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duction of a well-connected system of roads, those arteries through which the life-blood of agriculture flows, will, it may be confidently predicted, raise Taprobane, like a phoenix from its ashes, and render Ceylon the Jamaica of the East.
It is, indeed, evident that the great natural resources of the island will be only partially brought to light until a considerable improvement in its internal communications takes place. Its impracticable surface presents such insuperable obstacles to the transport of agricultural produce as to deter speculators from purchasing land except in the close proximity of a road. The pitiful economy, which compels the colonial Government to confine their designs of improvement to the few roads already in existence, is universally condemned by all classes of society in Ceylon. The check thus imposed on local improvements is forcibly contrasted with the liberal system that obtains in the neighbouring presidency of Madras, where the expense attendant on the construction of works of acknowledged public utility is rarely, if ever, suffered to interfere with their execution.
THE SUGAR DUTIES.
Ir has rarely happened that any legislative measure of a fiscal character has excited so much agitation, or involved such important consequences, as the proposed alteration of the sugar duties. Extremely simple in its real elements, the question has been so complicated and embarrassed by rival interests and adverse political feelings, that it has operated like an apple of discord, not merely arraying against each other distinct "class interests," but breaking some of those interests into separate sections, and creating divisions and intestine conflicts amongst even associations of a philanthropic character. The moral philosopher, who traces the various currents of opinion upon this subject to their source, unless he be of a practical rather than of a speculative cast of mind, will grieve to find that most of them flow from the common well of self-interest.
The measure of the Government is founded upon propositions not only simple, but sound and incontrovertibly just. There exists, they say, a deficiency in the revenue of the country, which must be supplied; the ordinary expedient of increasing taxation would be resisted by the country, but the end can be attained not by increasing taxation, but by reducing it; the consumption of sugar, which is almost a necessary of life, is greatly impeded by its high price, occasioned by the limited supply from our own possessions, the produce of which is protected against the competition of foreign sugar by a high duty, a policy which can be justified, under any circumstances, only on the plea of absolute necessity; our West-India colonies have now enjoyed that protection sufficiently long to enable them to overcome the embarrassinents attending the transition of their labouring population from bond-men to free-men; by reducing the protecting duty, we should secure commercial advantages of the highest importance to our manufacturers, who would enter into the foreign sugar market, where they are now excluded; it would supply the community at home with sugar at a moderate rate, which would place it at the command of the lower classes in this country; the revenue would be greatly augmented by the vast increase of consumption, and our colonists could have no ground of complaint, but on the plea that protection, to the present extent, is their inalienable right, and that free labour is dearer or less productive than slave labour, which is not only incompatible with the doctrine most strongly urged by the advocates of the abolition of slavery, but is false in fact. The only one of these propositions, which admits of question, is, that the WestIndian colonists have enjoyed their protection from competition with slave colonies a sufficient period to enable them with due diligence to surmount the obstacles thrown in the way of sugar-cultivation by the enfranchisement of their slaves: we think they have, and even if a doubt existed on this point, the interests of the community, who indemnified them for the loss of their slaves, are to be first consulted.
If the propositions of the Government be so just and irrefragable, why are they resisted? This question can be satisfactorily solved only by an analysis of the classes which oppose them, and of the motives of their opposi
tion. The first and most powerful class consists of the political antagonists of the ministers, who looked at the question as one which might disunite from the Government many of its supporters, and, rendering it unpopular in the country, might effect the removal of an administration which they conscientiously believed to be a bad one. The next powerful class is the body of West-India proprietors, whose profits must be diminished in the ratio of the reduction of the price of sugar, unless they can increase production in the colonies (which is limited), or lessen its cost. A third class is the East-India interest-those who are connected with the cultivation of sugar in India, whither a considerable amount of capital has gone out to be employed in the production of sugar;-for this class, having been admitted to a qualified participation in the monopoly of the sugar-market of this country with the West-Indians, have (such are the vicissitudes of human action) allied themselves with their former bitter foes against the consumer. A fourth class, but which is so insignificant in numbers as to be scarcely noticeable-though, if their ground of opposition to the Government measure be just, it ought to be a powerful one-consists of the advocates of the abolition of slavery, the great majority of whom, however, are friends of the measure. It is another of the strange anomalies which the discussion of this question has exhibited, that the arguments against the reduction of the protecting duties, on the ground that it would admit slave-grown sugar, and thereby afford a direct encouragement to slavery and the slavetrade, are urged by those who have been the fiercest enemies of emancipation.
