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NEVIS.

No. 21.

No. 28.

4 March 1858.

Encl.lin No.21.

No. 21.

COPY of a DESPATCH from Governor HAMILTON to the Right Hon.
Lord STANLEY.

(No. 32.)

The Right Hon. Lord Stanley,
&c.

&c.

&c.

MY LORD,

I HAVE the honour to transmit the Blue Book of Nevis for the year 1857, with report of President Sir Arthur Rumbold.

the

2. That island has been in a state of public financial embarrassment for some time, in consequence of the substitution of direct for indirect taxation, and the abolition of all import duties.

3. The imposition of direct taxation fell heavily on one class of persons, and was constantly evaded and unwillingly submitted to. The negro population is averse to direct taxation; and, in a small community, where there are only a few importing merchants without general competition, the mass of the people did not benefit by the removal of import duties, the amount of which was diverted from the Treasury to the importing class.

4. Sir Arthur Rumbold has exerted himself with zeal, ability, and success to put the finances in a just position and to improve public credit.

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Enclosure in No. 21.

Copy of a REPORT from President Sir ARTHUR RUMBOLD to
Governor HAMILTON.

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(No. 28.) SIR,

Nevis, March 4, 1858.

I have the honour to forward the Blue Book for this colony for the year 1857. 2. I am happy to be able to report that the prospects of the colony have assumed a healthier aspect in consequence of the material augmentation of the Revenue.

3. On the 4th March 1857, when I assumed the administration, the fixed revenue stood thus:

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NEVIS.

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Leeward Islands, Antigua, March 23, 1858. (Received April 19, 1858.)

other real Estates

Incomes

Cattle
Boats

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4. On the 4th of June last I had the satisfaction to assent to an Act imposing an excise duty on rum and other spirituous liquors consumed in the island, the revenue derived from which may be estimated at £ 700

5. On the 30th of January last I assented to an Act imposing certain duties on imports, which, at the most moderate estimate, will yield

6. From this amount must be deducted the expenses of collection on excise duties, at 5 per cent. on 700l., 351.; customs officers' salaries, 2901.; Treasurer's commission, 5 per cent. on 2,700l., 1351.

Net total

2,000 £ 2,700

460

£ 2,240

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7. The amount of both these taxes is placed at the lowest estimate. I may fairly therefore assume, as the former fixed revenue remains intact, that the sources of revenue have been doubled within twelve months, should, as I confidently anticipate, the royal assent be given to the Import Act.

8. Other measures of importance have likewise progressed; among them, an Act for organizing a paid police, which has just been published. This Act, by the combination of the police constables with the revenue officers and other performance of coast guard duties, will render the force nearly self supporting through the material increase which must accrue by their supervision and consequent suppression of smuggling.

9. On my first arrival I found hybrid police in existence on sufferance; the law embodying it had expired, and the absence of legislative authority, or means to pay the men, compelled me to disband them on the 1st of last September. I have, however, the pleasing duty to perform of recording my unqualified gratification at the general peaceable and orderly behaviour of the inhabitants of Nevis; for, despite the freer scope thus afforded to outrage and lawlessness, crime has not been increased, nor have acts of violence been multiplied; and, with the exception of perhaps some occassional disorder in the town, the want of a paid police has in no other way been evidenced.

10. The Legislature have lately resolved that the gacl shall be rebuilt, a joint committee of both houses having reported, on the 29th October last, "that a gaol and house "of correction, a station for police, and a residence for the turnkey and matron should "be re-erected within the old gaol yard in Charlestown, with suitable offices." A plan and estimate accompanied the report which showed that this important building could be re-erected at the small cost of 7007. A high wall is already in existence enclosing the whole premises,

11. The recent augmentation of the revenue and the advanced stage of other measures which may be effected without undue pressure on any class lead me confidently to hope that the rebuilding of the gaol will be speedily undertaken and completed.

