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as immense sugar, rum, and coffee manufactories, which, though situated at a distance from England, belong to Englishmen, and are carried on by English capital. But to promote the prosperity of any manufacture, without injuring that of others, there are no means at once so obvious and effectual, as to give those engaged in it every facility for supplying themselves with the materials necessary for its prosecution at the lowest price, and to keep the duties on its produce as low as possible. This is the sound and obvious principle that ought to have been kept steadily in view in legislating for the Colonies; but, we regret to say, it has been totally lost sight of. The planters in all the West India islands have found it most profitable to employ themselves in the production of articles fitted for the European market; and to import flour, beef, and other articles of provision, as well as stores and lumber, from America. Previously to the American war, our sugar colonies were entirely supplied with these indispensable articles from the United States, where they are much cheaper, and more abundant, than in Canada, and from which the voyage, and, consequently, the freight, to Jamaica, Barbadoes, Grenada, &c., is much less. A traffic of this sort was in the highest degree advantageous to all parties, but particularly to the islands. After pointing out its influence in promoting the prosperity of the latter, Mr Bryan Edwards observes, From this account of the exports from the British West Indies to America, it appears that the latter, besides 'affording an inexhaustible source of supply, was also a sure market for the disposal of the planter's surplus productions, ❝ such, I mean, for which there was no sufficient vent in Europe, especially rum; the whole importation of that article into Great Britain and Ireland having been little more than half the quantity consumed in America. On whatever side, therefore, this trade is considered, it will be found that Great Bri'tain ultimately received the chief benefits resulting from it; for the sugar planters, by being cheaply and regularly supplied with horses, provisions, and lumber, were enabled to adopt the 'system of management not only most advantageous to them'selves, but also to the mother country. Much of that land ' which otherwise must have been applied to the cultivation of ' provisions for the maintenance of their negroes, and the raising of cattle, was appropriated to the cultivation of sugar. By these means the quantity of sugar and rum, (the most profitable of their staples,) was increased to a surprising degree, and the British revenues, navigation, and general commerce, were 'proportionally augmented, aggrandized, and extended.'—(Hist. of West Indies, Vol. II. p. 489. Ed. 1819.)
But no sooner had the United States achieved their independence than an end was put to this mutually beneficial intercourse. In order partly to force a market for Canada flour and lumber, and partly to afford employment for a few thousand additional tons of shipping, the produce of the United States was excluded from the West India islands, except on the condition, to which it was well known the Americans would not agree, that the imports were made exclusively in British ships. Petitions, complaints, and remonstrances against the measure, were presented from every island of the West Indies, but without effect. It is hardly, perhaps, necessary to add, that the reasonings in support of the measure were the most sophistical and delusive that can be imagined. Those, indeed, by whom it was defended, would have had quite as much of reason and justice on their side, had they advocated the expediency of laying a heavy burden on Kent for the sake of Sussex. It has been doubted by some whether the measure has really been productive of any material advantage to Canada and the shipping interest; and it admits of demonstration that it has not benefited them in any thing approaching to the degree that it has injured the West Indians. But though the former had gained all that the latter have lost, it would be no apology for a measure so glaringly subversive of every principle of sound policy, as well as of impartial justice. Sugar has become one of the necessaries of life; and as it enters largely into the consumption of almost every individual, it is of the greatest importance that every facility should be given to its production; but the exclusion of the produce of the United States from the West Indies was not intended to reduce, but to increase the cost of producing sugar to advance the interests of the Canada merchants and shipowners, by sacrificing those of the planters and of the whole British public.
It is due to Mr Pitt to state, that he was not only sensible of the injustice of this measure, and aware of the pernicious operation it would have on our West India Colonies, but that he actually introduced a bill for replacing the trade between the islands and the United States on the footing on which it stood previously to the war; but the exaggerated representations of the ability of the Canadas to furnish supplies of provisions and lumber, the influence of the shipowners, who denounced the proposal for admitting a free intercourse between America and the islands, as subversive of all those principles by which Great Britain had risen to distinction as a naval power, coupled with the animosity towards the Americans generated by the events of the war, gave a preponderating influence to the Anti-colonial
party. The West Indians were accused of having abetted the rebellion of the Americans; their complaints and remonstrances were ascribed to factious motives; and their apprehensions of a deficient supply and an increased price of provisions, were held up to ridicule and contempt. And so completely was Parliament and the public deceived and misled by the misrepresentations of those whose interest and object it was to delude them, that Mr Pitt was forced to withdraw his bill, and to introduce in its stead that system of regulation and constraint which has continued down to the present moment, and has unquestionably been the source of the greater part of the distress in which the colonies have long been involved.
