markets which must be filled up by slave-labour sugar. By that means you do as much to encourage slavery and the Slave Trade as if you had imported directly the same proportion of slave-labour sugar and left the foreign European markets as they were. He would ask, did they really expect to be considered either as practical legislators, or as men of sense or of common integrity, when they supported such an absurd and contradictory system of legislation. In advocating these distinctive duties it should also be remembered they were in truth supporting that which originated, not in any objection to slavery, or to the Slave Trade, because the protective system was anterior to both, but in a desire to protect the British planters—were they not supporting the same principle now, and putting it forward under the disguise, he would almost say the hypocritical disguise, of an abhorence of slavery? But our encouragement to slavery was not confined exclusively in cotton, tobacco, and coffee, it was also to sugar. The greatest portion of Brazilian sugar was paid for in English manufactures, it was conveyed away in English ships, and it was sold by our merchants and consumed in those foreign states to which the balance of our transactions made it our interest to send it. Now, he asked any man of understanding to show him the difference in point of feeling, integrity, and honour, between our taking from Brazil a cargo of sugar grown and manufactured by slaves, and selling that sugar in the St. Petersburg market, or our sending it into the markets of this country directly for our own consumption. Disguise it as they might, was there not some other motive at the bottom of all this folly than any mere hatred to slavery, and a wish to put it down? What did their Lordships think of the argument of the noble Earl against the encouragement of slavery, when they recollected that in the Tariff the Government had largely but most properly reduced the duty on foreign ores? The question of slavery was blinked upon that occasion; though the condition of slaves in mines was, he believed, quite as lamentable as in a sugar plantation; but it was raised now upon the sugar question, because it suited the convenience, or the supposed consistency of noble Lords. If the principle was seriously intended to be acted upon, a Bill of a much more stringent character 181 than the present should be required. In addition, however, to this in 1842 and 1843 there were 2,359,000 cwt. of foreign sugar imported into this country, which was refined here and re-exported to the Colonies for actual consumption. It was thus that we performed this hypocritical farce, talking about slavery, determining to maintain anti-slavery principles, yet proclaiming to all the world through our very statute book that the liberality professed by the Government was entirely local in its nature, and not expansive enough to spread beyond our own European territories. He knew that it was difficult to resort to evidence from former debates bearing on the great points involved in this question as such evidence was constantly supposed to be tinged with party considerations. There was however one unexceptionable witness to whom he would appeal. It should be recollected that the distinction between Colonial and foreign sugar between slave produce and free produce was not now agitated for the first time, and he could refer to the high authority of Lord Glenelg on the subject. He presumed that in referring to his noble and valued Friend, it would be admitted on all sides that a more sincere friend of the abolition of slavery and the Slave Trade, one more honest and more able, did not exist. He was the man above all others who would not have been betrayed into any step countenancing slavery or extending any favour towards it. In 1829 Lord Glenelg, then in the other House, when president of the Board of Trade, brought the following proposition before the Cabinet, and it received the assent of that Cabinet, the only difference between him and his Colleagues being merely as to the time when the proposition should be brought forward as a matter of revenue. The proposition of Lord Glenelg was, that British plantation sugar should be admitted at the reduced duty of 20s, the cwt.; for when he proposed to make a reduction in foreign sugars unlike the present Government, he felt it his duty also to extend the principle to the produce of our own Colonies. Lord Glenelg did not propose at that time that there should be an equalisation of the Duties charged on East and West-Indian sugars, but that the latter should be subject to 25s. per cwt. duty. He proposed however that all foreign sugars, whether slave-grown or Colonial, should be imported at 28s. duty. This proposition received the sanction of, he believed, the Cabinet of the noble Duke, 182 subject to modification as to the time when it should be carried into effect. He might be told that this was previous to the abolition of slavery in the Colonies; but that did not vary the principle; it only varied the argument in degree, for in 1829 though the Slave Trade was abolished as regarded our own possessions, it was notoriously carried on by some of those countries from which sugar would have been imported under this plan of Lord Glenelg's. This proposition, therefore, if the arguments of the Government are sound, was pro tanto an encouragement of the Slave Trade in Cuba and the Brazils. At that time Lord Glenelg used the same argument which he (Lord Monteagle) had that night addressed to the House on this subject, for the following passage occurred in the speech of Lord Glenelg when he made that proposition:—It was said that we should encourage slave cultivation if we promoted the produce of the islands; but he would show that by indirect means we were encouraging slave cultivation. Our exports to Brazil last year were to the amount of 3,820,000l., and the imports thence were 1,380,000l. the difference being 2,000,000l. Now, he wished to know what became of those two millions of money; it was paid for in the produce of Brazil, and carried in our vessels to foreign markets.Whether the trade were carried on directly or indirectly, the result would be the same. To deny this seemed to him either delusion or hypocrisy. It was useless to represent it otherwise, and the whole principle upon which the Bill was founded was in its application no better than a mockery. This Bill committed also a great injustice on another class of individuals—the East-Indians. The noble Earl had alluded to the provisions of the Assimulation Act, in which it was expressly stipulated that the introduction of East-Indian sugar at the same duty as West-Indian sugar should