12. I refer with, I trust, justifiable satisfaction to the further results of my administration, by citing the actual relief afforded to the ill paid class of public officers, whose claims up to the 1st of last October I shall be in a position to liquidate shortly, which will leave them six months in arrears in lieu of over twelve, as was the case in March 1857. I also entertain the hope that in May, when the first instalment of the estate tax falls due, I shall be enabled to pay salaries up to the 1st of January, after making proper provision for the earthquake loan instalment. I further anticipate that, in the absence of large unforeseen contingencies, Nevis will in less than two years redeem her debt, attaining this object perhaps yet more speedily by the issue of debentures to be guaranteed by the import duties, as soon as Her Majesty's pleasure on the Act imposing them shall be known.

13. The imports present no remarkable feature; they have, as in last year, approximated more to the figure at which they stood while the imperial customs existed, and below which they immediately fell under colonial supervision. During ten years of imperial customs, from 1838 to 1847, the imports averaged 38;600l. (a figure which has not since been attained); from 1848 to 1855, under the colonial customs, the average was 18,554l. But during these years, also, the market for colonial produce was much depressed. The increase in 1856 to 34,4497. cannot be ascribed solely to the opening of the ports, or to the operation of free trade, as it was styled, in Nevis, though her system was not based on reciprocity. All merchandise entered Nevis free of duty from all ports and nations, which only received her produce after the collection of a heavy debt thereon. The small increase of 1,8057. in this last year over 1856 may be accounted for, in a great measure, by the high price ruling in the beginning of the year for all West Indian produce.

14. In some communities other means of taxing the people for the purpose of revenue may be found to answer; but, considering of what class the bulk of population of a West Indian community consists, I would reiterate the expression of my conviction that the only practicable way of collecting, and dividing the taxes equitably, in these colonies must be, for years to come, by indirect means. During the two years in which the port of Charlestown was open the import duties were not taken off, even temporally, from the peasantry, for no marked augmentation of traffic resulted, no sensible diminution of price was effected; hence, in my opinion, the remission of duties, which in any case would have been better contributed to the treasury, did not benefit the consumers but went into the pockets of the importing merchants, whilst the state lost a revenue which it was unable to replace from any other source.

15. Since the Act imposing duties on imports was proclaimed the harbour has been visited by several ships of considerable burden, quite equal to any former average at

NEVIS.

NEVIS.

open.

16. The present lieutenant-governor of British Guiana, Mr. Walker, has stated in a despatch, that "it may be remarked, as illustrating how little the modification of Mar. 30, 1849.❝ indirect taxes affects the comforts of the population, that, with the exception

B. Guiana,

"perhaps of foreign spirits with which the country has been almost literally flooded, "no sensible diminution of price has been felt by the consumer in consequence of the ❝cessation of all but an almost nominal import duty."

VIRGIN ISLANDS.

the same time of the year; not one vessel has failed to find a market, and as great a diminution in prices has taken place as would have resulted had the port remained

No. 22.

17. My own experience leads me to repeat that which I stated in my report on the Blue Book of this colony for last year, that the abandonment of duties on imports in the West Indies is synonymous with the renunciation of a certain amount of fixed revenue. The great difficulty is to make the system work equitably; by which I mean, to protect the fair trader against the smuggler; when this is effected, I do not conceive that either the commerce of the island or the interests of any class suffer by the imposition of a moderate and well adjusted tariff.

18. The value of the exports amounts to nearly double that of last year, standing thus: for 1856, 27,4047.; for 1857, 57,954l.; or 1,357 hogsheads of sugar in 1856, valued at 157. a hogshead, against 2,075 hogsheads in 1857, valued at 201. a hogshead; rum and molasses making up the balances. The values I consider are placed at a very low figure; but if 187. to 201. a hogshead could be always realized for sugar, these depressed colonies would soon assume a different aspect, while a higher price is scarcely desirable, as it cannot be maintained; and great fluctuation is too apt to lead men in business with small means into speculations too often resulting in their ruin.

19. I regret to say that, in consequence of the great financial depression which has existed up to the present moment, I have not been able to ask for any grants in aid of education, or medical attendance for the poor, more particularly required for the preservation of human life in infancy. I have not lost sight of these important subjects, and I shall not pretermit any occasion to advocate the extension of these civilizing and salutary influences.

20. An Act highly creditable to the community has passed the legislature of this island and only awaits the royal sanction; by it a pension is granted, which, under the circumstances of the colony is on a liberal scale, to the late Colonial Secretary, who filled that office for thirty years.

