British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

50
JAMAICA: TWO REPORTS FROM COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, 23 November 1792 and 13 November 1807

23 November 17921

Mr. Shirley, from the Committee appointed to inquire into and report to the House the state of the sugar trade,... reported,

That, in obedience to the order of the House, they proceeded to collect the best information that could be obtained, to enable them to judge of the effects that must necessarily arise from the operations of an Act evidently calculated to prevent the price of sugar exceeding a certain standard; for which purpose the Committee thought it proper to compare together two periods of time, in which the West India colonies enjoyed the blessings of peace, and in which the quantity of sugar imported into Great Britain from the West Indies was nearly the same, but its value very different. The first period comprehends the term of four years, viz. 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775 (it was not till the beginning of 1776 that the American privateers began to seize West India ships); the second commences with 1778, and includes the three subsequent years. During both these periods none of the sugar colonies were afflicted with hurricanes; in the former, the importation of sugar into Great Britain mounted to 3,921,781 cwt. from Jamaica, and to 3,762,804, cwt. from the rest of the sugar colonies; and in the latter to 5,130,085 cwt. from this island, and to 2,563,228 cwt. from the rest of the islands. . . .

[These two periods are compared--in respect to tonnage, price of slaves, imports of food and fuel, revenue collected, sugar exported, &c.]

Here the Committee cannot but point out to the House the extraordinary advantages resulting to the parent state from the culture of canes in the West Indies; for the above calculations clearly shew, that when sugars were selling at 34s. 8d. [i.e. the first period] Great Britain received out of the sales, for duties, supplies, insurance, freight, and charges, 16s. 3 ⅟2d. for each hundred weight so imported and sold; and when selling at 58s. 7d. [i.e. the second period] no less than 26s. 5d. per cwt., and as the imports of sugar into Great Britain from the British West India islands have mounted, on an average of the last four years, to 1,923,328 cwt. it must be evident (though at first sight it may appear hardly credible), that Great Britain has

____________________
1
Journals of the Assembly of Jamaica, vol. ix, Jamaica 1815, pp. 144-6. Grocers and refiners in Britain had urged the lowering of the duty on foreign sugar and the restraint of excessive re-exportation when the average price was too high. In June 1792 an Act (32 Geo. III, cap. 43) prohibited reshipments when the price rose above so shillings a cwt. The West Indians complained that the price named was too low a maximum.

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