be allowed only upon the consideration that from the exporting countries in the East Indies all foreign sugar should be excluded. No such provision is applied to the free-labour foreign countries, whose sugar will be admitted under the present Bill. An unlimited exportation of free-labour sugar from Java was to be allowed without taking any precaution for the exclusion of sugars of a different description; in the case of Calcutta, on the contrary, no exportation, no importation of sugar to England was to be permitted unless Calcutta submitted to a prohibition 183 of all importation of sugar from foreign countries. That was an anomaly? Nay, was it not more than an anomaly? Was it not an injustice? Why was the prohibition made in the case of Calcutta, or in any similar case? Because, as the West-Indians urged, and he himself admitted in his communications with them, the effect of admitting East India sugar without such a restriction would be precisely the same as if foreign sugar were allowed to come in directly. The West-Indians urged the case also at the time of the discussion before Lord Ellenborough's Committee in reference to rum and other articles; they strongly urged the unfairness of equalizing these duties unless care were taken to exclude all similar foreign produce from India. The Legislature admitted the principle. This Bill, however, was framed on a principle directly contrary, so far as related to China, Java, the United States, and other countries, upon a principle directly the reverse of that. The principle of the Bill was a bad one: it was a Bill altogether inexplicable to him, and, having the strongest objections to it, he felt bound to oppose it, though he did not intend to take the sense of the House on the subject.
said, that he would not enter upon the present subject more at large than he felt called upon to do, after the pointed and bitter attack of the noble Lord against himself, and upon all those who agree with him on the question of slavery. The noble Lord had said that they were labouring under a delusion, and that they were dealers in hypocrisy and cant. He supposed that every one who laboured under a delusion was not conscious of it, and that he was, like the rest, unaware of the delusion which oppressed him; but at any rate the dealers in hypocrisy and cant were persons generally wide awake. They were especially a class of people who slept with one eye open, and, as far as the fracas was concerned, all he could say was, that it did not rest with him or with those who sided with him on this question. With regard to the speech of the noble Lord, he differed from him in a great part of his arguments, in most of his facts, and in all his conclusions. He was sorry that an arrangement had been made by which he had been prevented from hearing last night the speech of the noble Lord; but he doubted not that the facts of his speech would have been just as inaccurate—the inferences just as illogical—and the doctrines just as crude then, as 184 they had been after twenty-four hours' additional preparation. This, as had been well stated by the noble Lord, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, was not a mere question of free-trade; it was not an abstract question of political economy; it did not regard the rules of political science more than that it was a question on which all the rules of political science were based—a question of good faith—a question which had regard to the rights of humanity; besides this, it was not a merely fiscal, financial, or commercial question, but a question by which our fiscal regulations, and the arrangements of our commerce affected most nearly and most essentially the consummation of one of the greatest acts ever done in this country—one of England's greatest triumphs in sound policy and public virtue—he meant the abolition of the Slave Trade in the first instance, and then of slavery in all the Colonies belonging to the British Crown. In considering this measure it was necessary that they should keep this in view it was necessary that they should be consistent with themselves—it was necessary that they should not counteract—those principles upon which they had already, so much to their honour, decided. If his noble Friend had, in his minute and elaborate arguments, shown that this measure failed to follow up those principles, if even he had shown that it failed in encouraging other nations to follow the example of this country in the emancipation of their slaves—if he had shown that the Bill failed in these respects, or went at all in a contrary direction—then he would have shown that the Bill was inconsistent with itself—and that either on the one supposition it had failed, or on the other that it ran counter to its professed object. But though there were some persons—one set of political reasoners—one class of moral philosophers, who would have a right to complain of the Bill going too far in the wrong direction, or not far enough in the right, to that class of political reasoners, to that sect of moral philosophers, if there were a single man who did not belong, it was his noble Friend himself. If any one man was excluded by his opinions from that sect or party, or class of philosophers, politicians, and reasoners, and who had no right whatever to be heard in opposition to the present Bill upon those grounds, it was his noble Friend and his noble Friends, for they 185 were the authors of the Bill of 1841. For what were those reasoners anxious? That which those reasoners were anxious for, and were apprehensive of—he meant such men as his venerable Friend, Thomas Clarkson, Mr. Scholefield, and the like—was, that no facilities at all should be given—no, not so much even as were given by this Bill, which he would presently show were quite insignificant—but they wished that no facilities at all should be given for the admission of foreign sugar, that by all being excluded they would be certain to exclude the possibility of slave-sugar. Therefore they were perfectly consistent in their opposition to a Bill which would allow certain sugars to come in—free-grown sugars—but which those reasoners argued would open the door to a little slave-grown sugar. He would presently show, however, that such was a very exaggerated and incorrect view of the subject. Yet, though they might be wrong they were consistent. But where was the consistency of his noble Friend, and of those who had supported the Budget of 1841? They were for opening our ports to all foreign sugar, and wherever it came from — from Java, Manilla, China, Cuba, or Brazil—slave-grown as well as free-grown—they would have let all in upon like terms, with a protective duty on