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THE ORIENTAL HERALD.
No. 52.-APRIL, 1828.-VOL. 17.
PROCEEDINGS IN INDIA TO PETITION PARLIAMENT FOR OPENING THAT COUNTRY TO COLONIZATION.
WE hail with pleasure the continued developement of increasing public spirit among the British inhabitants of India; and rejoice to find, that they can pass from the narrower view of the evils of a Stamp Tax to the more enlarged consideration of the curse of Monopoly generally, and more especially of that worst of all its features, the arbitrary power which it holds, in terrorem, over the heads of all who would dare to question its infallibility.
The latest Papers that have reached England from Bengal, contain reports of the proceedings of a Public Meeting convened at Calcutta, for the purpose of passing certain resolutions, ostensibly of a commercial character, and founding thereupon Petitions to both Houses of Parliament; which Petitions are most probably by this time in the hands of the distinguished individuals, to whom the duty of presenting them has been confided. We wish we could offer any reasonable ground of hope for their speedy success ; but even had the late Administration remained in power, (a circumstance on which the Indian petitioners most probably relied,) we do not believe that they would have done more than may be obtained from the present Ministers-bad as they are-on any question affecting such remote interests as those of India are always considered here. Whatever is to be done before the expiration of the present Charter, in the way of relaxing the restrictions now imposed on Colonization in India, will not be done with the cheerful consent of the party in power, be they Whig or Tory; but must be forced from ministers by the influence of public opinion, expressed through the independent portion of the Legislature. It is fortunate, therefore, perhaps, as far as India is concerned, at least, that the parties to whom the late petition on the Stamp Tax, and this on the Sugar Duties and Colonization, have been confided, are now not in office; because they will be more free to bring them forward with effect, and be more likely to obtain for them the supOriental Herald, Vol. 17.
port of all the landed, mercantile, manufacturing interests, and the tacit assent of the neutral members in the House.
As we have such copious materials before us on this question, including the report of the proceedings in India, the speeches of the merchants, the comments of the editors, the petition itself, and certain other papers connected with the subject, originating at home, all of which we desire to lay before the readers of The Oriental Herald,' who cannot but feel a deep interest in the issue; we shall abstain from further preliminary remarks, in order to present to them at once the documents in question, which we shall connect together by such observations as may be required to elucidate the matters of which they treat. The first in order is the Report of the Public Meeting held at Calcutta on the 5th of November last, which we take from The Bengal Hurkaru' of the succeeding day. It is as follows:
Calcutta, Tuesday, November 6, 1827. A meeting was held at the Town-Hall yesterday, pursuant to requisition, for the purpose of petitioning for the equalization of the Duties on East and West India Sugars, and the removal of the restrictions on the resort of British subjects to India, and their residence therein, with reference to their influence on the commercial prosperity of the country.
'Mr. PLOWDEN, the Sheriff, having read the requisition, took occasion to advert to a letter in The Hurkaru,' which alluded to the day chosen for the meeting being no less than that of the anniversary of Guy Fawkes's plot-a day most propitious to the dealers in squibs and crackers. The worthy Sheriff expressed a hope, that, notwithstanding this alarming coincidence, the business of the meeting might pass off without any blow up a hope which was fully realized by its peaceful result. There was no explosion at the meeting; the Government-house still stands where it was; nor have we heard that even one solitary squib has been introduced under it or into it, in order to disturb the repose of its inhabitants. After the exhortation to peace and good order, the Sheriff requested the meeting to elect their Chairman, and Mr. James Young was elected to the chair, and briefly stated the objects of the meeting.
'Mr. BRACKEN then addressed the Chairman as follows:
'Mr. Chairman,-Previous to proposing the Resolution which I shall have the honour to submit to the consideration of this meeting, I request permission to offer some observations not only on the objects of the requisition, but on a circumstance connected with the getting up of the requisition itself. It has been publicly stated, and circulated throughout India, that some of the requisitionists signed the letter to the Sheriff without reading it, or, having read it, without perceiving the tendency of the second proposition contained in it. As one of the requisitionists, I beg publicly to declare,
that statement does not apply to me; and, were I to judge from the professional caution of the class, and the characteristic sagacity of the country to which all, or most, of the requisitionists belong, I should doubt whether it applied to any. Be this, however, as it may, they are, I helieve, here to answer for themselves. I am responsible for my own acts only, and having read, clearly comprehended, and deliberately signed the letter, I am not so alarmed at the sound of my own voice as to wish to deny, or retract, or qualify, in the slightest degree, my entire concurrence in its full scope and its most extended construction.
