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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.
'Gentlemen, history bears me out in stating, that the resort of Europeans to this country has been advantageous to India and to England; and, when we see the good effects of the establishment of respectable indigo planters, both on the revenues of the Government and the prosperity of the people, in the districts where that valuable commodity is chiefly grown, I cannot but anticipate the same results on the application of capital to the other products of the country.
'But so long as the prohibition to purchase land exists, and an arbitrary power of transmission to England shall be vested in the local Government, the full and complete advantages contemplated from that skill and capital cannot, in my humble opinion, be realized.
'It is not necessary to my purpose to comment on the past exercise of this power. I believe it has been generally admitted, that, in some instances, it has been, to say the least, hastily used; and that the Court of Directors have not withheld compensation for supposed hardship under its application. But it is the principle of accuser and judge being in the same persons, that seems objectionable; and I do hope, that a modification of this power may be made, combining the due and efficient control of the Government, with the legal and constitutional security of the person and the property of the subject.
'The delusion that once existed, of the barrier opposed, by the institutions of the Natives, to the use of articles of European manufacture, has long been dispelled. We have only to refer to the records of the Custom-house, in proof of this assertion.
'In 1813 the exports of cotton goods to India were valued at about 120,000l.; in 1824, at 1,115,000l. This fact speaks for itself; and we should neglect our own interests, the interests of the Natives, and the interests of the United Kingdom, did we not do all in our power to increase and consolidate the commercial intercourse between the countries. Gentlemen, with your permission, I will now read the first resolution.
'A gentleman (Mr. Vickers Jacob, we believe) read a letter from Mr. Goulburn, with a view, we believe, of showing that the West Indian made no claim to a monopoly on the score of prescriptive right, but merely claimed a due regard to their interests, involved in the large capitals, embarked by them on the faith of laws it was now proposed to abrogate.
'Mr. COLVIN, in moving the second resolution, stated that he was one of those who had not strictly attended to the language of the requisition. And he was not prepared to go so far as his friend Mr. Bracken, in regard to the object involved by it, although he would not oppose it. His own opinion was, that the power of transmission placed no obstacle in the way of vesting capital in India; for that the power had been very leniently used, of which his own case
was an instance, as he had been twenty-five years in India without a license. In the other observations of Mr. Bracken he fully concurred.
'Mr. G. PRINSEP, in moving the third resolution, expressed his dissent from what had fallen from Mr. Bracken, as to the policy of continuing the power of transmission. He considered it essential to the success of the main object of the meeting, to be excessively cautious of manifesting any desire to curtail the 'political rights' of the Company; and seemed, if we rightly understood him, to be of opinion, that the question should be confined, itself, to the question of relieving the trade of the country, by the removal of prohibitory duties, and trusting it to the ministry to provide for collateral questions of policy connected with it. Mr. Prinsep then took a luminous view of the sugar question; in which he satisfactorily showed, we think, that, on principles of political economy, of sound policy, and of strict justice, British India was entitled to the boon which it was the object of the petition to obtain. An argument, which seems to us equally novel and forcible, was the singular predicament, in which Great Britain placed herself by the existing law, in the event of some of our West India Islands, which have been so often conquered and reconquered, becoming again the property of an enemy. England might then, as we believe she has done before, admit East India sugars on equal terms; but where would be procured the increased production, necessary to meet this increased demand upon India? and where that equality of quality, which can only be obtained by an improved process of manufacture, that cannot be suddenly resorted to to meet an emergency? We regret that it is not in our power to give even an outline of Mr. Prinsep's able speech; what we have given is a mere reference to one or two detached points embraced by it.
The meeting was not very fully attended; whether it was respectable or not, we will leave the John Bull' to determine. The following are
< THE RESOLUTIONS:
1. Moved by Mr. Bracken, seconded by Mr. Bruce-That this Meeting, deeply impressed with a conviction that the commercial intercourse between England and India is susceptible of great and indefinite extension, which is prevented by the imposition of extra duties on the products of India, and by legal obstructions to the application of British skill and capital to the cultivation of those products, entertain a just confidence that the wisdom and justice of Parliament will, by the removal of such impediments, give an immediate impulse to the commercial prosperity of both countries, and incalculably promote the general interest of India.
2. Moved by Mr. Gisborne, seconded by Mr. Colvin―That a Petition, to the above effect, be prepared, and submitted to his Majesty, and to both Houses of Parliament.