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consideration (which however can never be set aside for a moment) of the cultivation by slaves in the West Indies, the decision would wholly turn. If it could be produced and brought to England from the East Indies at a smaller cost than from the West, here would be a balance of advantage, which ought to govern the legislature. On this point, also, Sir Edward Colebrooke affords us the most direct and decisive evidence.
"Raw sugar (he says) prepared in a mode peculiar to India, but analogous to the process of making Muscovado, costs less than five shillings sterling per hundred weight."
This is perfectly conclusive. Without entering into statements of the cost at which sugar can be raised in the West Indies, or the proportion of saccharine matter in an equal weight of the different sugars, it is clear that the difference in point of cost is enormous, that the article from the West Indies costs several times as much as it would from the East.
It is observable, also, that the sugar is raised at this wonderfully small cost in the East Indies, notwithstanding the extreme rudeness and imperfection of the tools and instruments which the people employ, the clumsy and inartificial methods both of their agriculture and manufacture, and the almost total want of capital to facilitate their operations. How necessary and how great an improve ment, in all these respects, would ensue, if the great European market were opened to them, and if European capital, European machinery and skill, were applied to the business, it is unnecessary to display. That all these improvements would lessen exceedingly the cost of production, and hence diminish the price, is a certain consequence.
Such, then, is one great advantage which would be derived from opening the British market to East India sugars. We proceed to another advantage, on the importance of which, in our apprehension, too much cannot possibly be said, but on which on the present occasion we deem it the less necessary to enlarge, that we are persuaded it will be duly estimated by those whom we are addressing. What we mean is the circumstance of the sugar in the East Indies being not produced by the labour of slaves, but of freemen.
This important fact an attempt has been made to controvert, but on grounds which are utterly ridiculous. The name slave, or bond servant, is indeed not altogether unknown in India; but it as little denotes any thing like the condition of a slave in the West Indies, as the term apprentice, who is also a bond servant, does in England. Again, it is to be observed that every labourer in the West Indies is a slave, and that in the most degrading, and dreadful sense of the term. It is only in a few districts in India that
the condition of bond servant is known; and even where it is, the proportion of the labouring people who are in such a condition is small.
We observe that Mr. Cropper, in his Letters on this subject addressed to Mr. Wilberforce, a very seasonable and highly important publication, adduces some respectable testimony in proof of this fact; and we shall corroborate what he has there stated by the conclusive testimony of Sir Edward Colebrooke. We are satisfied, from a pretty large acquaintance with the subject, that Colebrooke's language on this subject is more comprehensive, to a considerable extent, than it ought in correctness to have been, or than it was by the writer intended to be; and that from his words a greater amount of bond labour might be supposed to be found in India than actually exists. However, we shall quote the passage fully, and allow our adversaries the whole of the benefit of it.
"Slavery, indeed, is not unknown in Bengal. Throughout some districts the labours of husbandry are executed chiefly by bond servants. In certain provinces the ploughmen are mostly slaves of the peasants for whom they labour. But, treated by their masters more like hereditary servants or emancipated hinds than like purchased slaves, they labour with cheerful diligence and unforced zeal.
"In some places, also, the landlords have a claim to the servitude of thousands among the inhabitants of their estates. This claim, which is seldom "enforced, and which in many instances is become wholly obsolete, is founded on some traditional rights, acquired many generations ago in a state of society different from the present. And slaves of this description do in fact enjoy every privilege of a freeman, except the name; or at worst they must be considered as villeins attached to the glebe, rather than as bondmen labouring for the sole benefit of their owners.
"Indeed, throughout India, the relation of master and slave appears to impose the duty of protection and cherishment on the master, as much as that of fidelity and obedience on the slave. And their mutual conduct is consistent with the sense of such an obligation, since it is marked with gentleness and indulgence on the one side, and with zeal and loyalty on the other.
"Though we admit the fact that slaves may be found in Bengal among the labourers in husbandry, yet in must provinces none but freemen are occupied in the business of agriculture."
It is well known that in India there is a class of women employed to exhibit themselves as dancers, a spectacle of which the people are excessively fond; and these women are also very generally devoted to the traffic of prostitution. It is remarkable that these are the principal class of slaves in India. We have it in our power to adduce another important testimony on this subject. Sir John Malcolm, well known as a distinguished officer in the service of the East India Company, and as an instructive author on Oriental subjects, submitted a Report to the Indian Government on the province
of Malwa, which he recently governed,—a report which was printed in India, and forms a quarto volume. In this volume Sir John Malcolm says,
“Male slaves are few in Malwa, and are generally treated more like adopted children than menials. The case is very different with females, who almost in every instance are sold to prostitution; some, it is true, rise to be favourite mistresses of their master, and enjoy both power and luxury; while others are raised by the success in life of their sons: but these are exceptions. The dancing women, who are all slaves, are condemned to a life of toil and vice for the profit of others; and some of the first Rajpoot chiefs and zemindars in Malwa, who have from fifty to two hundred female slaves in their family, after employing them in all the menial labours of their house during the day, send them at night to their own dwellings, where they are at liberty to form such connexions as they please. But a large share of the profits of that promiscuous intercourse into which they fall is annually exacted by their master, who adds any children they happen to produce to his list of slaves. The female slaves in this condition, as well as those of the dancing sets, are not permitted to marry, and are often very harshly treated; so that the latter, from this cause, and the connexions they form, are constantly in the habit of running away."