West-Indian sugar. So he said that doctrine was cut from under their feet, which constituted the only ground on which they assailed the measure of his noble Friend. But his other noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) had said, that under this measure it would be quite impossible to distinguish between slave and free sugar. But how had he proved this? As he had said before, his noble Friend was most incorrect in his facts, and still less correct in the inferences he had drawn from his facts. First, he had said that the Crown was empowered, under an Order in Council, to declare which countries produced free sugar, and which produced slave-grown sugar. To a certain extent this was true, but only to a certain extent; for in the Bill itself were enumerated all the great marts of free-labour sugar, Manilla, Java, China, were all mentioned. But then his noble Friend had said, "That this was a very dangerous enumeration; for they would have slave-grown sugar introduced in the place of free-grown sugar." In the first instance, he had referred to Java, and certainly in that case he had been rather vague; but he 186 had quoted the very high authority of Sir Stamford Raffles. New he would also quote the authority of that eminent individual. In a despatch consisting of 700 folio pages—through all of which he had not travelled—were, at pages 156, 160, to be found two distinct statements which he had had occasion to read that very morning. Sir S. Raffles there said that there were 20,000 or 30,000 slaves in Java of all ages and both sexes in a population consisting of 3,000,000. So the amount of slaves in that country was so small that it was scarcely worthy of mention. He would pass it by without further notice. But Sir Stamford Raffles went further, and said, that the slavery of the Javanese was a very different thing from that which was generally understood by slavery. They were menials and peasants, but not slaves; they were adscript to the soil working for wages at that time 4d., and now of 6d. per day. Sugar was produced in all those places which he had enumerated, but it was sugar produced not from the labour of slaves, but from that of a free population. With regard to China, it was immaterial as to the extent which it produced sugar, for nobody dreamed of slavery in respect to it. There was no such establishment within its boundaries. But his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) said, "True, as the present law stands in China, there is no such thing as slavery, but, who can say that some Chinese edict may not be promulgated for the establishment of it?" Of all the extraordinary dreams, of all the fantastical and groundless delusions, of all the fancies that had been ever conjured up to haunt the mind, that certainly struck him as the most groundless, airy, and visionary. Was it an usual and common thing in China to change the law? Was the abrogation of a whole system, the total change of policy—nay, of polity (for they were talking not of imports and exports, but whether China was a free or slave producing country), the taking away the privileges, and altering the condition of that country to be predicated of China, to whose laws, if the proverbial saying applied to the laws of the Medes and Persians, that they change not nor do they alter—the same proverbial expression was applicable—yet it was a change of those laws which his noble Friend took as the ground of his argument—now, he would not say that he took the change of the condition of China from a 187 free to a slave-producing country as one improbable only, but he took it as the wildest vision that was ever conjured up in the desperation of an afflicted reasoner at the end of possibilities to meet an adversary. It was said that Louisiana was a slave-producing country, but the observation which he had before made would cover that objection. There was the greatest possible difference between the cases of countries holding slavery to be lawful and a traffic in slavery carried on by some. He deeply regretted that America was stained by that detestable crime, but at the same time that he said that, he must admit that countries holding slavery to be lawful were placed in an altogether different position from those in which it was placed under the ban of the law; but he would set himself against any party which vehemently claimed the retention of that detestable, that odious slavery, which he was prepared to designate as a crime. Upon that point he (Lord Brougham) had only to say that he would not negociate with the noble Lord in an alliance with any country which cultivated its ground by slaves, and which, holding slavery to be a part and parcel of its municipal law, refused to abolish it, and which raised the produce which he had to buy and to pay for by his own free labour. He (Lord Brougham) approved of everything which discouraged slavery abroad—he approved of every thing which shut the door to the entrance of slave-grown sugar into this country; but he held that principle as a statesman, not with the view of putting down slavery in foreign countries; and he contended that he had a right to draw that line, and to make that distinction, for this simple reason—that he had no right to interfere with the universal domestic institutions of any other state than his own; but when they talked of slave traffic, that was a very different thing; because if we opened our ports and markets to the sugar of Cuba and Brazil we knew that by that very Act we were opening the ports of Cuba and Brazil to the accursed African Slave Trade; that every one hogshead of sugar which we allowed to enter, and which was consumed here, more than was entered and consumed in the previous year, had been raised by the increase of that infernal traffic; and because we knew, moreover, that that policy was not only calculated to encourage detestable municipal institutions but also to encourage that which we as 188 British statesmen had a right to interfere with, and to check—a traffic in slaves; he would not call it a traffic, but the most grievous of all crimes—that of Brazilian and Cuban men sending their ships to Africa and tearing from their native shores harmless children to cultivate their sugar, which we were to purchase with our free industry. His noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) said, "How inconsistent: you object to admit sugar for fear of encouraging slavery, but look to cotton, look to coffee, are not they equally the produce of slave labour?" When, however, his noble Friend told them to look to cotton and coffee, he instanced cases not at all analogous, for although cotton and coffee were raised by slave labour, it was