British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

53
SIR STAMFORD RAFFLES TO THE DUKE OF SOMERSET, 20 August 18201

Bencoolen.

. . . I am attempting to introduce the cultivation and manufacture of sugar on the same principle as in the West Indies, and to extend the coffee, pepper, and other plantations.

I find that a sugar-work may be established here at less than one- sixth of the expense which must be incurred at Jamaica; that our soil is superior, our climate better, and, as we are neither troubled with hurricanes nor yellow fever, that our advantages are almost beyond comparison greater. For instance, in an estate calculated to afford two hundred or two hundred and fifty tons of sugar annually, the land alone would cost eight thousand or ten thousand pounds in Jamaica, while here it may be had for nothing. The negroes would there cost ten or twelve thousand pounds more, while here labourers may be obtained on contract, or by the month, with a very moderate advance, at wages not higher than necessary for their subsistence. The other expenses of a West India plantation are estimated at ten thousand pounds more; so that before any return can be received, an outlay of at least thirty thousand pounds must be made. Here about five thousand pounds may be considered to cover every expense, including thirteen hundred pounds for machinery from England, and every outlay before the sugar is made. A gentleman has come over from Jamaica, and is establishing a very extensive plantation. He is now engaged in planting the cane, and, in about a year hence, he will commence his sugar. Water-mills, etc. have been applied for from Liverpool, and if the undertaking should turn out favourably, as I have no doubt it will, I trust it will not be long before his example is generally followed. Coffee and other tropical productions may of course be cultivated here with equal advantages; and, considering the present state of capital and labour in England, I cannot help regretting that the public attention is not turned to the advantages which might result from colonizing this part of Sumatra. Our advantages over the West Indies are not only in soil, climate, and labour, but also in constant markets. The West Indies always look to the European market, and that alone; here we have the India and China markets, besides an extensive local demand. The only thing against us is the freight, which is of course somewhat higher, on account of the greater distance; but if from the West Indies the planter could afford to send his sugar home at ten pounds per ton, war-freight, he may surely pay five pounds per ton, peace-freight, which is the present rate. In consequence of the advantages of this Island being unknown,

____________________
1
Memoir of Sir T. S. Raffles, by his widow, pp. 466-8.

-346-

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