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COPIES or EXTRACTS of any CORRESPONDENCE between the Colonial Office and the Governors of the West Indian Colonies and the Mauritius, with respect to the Condition of the LABOURING POPULATION of such Colonies, both Native and Immigrant, and the Supply of Labour: and, of all COLONIAL ACTS OF ORDINANCES, regulating the Condition of IMPORTED LABOURERS, at present in force.
COPY of a DESPATCH from Governor Hincks to the Right Honourable
Windward Islands, Barbados, 23 September 1857.
Sir, I HAVE the honour to transmit to you the copy of a Despatch from Mr. Breen, administering the Government of St. Lucia, enclosing an extract from the minutes of the proceedings of a meeting of the Legislative Council of that Colony, held on the 8th instant, and I venture to hope that the resolutions adopted on that occasion will be considered satisfactory.
St. Lucia, 10 September 1857.
Sir, YOUR Excellency's Despatch of the 24th July, No. 123, Executive, covering copies of Despatches from the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and of reports from the Emigration Commissioners on various points connected with coolie immigration, having been communicated to the Legislative Council at its meeting of the 8th instant, I have the honour to forward to your Excellency an extract of the proceedings of the Board, containing three resolutions which were adopted on that occasion.
No. 1. Governor Hincks to the Right Hon. H. Labouchere, M.P.
23 Sept. 1857
10 Sept. 1857Enclosure.
Encl. in No. 1.
No. 2. Governor Hincks to the Right Hon. H. Labouchere,
9 Nov. 1857.
• Vide Papers pre-
2. Your Excellency will perceive that these resolutions embody the recommendations of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State, as communicated in his Despatch to the Emigration Commissioners, of the 25th May last, respecting the remuneration of surgeons of coolie ships, the gratuity to the ships' officers, and the bonus and advance to be made to the coolies on their embarkation.
His Excellency Francis Hincks, Esq.,
Governor in Chief.
Sub-Enclosure in No. 1.
EXTRACT from the Minutes of the Proceedings of a Meeting of the Legislative Council, held on the 8th September 1857.
Present, His Excellency Henry Hegart Breen, Esq., Administrator of the Government.— Honourables Louis Lacaze, Attorney General; R. G. McHugh, Her Majesty's Treasurer; Thomas Parker, Controller and Auditor of Accounts; Constant Bourgeois, John Pollock, James Macfarlane, Alphonse Cools, Charles de Brettes, and Raymond Drouilhet.
I have, &c.
(signed) H. H. Breen, Administering the Government.
THE Honourable Mr. De Brettes then moved the following resolutions:
"1. That surgeons of coolie ships shall be remunerated at the rate of ten shillings a head for the first voyage on all coolies landed alive; and if the conduct of the surgeon be completely satisfactory, and he be recommended for such increase, that the payment shall be raised to eleven shillings for the next voyage, and on further recommendation and favourable report to twelve shillings as a maximum for every subsequent voyage.
"2. That a gratuity of one dollar a head on the emigrants embarked shall be divided among the ships' officers, subject to a deduction of six dollars on each person, except infants under one year, dying on board or incapable of work when landed.
"3. That the Emigration Agents in India shall be authorised to give, if necessary, a bonus to each adult coolie of five rupees, by way of free gift, and an advance not exceeding ten rupees to be repaid out of his wages."
The motion was seconded by the Honourable Mr. Pollock, and carried unanimously.
Henry H Breen,
COPY of a DESPATCH from Governor Hincks to the Right Honourable
H. Labouchere, M.P.
Windward Islands, Barbados, 9 November 1857. (Received, 3 December 1857.) (Answered, No. 8, 27 April 1858, page 26.)
On the receipt of your Despatch of 12th June last (St. Lucia, No. 50),* I entered into correspondence with the Administrator of the Government of St. Lucia on the subject of the rate of wages current in that Colony, and I have now the honour to transmit to you copies of the Despatches which have been exchanged between us, which I shall acompany with such observations as will, I trust, put you in complete possession of my own views on this important question.
2. The policy of encouraging the emigration of Indians to the British West India Colonies owes its origin to an alleged deficiency of creole labour, and the inability of the planters to obtain the supply necessary for the cultivation of their estates. The rate of wages it was said, had consequently become so high that the sugar cane could not be cultivated at a profit.
3. I am not aware that Her Majesty's Government has avowedly adopted the policy of endeavouring to reduce the value of sugar to the consumer by increasing the production of that commodity, through the instrumentality of coolie labourers.
Such a policy appear to me to be at direct variance with that of protecting existing proprietors from the injury caused by the withdrawal of the labourers from their estates.
