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FOR THE YEAR
HISTORY OF EUROPE.
Re-assembling of Parliament, after the Christmas Recess, on the 3rd of February-The West Indian Question becomes the first subject of discussion-Lord George Bentinck moves for a Select Committee of Inquiry-His Speech-Speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. James Wilson, Mr. T. Baring, Mr. Bernal, and Mr. Disraeli -The Motion is agreed to without a division-Loan of 200,000l. to some of the West Indian Colonies proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer-Discussion thereon-Unfavourable Intelligence received respecting the Condition of the West Indian Interest-Remedial Measures -Lord John Russell proposes his Plan in the House of Commons on the 16th of June-He reviews the past Legislation and existing Position of the Question at great length--The Ministerial Scheme is unfavourably received-Sir John Pakington moves an Amendment on the 18th of June, asserting the Claim of the Colonies to more effectual Relief— Speeches of Sir E. Buxton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. K. Seymer, Mr. Hume, Lord George Bentinck, Mr. Hawes, and other Members-A warm personal Discussion arises touching the Administration of the Colonial Office-The Debate is continued by Adjournments at great length-Important Speech of Sir Robert Peel in favour of the Ministerial Measure-The Amendment is rejected by 260 to 245-Several other Amendments are moved, but without success, by Mr. Bright, Mr. Barkly, Mr. Bouverie, and other Members.-Lord John Russell's Resolutions are finally agreed to and embodied in a Bill, which passes through the House of Commons — VOL. XC.
Debates in the House of Lords on West Indian Affairs-Earl Grey
HE Session of Parliament having commenced, by a departure from the usual custom, in November, 1847, and being adjourned for the Christmas holy days, the two Houses resumed business again on the 3rd of February. The condition of the West Indian Colonies was the first subject that occupied the attention of the House of Commons, a motion being brought forward by Lord George Bentinck, the indefatigable advocate of that interest, for a Select Committee of Inquiry. The noble Lord, before entering upon his subject, presented three important petitions; one from the Standing Committee of the West Indian Planters, another from the merchants of Greenock, against restraints on immigration and on the employment of labour, and a third from merchants and others in Jamaica, praying for the removal of burthens, for a full supply of African labour, an alteration of the Navigation Laws, and an assimilation of the duties on colonial rum to those paid by the British distiller. The motion of Lord George Bentinck ran as follows:
"That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present condition and prospects of the interests connected with, and dependent on, sugar and coffee planting in Her Majesty's East and West Indian possessions and the Mauritius; and to consider whether any and what measures can be
adopted by Parliament for their
In introducing this motion to
to the change in the public feeling on the subject of slavery and slavetrading; at the last general election not a wrod was said on the subject; those who were omnipotent in 1832, were powerless in 1847. In proposing his inquiry, he wished it to be distinctly understood that he neither precluded himself nor wished to preclude others, if a substantial measure for immediate and effectual relief should be brought forward, from lending their support to any such proposal. He hoped that he should be able, through the instrumentality of a Committee of inquiry, to prevail upon the House to change its policy with regard to this great question. He did not seek to enforce the distinction between slavegrown and free-grown sugar, because that attempt would be followed by the overthrow of the Government-which he did not
Alluding to the petition from Jamaica, Lord George declared that he could not agree with the demand for the repeal of the Navigation Laws; and he entered into a long statement of the rates of freight, to show that the West Indians suffer no injury from those laws. With respect to the differential duty on spirits, he thought that the British distiller would need its maintenance. He was not indisposed to give every facility for immigration, but doubted whether it would do much good. The state of Barbadoes, as densely peopled as China, shows that increased numbers will not suffice. He agreed with Mr. Merivale, the new Under-Secretary for the Colonies, that free labour never can successfully compete with slave labour. At the highest estimate, the cost of maintaining a slave in
the West Indies is 50s. a year; in Jamaica a free labourer is paid half-a-dollar a day, for six or seven hours' work, and he can scarcely be got to work four or five days in the week. In Cuba the slave is made to work sixteen or even twenty hours a day; the driver armed with whip, cutlass, and dagger, attended by bloodhounds. That is the kind of slavery which we are stimulating by the admission of slave-grown sugar into this country. However, there is no objection to immigration. Sir Charles Metcalfe declared, in 1840, that the fertile soil of Jamaica could provide for any multitude without diminishing the comforts of the existing population; and similar reports were made from other colonies. But the cost of immigration is too great for the planters to bear, especially with the obligation to send back the immigrants at the end of five years. He did not know why there should be this delicacy about removing an African, a Cooly, or Chinaman, when he is only transferred from one hot climate to another, and no such delicacy is shown to the British soldier, who is bound to remain ten years in an uncongenial climate.
Lord George adverted to the case of the East Indies, invited by Parliament to exert themselves in producing free-labour sugar-contending that the faith of Parliament was as much pledged to them to enable them to repay themselves for the outlay of that capital, as it was pledged to repay the fundholder the debt that was due to him.
In July last, Mr. Hawes had described the Mauritius as being in a state of most flourishing prosperity; since that, out of six great firms in the Mauritius trade, but one re
mained standing: the liabilities of those that had fallen are estimated at 2,900,000l.; Ministers have been obliged to advance 450,000l. on sugar to enable the colony to go on, and to supply rice from India for the food of the labourers. That fact showed how utterly Ministers had been in the dark respecting the true state of Her Majesty's colonial possessions, and would alone justify inquiry.
He wanted the inquiry also as a bridge of retreat for Ministers and the free-traders. He would not hint to them that it should be a bridge such as acted as a guide to a certain proposition in Euclid. They wanted no bridge for the blockheads who had predicted all the evils that had occurred; they must have a bridge for the men of brains, which the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire and his friends might be permitted to pass over; but certainly not with colours flying, or drums beating, nor with bands playing "See the Conquering Hero comes," or the tune of "Coeur de Lion," with which the hon. Gentleman was, he believed, greeted abroad; but they might be permitted to pass over with arms reversed, and with muffled drums, muttering perhaps between their teeth, "If our cause is of God, it will live; but if not, it must perish." Their cause was not of God, and therefore it must perish. To make out the failure of the recent measures of free trade, Lord George plunged into an immense mass of statistical details. Against cheap sugar, he set off the failure of our great merchants for more than 6,300,000l., asked how free trade had benefited Lancashire, now in so miserable a state; whether it had fulfilled the promise of
opening the trade of Brazil? Comparing the sixteen months before with the sixteen months after the admission of slave-grown sugar, there had been a gross decrease in the production of cotton goods to the amount of 1,339,244 pounds, against an increase of 168,082 pounds: taking into account the enhanced price of raw cotton, the balance remaining for wages and profits had declined by 1,871,0037.
Lord George assailed the system
Lord George Bentinck. -The case of Cuba stood upon its own merits, and upon the debt of 45,000,000l. In taking possession