'Objections, Gentlemen, have been raised, too, against the requisition in consequence of its embracing two subjects alleged to be of distinct and unconnected interest. With your indulgence, I trust I shall be enabled to prove, before I sit down, that they are closely and intimately united; springing from the same principle, and directed to the same purpose. In considering the first branch, the equalization of the Duties on East and West India Sugars, and the grounds on which the West India proprietors claim the monopoly of the home market, and by which they have prevented the possibility almost of an advantageous shipment of sugar from this country, I am fearful I cannot avoid much dry and tedious matter, the repetition of a thrice-told tale;' but on an occasion when we are met to oppose the interests, we are bound to show we understand something of the case, of our rivals.
"They take their stand on prescriptive right, and expediency; and as regards the first, contend, that they planted, cultivated, and invested large capitals in sugar plantations, under an implied compact with the Legislature, that so long as they brought the whole of their produce to, and received the whole of their supplies from, the mother country, her market should be secured to them. A glance at the history of the sugar trade will satisfy us that this position is untenable. England was originally supplied by the Portuguese; but the high price induced the Legislature to encourage the growth in the British plantations; and from 1649 to 1792, the importations were almost exclusively from thence. In 1792 prices still continuing high, cultivation in the East Indies was called for by the Parliament and Goverment; and a quantity, proportionate to the rather slow and unwieldy movements of a chartered company, was shipped. From that period, until 1809, there were additions, reductions, and alterations in the scale of duties applicable to the sugars of both countries, and, comparatively speaking, they were not very unfavourable to the East Indies. These varying regulations, however, evinced any thing but a determination to exclude, under all circumstances, the competition of East India with West India sugars; and if the importation of the former was so insignificant as not to excite the fears or the jealousies of the West India merchants, we must look to the cause, rather in the limited arrangements of the
East India Company, than in any fixed and unalterable policy of the British Parliament. I am confirmed, Gentlemen, in this view of the merits of the prescriptive right, by the admission, at a former period, of the sugars of the conquered colonies on the same footing as those of the old plantations; and, more recently, by the admission of the sugars of the Mauritius, although, in both instances, the parties affecting to suffer by the extension, petitioned Parliament against it. It seems, therefore, that the Legislature has, on frequent occasions, disputed the claim of right; and has been influenced by considerations of the price of the article in England, and the increase of the revenue in 1813. The West Indians, anticipating the enterprise of the private traders, obtained the duty of which we now complain, and for the continuance of which they have now lost the only plausible pretension they had, viz. the restrictions imposed on them to bring the whole of their produce to, and receive the whole of their supplies from, the mother country. These restrictions have lately been in some instances removed, and in others relaxed. On the score of expediency, if the West Indians boast their consumption of the manufactures of the mother country, we can repeat, nay, exceed that boast, in pointing to the wants of eighty millions of people. The population of the West Indies does not exceed, I believe, one million.
'If they refer to their encouragement of British shipping, we may advantageously contrast the length of the passage as affording at least an equal nursery for seamen to India, and the greater expenditure of all articles connected with the shipping interest.
'But of course we are subject to that principle, universally acknowledged, that no nation can buy, which is not permitted to sell; and, whilst the prohibitive duties are enforced, the extension of the manufactures of England, must be, with reference to what they might be, limited and confined.
'In approaching the second proposition, I cannot but express my thanks for the friendly caution we have received from an intelligent and watchful guardian of the public weal. He states that he is not asleep. I believe him. He must be more than awake; he cannot but see double in discovering disloyalty and danger to the state, in the humble petition of the British merchants, to be allowed to invest their capitals in the purchase of land, and in expensive machinery for the improvement of its produce. His fears remind me of honest David's alarm at receiving Bob Acre's challenge. It does not look like another letter. It is, as I may say, a malicious, designing-looking letter. It smells of powder like a soldier's pouch. Oons, take care, I should n't wonder, but it may n't go off.'
'So our requisition, having in view the extension of British skill and capital, has been converted into a formidable attack on the good order and security of the country.