4. When the West Indian proprietors last brought their grievances before Parliament, it was alleged on their behalf, that they were unable to produce sugar by free labour to compete with that grown by slaves in Cuba; and it was made a subject of complaint, that they were exposed to the competition of foreign sugar in the home market.
5. All intelligent and well-informed planters would now admit that a grave mistake was committed, in ascribing to the cheapness of slave labour the superior productiveness of Cuba. There can be no doubt whatever that free labour is infinitely cheaper than slave, and that Cuba owes its prosperity to the great productiveness of a rich virgin soil, on which the sugar cane can be ratooned for 50 years or upwards, with a very moderate application of labour.
6. In Barbados, the cane must be planted every year, on at least two-thirds of the estates, and on those where ratooning is practicable, it can only be followed for two, and at most three years. Barbados perhaps labours under greater disadvantage in this respect than any of the West India Colonies, but the islands generally are much less favourably situated than British Guiana and Trinidad, the soils of which are probably as rich as that of Cuba.
7. It may be the policy of Her Majesty's Government, to endeavour to reduce the price of sugar, by encouraging the cultivation of these rich virgin soils; but it must, I think, be obvious, that the result in a commercial point of view will be precisely the same to the proprietors of the old estates as the increased productiveness of Cuba by slave labour. I venture most respectfully to express my doubts as to the propriety or expediency of the Government encouraging the establishment of new estates to compete with the old proprietors. I think that coolie immigration should have been strictly limited to the avowed object of its promoters: the supplying with labourers the estates which had been wholly or partially deserted.
8. I cannot better describe the effect of the present system, than by quoting a few extracts from a speech recently delivered in the Legislative Council of Trinidad, on the subject of granting an aid to railroads, by the Attorney General of that Colony. "Mr. Burnley, in his speeches in 1847, had stated that the introduction of railways would have the effect of drawing the labouring population from the old settlements into new and fertile lands, and he feared the result of bringing virgin lands into competition with the old land of the Colony."***"Only the other day unofficial members had proposed and voted the means to pay the extraordinary expenditure of bringing in a much greater amount of immigration; and although it was admitted on all hands, that the present supply of labour was insufficient for the demand of the Colony, yet it must be borne in mind, that the breadth of cultivation had been considerably increased since 1847, and that we were still bringing new lands into cultivation." ***"But was it to be thought that the cultivation of this noble Colony was to be limited to the cultivation of 150 or 160 estates? Had they not sent home to the Colonial Office the assertion, -no idle boast,--that with a sufficient supply of labour, this island was able to produce sufficient for the whole consumption of Great Britain ?"
9. I should be sorry indeed to object to increased cultivation in other Colonies, provided it be not stimulated by protective measures, and such I hold to be all systems of immigration, which are not carried on strictly at the expense of the parties requiring the labour.
10. If any considerable increase in the production of sugar should be caused by the influx of still larger bodies of Indian labourers, and especially if these Colonies should be made receptacles for Indian convicts, I apprehend that great discontent will be felt by the old proprietors generally, but especially by those in Barbados. The planters in this island hitherto have met, and have overcome all the difficulties with which they have had to contend. Their science, economy, industry and skill, not the cheapness of their labour, have enabled them to compete successfully with all other producers, foreign or colonial; and I feel assured that if their properties should be depreciated in value, owing to the Government 0.13.
ST. LUCIA. having systematically encouraged and stimulated the increased production of
sugar, they will feel deeply aggrieved.
11. I am not aware of so direct an interference on the part of Government to force the production of any other article of commerce, and the policy is so much at variance with that generally avowed of late years, that it seems to me impossible, that when coolie immigration was first sanctioned, it could have been foreseen that its effect would be, not merely to supply labour to those estates where it was deficient, but to create such an increased demand for it, that if by any casualty it should be stopped for a time, the planters would suffer infinitely more than they have ever yet done.
12. Although the foregoing remarks are of a general character, and have been made with a view of drawing your attention to the effect which will be produced upon the value of old properties by stimulating the cultivation of rich virgin soil by compulsory labour, they have a direct bearing upon the question immediately under consideration, viz., the rate of wages in Guiana and Trinidad, as compared with that in St. Lucia, and in other Colonies similarly situated.
13. The rate of wages in British Guiana ranges at 1 s. 4 d., 1 s. 8 d. and 2 s. per day for men, and 1 s. 4 d. for women. Now, I do not think it at all probable that such rates will be given permanently in any of the Colonies less favourably circumstanced as regards richness, and therefore increased productiveness of soil.
14. The rate of wages on which the coolie may rely in St. Lucia is 1 s. per day, with a house and at least half an acre of land, and medical attendance. These wages are actually higher than the current wages, and I cannot withhold the expression of my belief, which the correspondence accompanying this Despatch has strengthened, that in St. Lucia, immigration is resorted to, in order to keep down the wages of the labourers, and not from an actual deficiency of labour.