But if we ascribe the opposition of the Government propositions to party hostility and private interest, we do not, therefore, mean that the proposers and supporters of them are actuated by purer motives. We honestly believe that the ministerial budget was nothing more nor less than a species of coup d'état; an expedient resorted to by a falling party to regain their influence with the country, and to neutralize that of their antagonists. In a Parliament so constituted as the present, in which opponents of their measure might be found in the ranks of their own supporters, the ministers could have no hope of passing it: and that it was an experiment newly thought of, is clear, from their not having proposed it when their strength of numbers would have enabled them to carry it, but, on the contrary, last year, opposed the plan of Mr. Ewart, which was substantially the same as their own. Nor are their supporters less obnoxious to the suspicion of motives not of a purely disinterested character. The bulk of them are manufacturers, and persons who expect to exchange their productions for foreign sugar, and if the transaction realize a profit, they would not, probably, scrutinize the origin of the article more narrowly than the West-Indians, who consume slave-grown sugar themselves when refined. There is, indeed, another class, friends of the Government measure, whose interest in its favour is not only obvious, but avowed, namely, the people, the consumers of sugar; but interest in this case is a legitimate motive.
Far be it from us to stigmatize or reproach the various parties whose motives, with reference to this question, we have thus freely criticised; they have all an undoubted right to advocate or to oppose the measure for views
of their own; even the two great political parties are justified, on constitutional grounds, in making this question a test of their relative claims to administer the affairs of government. Their various arguments are addressed to Parliament, in its collective capacity, in the first instance, and ultimately to the sober and deliberate judgment of the country; and it is in the hope of contributing something towards divesting the question before the latter tribunal of those feelings of bitterness and rancour, of those sophistries and mock pretensions to humanity, which, springing from indirect views, tend to embarrass its consideration, that we put pen to paper.
Amongst the reasons assigned by the Brazilian Association of Liverpool why Brazil produce should be admitted into this country for consumption on more reasonable terms, are the importance of our trade with Brazil (amounting to about five millions annually), which is one of our largest customers for cotton goods; the proximate expiration of our treaty with that country, when discriminating duties will otherwise be imposed, excluding our manufactures; the inadequacy of the supplies of sugar from the West-Indies; the high price of sugar; the cheapness of that of Brazil, and that that country is not a manufacturing but a producing country. The argument of the philanthropist, that, by excluding the produce of slaveholding countries, we promote the cause of abolition, they say, is fallacious; "perseverance in the present system would only induce slave-holding countries to form combinations amongst themselves, as well as with others of the less scrupulous manufacturing nations of Europe, for their mutual benefit; the system of differential duties would by them be adopted, which would ultimately occasion the entire exclusion of England from a share of this commerce, and slavery and slave labour would continue to flourish in defiance of all her attempts."
The interest which our East-India possessions have in this question ap. pears to us (though not to others) to be slight-we mean the interest adverse to the reduction of the duty; and if it were greater, we cannot disguise from ourselves the ungracefulness of an opposition to it on their part. The EastIndies can plead none of the considerations which have given the WestIndia planters a kind of claim to protection; the East-Indies have been recently let into the supply of the home-market, and upon the very principle on which the proposed change is justified, namely, that the consumers ought to have access to the cheapest market. If there is any thing in the statements made before the Committee on East-India Produce, of the boundless capabilities of India for the growth of sugar, of the low rate of labour there, and of the omnipotence of English capital to economize the cost of production in such a field, surely the apprehension from competition between its sugar and that of Brazil and Cuba, raised by the costly labour of slaves, must be nearly chimerical. Mr. Mc Queen, in his evidence before the Commons Committee, goes, indeed, so far as to assert, that if the tropical produce of all the possessions of the British Crown were admitted into the mother country on equal terms, it would ruin the West-India colonies; that if these are destroyed, "the combat will come to be between the foreigner and the