a totally different application of slave labour to that which was had recourse to in the cultivation of sugar. The great evil and grievance of slavery, was the dreadful torment inflicted on the poor slave, in planting, in tending, in cropping, in harvesting, and in making the sugar from the cane, the labour was intolerable; but not so in the produce of coffee, of indigo, and of cotton, in which each individual might labour alone. To every one at all acquainted with West-Indian agriculture, if he might call it by so sacred a name, it was well known, that the labour was performed under the lash of the driver, with the smack of the whip in the slaves' ears to keep them to their work, in the same way as the waggoner smacks his whip when his team labours. Those unhappy creatures were compelled, without any distinction, they were all compelled to walk equally in rank, the healthy and sickly, and the weak and the strong, men and women alike, and were goaded on to work by their inhuman overseers—that they called labour, he (Lord Brougham) called it torture. That was not the case with the producers of cotton or of coffee. That was his first answer to the objection of his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) when he said, "Look to coffee and to cotton." Again, another strong answer was, that we had been taking cotton from America for a century past; our manufactures depended upon it, and we could not give it up. They must also recollect, that they were not discussing the question, whether the ports should be opened for the first time for the admission of cotton from America—for the whole gist of the illustration as an argument lay in that; with respect to sugar there was change, but 189 with regard to cotton there was no change at all, If his noble Friend could show, that by keeping the ports open they would cause a large increase in the imports of cotton, and of slavery in consequence of that; or, that by throwing open the ports to the sugar of the slave-producing countries, such small additional quantities only could be brought in as would offer no stimulus to the Slave Trade—that that, in fact, would be all that would happen by opening the ports—then he would have some ground to go upon in his argument, but, so far from doing that, his analogy was incomplete, and his argument had altogether failed, He was then arguing against his noble Friend's plan, not against that of the Government. He thought that his noble Friend's present opposition to the Government was totally inconsistent with his own plan in 1842, He (Lord Monteagle) said, "Look to coffee, you take that produce from the Brazils and Cuba, why be so much afraid of letting in sugar from the same countries?" His (Lord Brougham's) answer was complete. The coffee of the Brazils was very bad, the coffee of Cuba still worse; in fact, there was little or none of it consumed here. Contrasting that part of the Bill and its enactments respecting Calcutta, the noble Lord inquired, "Why take those precautions with respect to Calcutta, and none in respect to Java?" There were no slaves in Java. "Oh, but said his noble Friend, "sugar might be exported from the Isle of Bourbon into Java, and come from thence to England, as sugar the produce of free labour." In answer to that, he ventured to say, that his noble Friend could not discover a more desperate trade, or a less profitable one, than shipping sugar from the Isle of Bourbon to Java, and from thence to England. But he could not bring it here without a certificate of origin, and after the statement of his noble Friend (the Earl of Dalhousie) of the difficulties which the Bill placed in the way of obtaining a false certificate, he certainly did not doubt that the certificate would have the effect of preventing the importation of slave-grown sugar as the produce of free labour. In Java, in Manilla, they had Consuls; it might necessitate the increase of the number of Consuls, but, upon the whole, he relied upon the impossibility of bringing sugar from the Isle of Bourbon to Java as at all a profitable speculation. But 190 sugar would be brought from America, said the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) behind him; had he, however, forgotten the statement of his noble Friend (Earl of Dalhousie), that the duty had first to be paid on it upon its entering Louisiana, and that if that duty were to be repaid in drawback the very same packages in which it was imported must be used in its re-export, which would be a clear proof of its origin, and consequently counteract the fraudulent certificate of its origin. On those grounds, he was perfectly unable to see, save in minute and inconsiderable, if not in evanescent dimensions, any probable increase of the amount of slavery as likely to be the consequence of the proposed relaxation of our commercial code contained in the Government proposition—with which, be it recollected, he had nothing to do; but of the Slave Trade being encouraged by it, and with which he had every thing to do, he saw no likelihood whatever. His noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) had referred to the Treaty between this country and America, by which we were compelled to receive American sugar upon the same terms as that of the most favoured nations; and argued that consequently we could not relax our restrictions upon Manilla sugar without doing the same in regard to that from America; but in that objection he could see but little force. Those Treaties were liable to be suspended after six months notice; all then that the objection amounted to was, that they would have to undertake a reconsideration and revisal of the law in question. Another objection made by the noble Lord was, that they were then legislating for the first time upon mere feeling and upon general abstract moral feelings. He (Lord Brougham) denied that such was the fact: he joined issue with his noble Friend upon that subject. It was undeniable—wholly undeniable—that they had over and over again legislated on such a principle, and, to prove it, it was quite sufficient that they should consider the subject then under their discussion at the very root and foundation of which laid their own legislation with respect to slavery, and their own Treaties and negociations with respect to the Slave Trade; and those very views of justice and universal philanthropy which guided their Lordships and the Parliament in those great measures, were the guides which they should look to in forming their conclusions 191 upon the present. His noble Friend, in order somewhat to vary the monotony of the subject, became in one part of his speech rather discursive, and adverted to the proceedings at the