Indeed, from the state of the country, it is perfectly certain that the condition of the slaves, generally, can never be peculiarly miserable, can never, indeed, be much, if at all, below that of free labourers. The reason is, because they have the remedy in their own hands. They can run away. In a country of such boundless extent, in which concealment is so easy, and in which the law does nothing to aid pursuit, there can in general be no means of preventing a slave from escaping, except treating him so well that he cannot by freeing himself better his condition. This well known fact is a sufficient reply to a thousand arguments. If the Negroes in the West Indies had unlimited means of making their escape, and of finding a better subsistence, should we not find one of two resultseither that they all abandoned their masters; or that, the mode of treating them being totally changed, they chose of themselves to remain?
After this evidence, if any body affirms that slavery is as much an objection to the raising of sugar in the East Indies, as it is in the West, he is to be treated as insincere, and as speaking against his own conviction. It is not argument that will cure him.
Such, then, are the important advantages which must of necessity arise from the equal admission of East India sugars into the British market.
Another consideration is very fit to be adduced,-that by such admission the gentlemen interested in the West Indies cannot, according to their own showing, sustain any disadvantage. In a pamphlet,
published the other day, from the pen, as it is understood, of a distinguished member of the West India body, entitled "Practical Observations on the British West India Sugar Trade," we find it affirmed that, by " an impulse given to the cultivation of the more fertile soil of Cuba and Brazil, it has been progressively advancing, till they have attained an extent and cheapness of production which render a direct competition with them utterly ruinous." The meaning of this is explained in other pages, where it is stated that the monopoly of the British market is not enough for the purposes of the West India gentlemen. What distresses them is the state of the foreign markets, in which people will not buy dear sugar when they can obtain cheap.
"It is (says he) the low price the foreign grower sells at, which oppresses the markets for our surplus, that is complained of; the effect being to lower the price on the whole importation to the same level, the supplies always weighing on the market till it comes down to the price the foreign buyer will give for it."
The facts are as follows, and any body may judge of them. In the British West Indies more sugar is raised than the British market can take off. Cuba and Brazil sugars come to the rest of the European market much cheaper than the British growers can afford to sell. East India sugars come also through the free trade still cheaper to the foreign market. The British colonies are thus unable to sell any sugar out of the British islands, where they have the monopoly, except at a very low price. What is to be done with that surplus which exceeds the demand of the British market? If left to itself, it must be offered for sale in the British market, and continue to lower the price, till it is on a level with the price in foreign markets; that is to say, as cheap as it would have been had East India sugars, and all other sugars, been admitted on the same terms as West India sugars into the British market.
To save West India gentlemen from that ruin, then, which they say is impending over them, it is not enough that we should for their benefit deprive ourselves of the use of East India sugars. They have another truly modest proposal, which is, that we should tax ourselves for their benefit. They have a certain annual quantity of sugar, which they must sell abroad, in order to keep up the price high enough for their satisfaction at home. But this quantity, which they would thus send abroad, they must sell cheap. This they say would be ruinous to them. And, accordingly, they propose to us, the people of England, to make up the difference to them! Not only to buy dear of them, what we might buy cheap of others; but for every pound weight which they sell to others at a low price, to give them out of our pockets as much of our money as would make the price equal to that which they propose to extort from us! This
is the true account of what they think proper to ask to have done for them. We ought to give them a bounty, they say, to enable them to meet their competitors in the foreign market. A bounty! Those days, we trust, are gone by. A trade which cannot sustain itself without a bounty, is a trade which ought not to be sustained at all.
But, they say, we have a great capital embarked in the West Indies. British capital is British riches. This capital will be lost, unless the West Indian trade is supported. And the nation will be impoverished to the whole of that amount.
There is great sophistry involved in this language. It is highly expedient, therefore, that it should be unravelled; for it is employed on many other and very important occasions.
The true meaning of the word capital is, a fund employed for the purpose of production. The merchant's capital is that property of his which he employs in such a way as to bring him an annual return. Such is that of the farmer, such is that of the manufacturer, and that of every man who employs a capital. If it ceases to be productive, it deserves to be called capital no longer. It is useless, and whether it exists, or does not exist, makes no difference.
But by the very supposition, all capital employed in a line in which it cannot stand competition, and replace itself with a profit,
The nation has a certain quantity of capital, the source of all its annual produce. What the nation is interested in is this, that the produce arising annually from the employment of this capital should be the greatest possible. But that is always greatest when there is complete liberty of resorting to the cheapest market; which, in other words, is the liberty of getting the largest returns.
A certain supply of sugar is needed for Great Britain. A certain capital, and a large capital, is required to furnish that supply from the West Indies. But, says another man, I can afford you the same supply from the East Indies, with less than half that amount of capital, because I can get it at less than half the price. If one half, therefore, of all the capital embarked in the West Indies should thus be lost, the nation would still be a gainer.
Observe also that the West India gentleman would not sacrifice an ounce of his capital, unless it were advantageous to the country. If forced to sustain foreign competition, what would be his situation? There is part of his capital which it would be in his power to remove; part which it would not be in his power to remove. He would then calculate with himself in this manner :If I continue to raise sugar with the whole of this capital, and sell it at the low prices, my annual return will be so much: If I withdraw off my capital all that is capable of being withdrawn, abandoning the rest, and employ this portion in the new sugar trade, or