21. The seasons have been unusually favourable, and with the prospects of a large crop, Nevis has room to hope for better days, as she puts forth some signs of a revival of former prosperity.

His Excellency the Governor-in-Chief.
&c.

&c.

&c.

I have, &c. (Signed)

VIRGIN ISLANDS.

ARTHUR RUMBOLD.

No. 22.

COPY of a DESPATCH from Governor HAMILTON to the Right Hon. Lord STANLEY. (No. 53.)

Leeward Islands, Antigua, May 21, 1858

Received June 15, 1858.

MY LORD, I HAVE the honour to transmit to your Lordship a Despatch from the President Enclosure. of the Virgin Islands, forwarding the Blue Book of the colony for the year 1857.

2. In reporting to your Lordship my annual tour of inspection of some of the colonies in this government, I referred to the energetic endeavours of Mr. President Price to promote the growth of cotton in Tortola, and re-open the copper mine at Virgin Gorda He will, I am sure, also use his best exertions to improve the financial system of the colony, and the state of the prison, to which I have particularly called his attention.

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3. The President reports the conduct of the black population as orderly in general,
although many young people of both sexes are corrupted by the licentious habits
prevailing at the coaling station of Saint Thomas, to which they resort for employment.
I have, &c.
(Signed)

KER B. HAMILTON.

The Right Hon. Lord Stanley,
&c.

&c.

&c.

Enclosure 1. in No. 22.

COPY of a DESPATCH from Mr. President PRICE to Governor HAMILTON.
(No. 19.)

SIR,

Government House, Tortola, March 23, 1858

I HAVE the honour to transmit the Blue Book for the British Virgin Islands for the year 1857.

2. The year 1857 opened with a small cash credit of 51. 4s. Od., and an outstanding amount of arrears of salary to public officers of 70l. 11s. 8d., and closed with a credit of 24/. 14s. 11 d., and a debt to public officers of 2967. 12s. 11 d., the net balance against the treasury being 2717. 18s.

A small loan contracted in 1854, for the purpose of effecting at a moment of embarrassment some compromise with unpaid public officers, has been partially liquidated during the past year, as also have some few claims outstanding from the year 1856; but as no prevision was exercised by the legislature to make arrangements for these contingencies, and the long expected and hoped for wreck at Anegada did not come to the relief of the exchequer during the past year, it follows that these payments of liabilities have been effected at a sacrifice, the public officers being, as seems to be warranted by a timehonoured usage of very doubtful honesty, the sufferers. The revenue and expenditure for the year do not seem to present any other features which call for remark. The former seems to have reached that degree of regularity which is necessary to enable me to say, that it equals the ordinary yearly expenditure, but it leaves no margin for payment of debt or for provision against contingencies, and the outstanding claims against the colony, trifling though they may be in amount, will inevitably prove a source of much embarrassment in after years, unless some effort be speedily made for increasing the revenue by some 300l. or 400l. a year.

3. At present it is worthy of remark, that the ordinary income of the Virgin Islands is as nearly as possible equivalent to the amount which Great Britain annually contributes for the maintenance of the establishment, and as the ordinary income about balances the ordinary expenditure. Great Britain therefore contributes as much as one half of the whole expenditure for local government.

Imports and Exports.

4. The total value of the imports for 1857 was 5,6341. 7s. 4d. The total value of the exports for 1857 was 10,8481. 15s. 7d.

5. Of the former, about 1,000l. worth came by way of British colonies, and the balance from Saint Thomas. Of the exports, also, Saint Thomas took to the value of 9,3021. 9s. 9d. There are neither imports nor exports direct from or to Europe at the Virgin Islands. The trade, once flourishing, has entirely ceased, and is not likely to revive, until there shall be re-established some staple commodity as an article of export. The article of sugar, I fear, scarcely contributes to our present exports more than what would load one vessel of from 70 to 80 tons within the year.

Legislation.

6. The ordinances passed during the year 1857 were as follows:

"An ordinance for further shortening the language used in ordinances of the legislature of the Virgin Islands."