last general election in 1841, which he described as being one scene of delusion and hypocrisy from beginning to end, asserting that those who turned out the then Ministry did it on false pretences—that they had now broken their promises and disappointed the anticipations of their friends. Now, he (Lord Brougham) had seen a good many elections, and he knew something of them, and, if he were to say that, at the last election, in 1841, there was no risk of rash promises being given, never to be realized—if he were to say that there was no risk of being what a pawnbroker's shop abounds with—unredeemed pledges — if he were to say that, he should certainly be giving a very romantic, and, no doubt, a very untrue account, of a general election; because he believed that the anxiety of candidates, did, in many cases, lead them to make promises which they could never fulfil, and to give pledges which they could never redeem. They might say what they pleased, but no one would deny this, that during the last general election there was one party which everywhere were described as the abettors of dear bread, and another of whom it was said, that from them alone we could hope for cheap bread; and the Whigs were called the cheap bread men, and the Tories were called dear bread men. But, when the new Parliament assembled, whom did the cheap bread men select to move the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne—whom but his noble Friend, Lord Spencer? He was one of their cheap bread men; but, nevertheless, Lord Spencer was for total repeal, while at the same time he was of opinion that that total repeal would not have the effect of making bread cheap; that was the opinion of Lord Spencer, an opinion which he (Lord Brougham) did not share with him—still it was his opinion, and most clearly and decidedly did his noble Friend state that opinion, when he moved the Address on the first day of the first Session of the present Parliament, yet those cheap-bread men, as they were called, put forward Lord Spencer as their champion. It was very painful to him to advert to those topics—he did so with great reluctance—but the topic was in a great degree forced upon him by the course 192 which the discussion had taken. During that election the Tories were called bread taxers, and the Whigs were called free-trade men, and at that, as at all other elections, men's memories became short as to pledges formerly given, and their foresight very limited as to promises to be thereafter performed. But, to go a little further back than the period of the general election—only a very short time further back, however—only as far as the budget of these cheap bread men, as the Whigs were called—what was the nature of their budget? It was a bread-taxing budget. They told the Parliament and the public that the tax which they proposed to lay upon corn was not to be a protection—nothing of the sort: they imposed, or intended to impose, that tax merely for the purposes of revenue. His noble Friend near him had just reminded him that Lord Melbourne had not intimated that it was for the purpose of revenue; but rather had plainly told the House that it was for the purpose of protection; but he must remember that they were not agreed among themselves, and that whilst Lord Melbourne said that he meant the duty for the purpose of protection, yet a noble Marquess who belonged to the late Government had said it was intended for revenue, and a similar difference of opinion amongst the Members of the late Government took place in the House of Commons, one Member of the Cabinet there saying it was for protection, and another that it was solely for revenue. Who were the bread taxers? The country would judge of that, but this he would say, that the very last thing which a Government ought to do, was to make an "appeal from the brains to the belly"—from the common sense and dispassionate judgment of men to their feelings and their appetites. The noble Lord had next adverted to a change in which Parliament had reversed a previous decision; and upon this subject his noble and learned Friend had become quite poetical, and had described, with tropes and metaphors, the sudden turning round of the state coach upon this question. Men's memories were very capricious, and when so much was said about changes of opinion, he confessed that it filled him with surprise that other topics besides those already mentioned had not been adverted to. Did any one, he repeated, ever hear of that compact, formed on the ground of the Appropriation Clause, and on which, on 193 the first opportunity, faith was broken upon, and it was "whistled away, down the winds?" The difference between the present Government and that of which he had been speaking, was, that the former got support if it was known what they were going to do: but he would like to know what support the Whigs would have got if the way in which they were about to act had been known. He would only add, "that all was not dross that blistered, and all was not gold that glistered." He had gone over the grounds which made it necessary that something should be done for the country. The country had paid an enormous sum for the emancipation of the slaves, and if that Bill at all interfered with that measure, great respect as he had for the Government, he would not consent to its enactment; be the consequences of the sacrifices what they might, he would not go an inch beyond. Going as far as his principles would allow, he could not give up all protection. Looking, however, to the great interests involved, and the just claims of the people of this country, he did think that some change was necessary. He could not, however, allow another argument which had been made use of, that because any measure might have the effect of keeping the price of sugar at an unreasonable and exorbitant height, that therefore, be the consequences what they might, at that dangerous cry, as it had been called by Lord Holland, of cheap sugar, all other considerations should give way. He, for one, would not consent to that cause which he had most at heart, of keeping down and extinguishing slavery being at all compromised; and he did not believe that that Bill would have any such effect. If the people of other countries were shown that the British planters were ruined, and that the British population was suffering by the course this country had pursued in relation to the slave system the greatest possible encouragement would be held out to the demoralizing system. It was with these views he gave his hearty concurrence to the measure; and he believed, that the admission of sugar of all countries would be a direct encouragement to that infernal traffic.