The ravages occasioned by hurricanes in the West Indies are familiar to all our readers; but there are some circumstances connected with the history of these dreadful scourges that are not quite so well known as they ought to be. The destruction which they cause, seldom fails to produce a scarcity, and sometimes even a famine. While the intercourse with America was free, the moment it was learned in the States that any island had been visited by a hurricane, fast-sailing vessels, laden with provisions, were immediately dispatched from all the nearest ports, in the expectation of meeting with a profitable and ready market for their cargoes; so that the extreme pressure of distress was most commonly prevented. Such, however, was not the case after the suppression of the direct intercourse with the United States. All supplies had then to come from Canada and Nova Scotia, by a voyage three or four times as long as from Carolina or Virginia; and when a hurricane happened to occur about the period of the shutting of the St Lawrence, an interval of about six months had to elapse before a ship could be dispatched to the relief of the sufferers. We are unwilling to believe that the possibility of such a calamitous contingency occurring ever entered into the consideration of the framers of the restraining system. But it was very soon realized to a frightful extent. From 1780 to 1787, Jamaica was visited by a series of the most dreadful hurricanes; the distress and mortality thence arising were so very great, that the House of Assembly state that 15,000 negroes perished of diseases originating in the scarcity and bad quality of food. And, incredible as it may seem, the fact is not to be denied, that this mortality was materially aggravated by a refusal on the part of the lieutenantgovernor of the island, though entreated by the Assembly, to admit provisions direct from the United States. Such,' says Mr Bryan Edwards, without including the loss of negroes in the other islands, and the consequent diminution in their
'cultivation and returns, was the price at which Great Britain thought proper to retain her exclusive right of supplying her 6 sugar islands with food and necessaries. Common charity must compel us to believe, (as I verily do believe,) that this dreadful proscription of so many thousand innocent people, the poor unoffending negroes, was neither intended nor foreseen by those who recommended the measures that produced it.'— (Vol. II. p. 515.)
But though the violence of party spirit in 1783, the ignorance of sound principle, and the craft of those who prevailed on the Parliament and the public to pander to their selfishness, may account for the first introduction of the measure, how are we to explain the fact of its having been persevered in, and permitted to reproduce the same horrors for about half a century? It is a remark of Hobbes, that if men had conceived their interests would be promoted by it, they would not have hesitated to deny the equality of things that are each equal to the same thing. And yet, one would think that those who can defend a course of policy productive of the results now stated, would not only require to have a pretty extensive interest in the Canada lumber trade, but a pretty thorough contempt for the understanding and humanity of their readers. But instead of feeling abashed, the abettors of such systems assume the garb of philanthropists, and stigmatize the advocates of their repeal as hard' hearted economists!'
It is material, too, to observe, that these appalling sacrifices have been forced upon the West Indies,-not that the trade between them and the United States might be totally suppressed, but that it might be turned into an indirect, in preference to a direct channel. It became evident to every one, almost as soon as the restraining act had been passed, that Canada and Nova Scotia could not supply the islands; and they therefore obtained leave to import provisions from the United States, that were afterwards shipped for the West Indies. The whole scheme was thus, in fact, neither more nor less than a clumsy device for forcing the employment of ships, and putting money into the pockets of the shipowners. Were every coal vessel from Newcastle obliged to touch at Gibraltar before coming to London, the cost and absurdity would be of the same description, but less in degree!
Mr Bryan Edwards, and those who opposed the introduction of this system, did not suppose that it could acquire any permanent footing. They said, the question will come forward again and again, and haunt administration in a thousand hi'deous shapes, until a more liberal policy shall take place; for
no folly can possibly exceed the notion, that any measures pursued by Great Britain will prevent the American states from having, some time or other, a commercial intercourse with our West Indian territories on their own terms. With a chain
of coast of twenty degrees of latitude, possessing the finest harbours for the purpose in the world, all lying so near the sugar colonies and the track to Europe, with a country abounding in every thing the islands have occasion for, and which they can obtain no where else; all these circumstances necessarily ' and naturally lead to a commercial intercourse between our islands and the United States. It is true, we may ruin our sugar colonies, and ourselves also, in the attempt to prevent it; but it is an experiment which God and nature have 'marked out as impossible to succeed. The present restraining 'system is forbidding men to help each other; men who by their necessities, their climate, and their productions, are standing in perpetual need of mutual assistance, and able to 'supply it.'-(Hist. of West Indies, pref. to 2d ed.)
We incline to think that, but for the occurrence of the negro insurrection in St Domingo, and the devastation which it occasioned, the restrictions on the trade of the colonies would have been long since abolished. But these events, by shutting up the principal source whence supplies of sugar had previously been derived, led to so extraordinary a rise of prices, that the planters of Jamaica, and the other islands, were enabled to overlook the effects of the restraining system, and realized for a while enor mous profits. And after the rapid extension of the sugar cultivation had once more equalized the supply with the demand, and prices had sunk in 1806 to their old level, the planters, instead of attempting to relieve themselves from their burdens, endeavoured to throw them on others, by forcing up prices; an object in which they partly succeeded for a while, in consequence of the substitution of sugar for corn in the distilleries. But this resource having ceased with the war, the complaints of the planters were renewed with greater bitterness and better reason than ever. Still, however, nothing was done to afford them any real relief. There was, indeed, some miserable juggling about custom-house regulations, and other quackery of the sort; but no attempt was made to enable the colonists to come into fair competition with the Brazilians and Cubans, by relieving them from that monopoly system which had so long paralyzed their energies. On the contrary, it was maintained with as much resolution as if the existence of the empire had depended upon its being preserved inviolate. In October, 1817, a tremendous hurricane swept over several of the islands. At