"An ordinance to continue in force an Act to impose a tax or impost on all sales made at public auction or outcry, and to compel persons exercising the office or employ ment of auctioneer to take out licence, and also to compel purchasers, under a penalty, to complete their purchase or purchases.'

"An ordinance to repeal the thirteenth clause of an Act, entitled 'An Act to impose a tax or impost on all sales made at public auction or outcry, and to compel persons

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VIRGIN ISLANDS

Encl. in No. 22.

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VIRGIN ISLANDS.

exercising the office or employment of auctioneer to take out licence, and to compel purchasers, under a penalty, to complete their purchase or purchases.'

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99

"An ordinance to levy a duty on exports.'

"An ordinance for granting mercantile licences, licences to hucksters, and spirits licences, and for levying a duty on the retail sale of spirituous liquors, wines, and malt liquors within the Virgin Islands."

"An ordinance to amend the cattle tax ordinance, 1855."

"An ordinance for printing the laws of these islands, and for other purposes."
"An ordinance to amend the boat licence, 1855."

“An ordinance to amend the general tax ordinance, 1855."

"An ordinance to repeal an Act, entitled 'An Act to license the sale by retail of the sugar cane and its products.""

"An ordinance for the payment of costs in proceedings instituted on behalf of the Crown in matters relating to the revenue."

"An ordinance for regulating the register office and conduct of the registrar, and appointing his salary and fixing the fees of office."

6

6

"An ordinance to amend an ordinance, entitled An ordinance to repeal an Act of the Virgin Islands commonly called The Road Act for 1844,' and an Act commonly called The Amended Road Act for 1854,' and to make other provision in lieu thereof,' dated the sixth day of July 1855."

"An ordinance to extend the summary jurisdiction of the general court of the Virgin Islands in complaint actions." And

"An ordinance to amend the pound ordinance, 1856."

All of which have been so fully reported upon already on the occasion of their transmission as to call for no further remark here.

There were fourteen sittings of the Legislative Council during the year.

Financial Prospects.

7. The principle of indirect taxation having been, as I think, so wisely abandoned in this scattered colony, the policy of recent legislation has been to spread the levies necessary for the establishment over a variety of direct objects. It has been so widely diffused that it becomes a matter of some difficulty to pronounce any confident opinion as to the financial result of any given period of time. The export duties particularly are dependant upon a demand for our produce at the Island of Saint Thomas, and this is a resource which the British Virgin Islands are not, I think, likely to monopolize for all time. The abandonment of various sugar properties in the Danish Island of Saint John, as well as the attempts which are daily being developed in Saint Thomas itself to render it less dependant on our islands, are causes which may be expected to affect us prejudicially; and the public income from duty on exports being derived principally from necessaries which either of those foreign islands could equally well supply, should my apprehensions have foundation the revenue must ultimately suffer. The contingency is perhaps, however, remote, and in the meantime Saint Thomas is so regular an outlet for superfluous stock that for the next few years I think the export duties may not be sensibly affected. The increase in any other branch of revenue seems to depend upon the social improvement of our general population, since it is derived principally from a tax upon a particular class of houses, upon cattle and horses, and upon incomes above 251. per annum.

8. The year under revision has closed, as did the previous one, with a small debt due to the public officers, large enough, however, to require some new taxation, to avoid a similar contingency for the future, and to adjust the present excess of outlay.

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9. The simple, and perhaps, under our circumstances, politic expedient of a small land tax, appears to meet with more favour now than was formerly accorded to it; and although there exists, as I shall have occasion to remark, under the head of "Agriculture," a large landed interest" somewhat unreasonably opposed to such a measure, I am not without hopes of seeing the principle tested. However this may be, I think the experiences of 1857 will have fully exhibited the folly of depending upon the reefs of Anegada as a regular source of income, through the favouring agency of wrecks, and the duties which they contribute to the treasury, and that the inconvenience and injustice of habitually leaving public officers in arrear is in course of fuller appreciation, so that I am much disposed to anticipate a more favourable state of finance next Christmas than that which marked the bygone year. The prospects of the crop of 1858, and the condition of the labouring classes, are certainly sufficiently cheering (comparatively speaking) to justify the expectation that the revenue will at least suffer no diminution.

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