Lord St. Vincent
rose to disclaim on the part of the West-India interest, any idea that it would be a benefit to them to have the price of sugar enhanced to such a degree as that it would cease to be an article of consumption amongst the common people. 194 With respect to the condition of the West-India interest, he must be allowed to say, that ever since the emancipation the supply of labour in the West Indies was very insufficient, and in consequence of the want of hands, there was not that quantity of sugar in the market which the public required. For his own part, as an individual, he did not see in the present measure all those good qualities which had been imputed to it; but, from the great confidence which he reposed in Her Majesty's Government he did feel inclined rather to rely upon their judgment than upon his own. There was one observation however, which he could not avoid making, namely, that he feared if this measure did not prove successful, it might have the effect of discouraging other countries from emancipating their negroes.
The Earl of Radnor
said, that the two noble Lords who had just spoken, had referred to the distress of the West Indies as if it were of recent origin, and as if it had arisen solely out of the Act of Emancipation—whereas, he, who had been in Parliament twenty years had never known the time when the West-Indian interest did not complain. It might be said that it was not owing to the abolition of slavery, but of the Slave Trade. Now, he had before him the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons of 1807, appointed to inquire into the Condition of the West-India Interests; and the Report, which was presented by the present Lord Seaford, said, that, ever since 1799, there had taken place a progressive deterioration in the condition of the planters, resulting from a constant diminution in the prices of sugar, till the depression in the market was such, that during the preceding year the estates had not paid their expenses; and the Report further added, that from 1800, the expenses of cultivation had increased, while the profits had diminished from 10 per cent. to 2½ per cent., and 1½ per cent., and ultimately to nothing; consequently it was not emancipation, or the abolition of the Slave Trade which had caused the distress—it had existed several years before both—it was, therefore, an unfair argument to say that it arose from either. He believed that the difficulties of the West-Indians arose from other circumstances, traced in the same Report, to the monopolies to which the West-Indian proprietors were themselves subjected. One of those monopolies was the prohibibition 195 imposed on their refining their own sugar—of that the West-Indian proprietors had a right to complain, as well as the English consumers, and the whole world. The result of this prohibition was, that there was an amazing waste in bringing over the Muscovado sugar, which was of benefit neither to the people of this country nor to the West-Indians themselves. This explained the passage in Mr. Deacon Hume's evidence which had been referred to by the noble Earl. He had always looked upon that Gentleman as a free-trader, and just before the passage which had been quoted he found this, "I am strongly of opinion that our Colonies would be able to compete with all the world, and become extremely prosperous, if they had free-trade granted to them." That was, he proposed to do away with that monopoly which was supposed to be a benefit to them, the abolition of which would re-act on us, by giving them advantages, just as the taking away of the restriction upon all sugars would be beneficial to the West-Indians as well as ourselves. It had been said, that they ought not to encourage slavery; but if they gave no encouragement to slavery, they would get very little sugar. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) drew a distinction between cotton and sugar, and said that we were not now admitting cotton for the first time; but he should recollect that we had got to a new state of things: that instead of a population of ten or eleven millions, we had now a population of eighteen or nineteen millions. The West Indies could not supply this increase; and the question was, whether the people were to be deprived of sugar, or were to get any other? By the present Bill they were encouraging slavery as certainly as if they took the sugar direct from the slave-growing countries, for the slave-grown sugar would go to supply the place of that brought there. The supply was not sufficient now. In 1801 there were 4,047,000 lbs. of sugar imported, and in 1840 there was rather less. We took all the sugar that the West-Indians could give us, and had not enough. It was preposterous that while we refused to consume slave-grown sugar here, we brought it here, and, having refined it, carried it back for the consumption of the West-Indians themselves. Nay, noble Lords themselves must partake of this very slave-grown sugar, sent out from this country, 196 if they ever eat Guava jelly, or other sweet preserves. In the course of the period since 1801 the population had increased upwards of 8,000,000. In 1800 there were imported 4,047,000 lbs. of sugar, which were sufficient for the population then; but in 1840 the same quantity was to be sufficient for the increase of eight millions in the population. There had been in the interval a large increase of consumption in the articles with which sugar was used. The increased consumption of tea had been 11,000,000 lbs., and of coffee 22,000,000 lbs.; and as most, when they could afford it, with these articles now used sugar, it would have been supposed that there would have been an increase in the quantity of sugar consumed. In 1801 the whole consumption of sugar per head of the population was more than 30 lbs., and, indeed, nearly 31 lbs.