15. It is to be observed, that prior to 1848 the rate of wages in St. Lucia was as high as 1 s. 4 d. Owing to a serious, but as it now appears, temporary depreciation in the value of sugar, it was reduced to 10 d., but notwithstanding the late high prices for all West India staples, the wages of the labourers have not been raised,
16. My own belief is, that no rate of wages would be sufficient to retain labourers on the sugar estates so long as the planters maintain their present policy. I have no hesitation in affirming that the main cause of the abandonment of those estates has been the tenure on which alone the labourers could obtain land, and which was a tenancy at will, the labourer being liable to ejectment at a few days' notice. Sound policy would dictate that this tenure should be converted into one in perpetuity, and that the questions of rent and wages should be completely separated, as they have been in Barbados. It is true that the tenancy at will obtains here universally, but its effect has been most prejudicial to the civilisation of the labourers, and it has not produced the same result as in St. Lucia, because the labourers have not equal facilities for procuring land. But there can be no doubt that the most industrious labourers in Barbados have been stimulated to purchase small allotments for themselves owing to the nature of the tenure.
17. Another cause which operates against the planters in St. Lucia, is the practice of paying wages monthly instead of weekly. The usual apology made on behalf of the planters, is the insufficiency of their capital, but I venture to doubt whether persons who are unable to pay their present labourers weekly are in a position to demand that their numbers should be increased. It is said that frequent losses and disappointments have been experienced by the labourers owing to this very objectionable system.
18. I have stated in my correspondence with Mr. Breen the grounds on which I believe that there is already an adequate supply of labourers in St. Lucia for the cultivation of the existing estates. It would, in my opinion, be most inexpedient to encourage the formation of new eştates in that island. If it be the settled policy of Her Majesty's Government to stimulate the production of sugar by means of imported labour, I would respectfully suggest that the field for such
operations should be limited. The system must be viewed by all as an experiment, and it is considered by many, as well as by me, as a most dangerous one. The resident proprietors in St. Lucia would, I imagine, be themselves unwilling to have new lands brought into cultivation, and I doubt the possibility of doing so with profit.
19. If the cultivation of the present estates is to be extended, increased capital will be required, and it is questionable whether it would be forthcoming. It is an admitted fact, that owing to the insolvency of the largest proprietor in the island some years ago, a considerable number of labourers were thrown out of employ
20. I have, in my Despatch of the 22d August, Barbados, No. 42,* explained at some length the grounds of my objection to coolie immigration. I have, in the correspondence accompanying this Despatch, compared the cost of cultivation in Barbados with that in St. Lucia, and I have shown that the planter in the latter Colony has many advantages, and that he does not in reality pay a high price for labour. I have no apprehension that sugar cultivation will be aban doned on the St. Lucia estates so long as remunerative prices can be obtained.
21. If you should be of opinion that wages should be paid weekly, that a more liberal rate should be given, that the questions of rent and wages should be separated, and that encouragement should be given to those who may agree to grant perpetual leases of small allotments at fair rents, it strikes me that the present is a most favourable opportunity of promoting such reforms. The anxiety to obtain labourers is so great, owing to the high price of sugar, that the planters would probably be disposed to yield to reasonable terms.
22. I do not think that the same rate of wages can be expected in St. Lucia or Grenada as in Guiana and Trinidad, and there is no doubt much weight in the argument that the cost of living is greater in the latter Colonies. I am, however, bound to express my conviction that the planters can well afford to pay 1s. 3d. per day, and that while the current wages are below that rate, they cannot reasonably expect to obtain foreign labourers.
23. Any other reforms might be accomplished by a strong expression of opinion from you, enforced by giving a preference in the allotment of labourers to those who should conform to the prescribed regulations.
24. I venture to hope that if I have failed to convince you of the correctness of my opinions on this question, I have supplied information which will enable you to judge as to the expediency of directing immigration to St. Lucia, the rate of wages offered being 1s. per day for male adults.
Enclosure 1, in No. 2.
His Honor H. H. Breen, Esq.,
I have, &c. (signed)
Enclosure 2, in No. 2.
Windward Islands, Barbados, 7 July 1857.
Sir, I HAVE the honour to transmit to you the copy of a Despatch from the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, forwarding a report from the Emigration Commissioners, accompanying a letter from Mr. Caird, Emigration Agent at Calcutta, on the subject of the treatment of coolie immigrants.
St. Lucia, 3 August 1857,
REFERRING to your Excellency's Despatch, No. 122, Executive, of the 7th July, covering copy of a Despatch from the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, calling my attenion to the remarks of the Emigration Commissioners as to the rate of wages
* Page 31.
Encl. 1, in No. 2.
Encl. 2, in No. 2.