The Earl of Dalhousie
In 1815, fourteen years afterwards, when 4,000,000 lbs. were imported, only 2,000,000 lbs. were consumed. Where 2,000,000 lbs. were then consumed, there were four now.
The Earl of Radnor
At any rate, in 1840 there was no exportation, and the quantity then imported gave an average consumption per head of only 15 lbs., being two-thirds of the quantity allowed to the old and infirm in workhouses, and not more than one-half of that consumed by each seaman in Her Majesty's ships. He believed that monopolies were injurious to all parties, both those who enjoyed them and those at whose expense they were enjoyed. Now, this was extremely remarkable in the case of the West-India proprietors, and of the value of the produce brought to this country. Monopolies gave no encouragement to cultivate to the best effect; and, consequently, in the generality of cases, where the import was the least, the profit was the most. The noble Earl then read returns of the imports of various years since 1830, to prove that the amount of profit derived was greatest in those years in which the quantity imported was least; and then went on to observe, that this proved that the monopoly took away the incentive to produce as much as possible. Another consequence was, that it set at nought the 197 division of labour, and gave rise to a most improvident and uneconomical mode of carrying on the trade. It was observable, that of late years the consumption of sugar by each individual varied exactly with the price of sugar. Mr. Porter, in his valuable work, gave a table showing this most accurately. There was only one exception in the last eleven years, the year 1835, a year of most extraordinary prosperity; so that in reality the exception confirmed the rule. He had no objection to this Bill; it took a step in the right direction, in diminishing the differential duties, and admitting some foreign sugar. He did not wish to be understood as saying, that the West-India proprietors were not entitled to relief; but he doubted whether they were, and if they were, he would give it in money, rather than in differential duties, because they were an unnecessary and improper tax on the people of England.
Earl St. Vincent
explained. He did not think refining sugar in the West Indies was a matter of much consequence to the planters. He wished it to be understood, that there was no complaint on the part of West-Indian proprietors, in consequence of a reduction of the differential duties. The only question with them was, whether, considering their present situation, the proposed reduction was not too great, and whether that reduction should not be postponed for a short period, until our colonies were placed in a position to compete with foreign countries.
§ Lord Ashburton
said, after the long discussion which had taken place on the subject before the House, and after the able manner in which the question had been introduced to their Lordships' consideration by the noble Earl who had opened the debate, it was not his intention at any length to trespass upon the indulgence of the House; but he could not rest satisfied without referring to one or two points Which had been urged by the noble Lords who had spoken. The question had, he thought, been treated improperly as one strictly coming within the jurisdiction of the political economist. It was true, but not to the extent represented by the noble Lord opposite, that the West-India Colonies were not competent to supply sugar adequately to the wants of the country. The noble Lord had not stated the case fairly. It should be borne in mind, that the return of the amount of sugar consumed 198 in different years was often very irregular. It appeared, that during the year 1800, the consumption of sugar in this country was 1,506,000 cwt., and that in 1843 4,450,000 cwt.—a large increase, certainly, between the years 1800 and 1843. He did not think that the noble Lord had over-estimated the importance of cheap sugar to the poor of this country. It was his (Lord Ashburton's) opinion, that they ought to cheapen the price of sugar, provided they did not, by doing so, endanger the revenue of the country. This question had, however, been looked at quite in a different point of view. This country had exhibited a great willingness to make a sacrifice in order to abolish slavery and the Slave Trade. To effect that desirable object, they had paid 20,000,000l. to the West-India proprietors, by way of compensation; but they had done more than that, in watching the African coast, with the view of extinguishing the trade in slaves: therefore, it was clear the country had, and was prepared to make a great sacrifice for the purpose of putting a stop to slavery and the Slave Trade. The question resolved itself into this:—It was necessary, in order to meet the increased demand for sugar, to ascertain from what source it could be obtained, it being clear that our colonial possessions could not afford us a supply adequate to the consumption of the country, at least not for any length of time, unless emigration of labourers to these Colonies was encouraged to a considerable extent. The question then arose how they were to obtain this further supply? It was natural that they should endeavour to effect that object, viz., an increased quantity of sugar for home consumption, without at the same time giving encouragement to the Slave Trade. They found that there existed countries cultivating the growth of free-labour sugar. Considering the feeling of the country, taking into consideration the willingness shown to make a sacrifice for the promotion of the great principle to establish which 20,000,000l. had been freely given, it was natural that those countries growing sugar, and in which slavery was not encouraged, should be looked to and preferred when the question arose to what quarter must they look for the increased quantity of sugar necessary in order to meet the demands of the country. The country would look at this subject without considering the question of profit or loss; they were disposed to make a considerable sacrifice 199 for the purpose of putting an end to slavery and the Slave Trade. It had been said, that it could not be denied that directly they adopted the principle of a free-trade in sugar, they let in a supply from Cuba and the Brazils, and directly the void in the market was supplied in this way, they destroyed their own cultivation of sugar, and gave a great impetus to the traffic in slaves. The principle upon which they ought to act was, to endeavour to obtain a supply of sugar for the home market without at the same time giving encouragement to slavery. Many objections of a minor character had been urged against this measure; but it should be recollected, that the Bill was one of an experimental character. Should the measure be found to fail—should it not answer the expectation of the Government, it was easy to amend it. Upon these grounds he gave the measure his support.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
rose for the purpose of protesting against his noble Friend classing him among the opponents of the measure before the House. He did not intend to oppose the Bill. He considered it an advance towards sound principles. He supported it because it recognised the interest of the consumer. He objected certainly to the Motion, on the ground that it did not sufficiently carry out an important legislative principle. Could they prevent slave-grown sugar from getting into the market? Do what they could with the certificates of origin; adopt the rigid system of commercial policy pursued by Napoleon; bring into active operation every facility placed at the command of the Board of Trade, the Custom-house, and their consuls placed in various ports; and, notwithstanding every precaution of the kind, this article would find its way into their ports. When such an article as timber was carried across the Atlantic in spite of all our differential duties, was he to be called visionary by his noble and learned Friend because he apprehended that sugar would be conveyed from Siam, or the He de Bourbon, to Java. When they remembered in what way the kindred article of coffee had been carried from America to the Cape, was he to be looked on as absurd and theoretical because he feared that sugar would in like manner be brought in in spite of our fiscal regulations? He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) felt no such confidence as that which was felt by the supporters of this Bill—he believed that the attempt was one which must fail. What 200 made it worse was, that in all such cases no one could know the extent of the failure, or of the mischief done to the regular cultivator. If the law was based upon a principle open to all, the West-India colonists and all those interested in the question would have the means of knowing the exact extent to which it went; but, in the case of these new regulations, with respect to them, you relied on a series of uncertainties, which would tend most seriously to aggravate the evil done to the West-Indian and to the British consumer. His noble and learned Friend told them that the consumer had already made great sacrifices for the sake of having free-grown sugar. No doubt they had; they had made great sacrifices for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and they would, no doubt, do so again; but were they, therefore, to be called upon to abandon all commerce with those parts of the globe which were connected with the Slave Trade? We were the carriers of slave-grown sugar—we refined slave-grown sugar—we paid through our manufactures for half the value of the sugar grown in the Brazils; but his noble and learned Friend thought little of that. He was not prepared to recommend the sacrifice of all this trade; and, if he were, the country would be bound not to make such a sacrifice. This Bill introduced a principle of interference in the domestic institutions of other states that was highly unsafe in our intercourse with those states. It was the application of the commercial screw which would be found to fail, as it always had been found to fail, because the greatest means of human improvement, and also of the abatement of slavery, would be found to be in the greatest freedom of commercial intercourse, and the interchange of ideas between a free people and those who were not accustomed to free institutions. His noble and learned Friend said, he was not making war on those institutions but on the Slave Trade. How were they to make the distinction? Admit this sugar in any shape, and the benefit would be gained by that country which had the best means of producing sugar, whether by slave-labour or otherwise. In proportion as this indirect aid was given to slave-grown sugar, the cultivation of our own colonial possessions would be lessened. The consumer of this country was placed in a worse position than the consumer of any other as regarded the article of sugar; and his objection to this Bill was, that it perpetuated 201 that evil, and forbade the necessary remedy. His noble and learned Friend had taunted the late Government with having in their free-trade measures caught, like drowning men, at a straw. If they caught at a straw, they had the consolation of seeing that it was a straw which had not met with the ordinary fate of straws—it had not lain and decayed on the ground, but, removed to the ungrateful soil of the Benches opposite, it had germinated and vegetated, and produced successive crops in the shape of modified corn duties and modified sugar duties, and an altered tariff. This was at least a consolation to them under the taunts of his noble and learned Friend.
quite agreed with his noble Friend, in the straw having borne a goodly crop. It was true also that it had not met the fate of straws when clutched by drowning men, for it had not gone down with them—it remained upon the surface.
§ Bill read a third time, and passed.