British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

55
JAMES CROPPER: RELIEF FOR WEST INDIAN DISTRESS, 18231

. . . They have never had any advantage from the monopoly of the home market. They have had an apparent advantage in the bounty; but I believe, inasmuch as it has led them to the neglect of their own concerns, it has done them a real and serious injury. On this account, however their claims may be without support, on the ground of right, of sound policy, or of common sense, the protection should not be withdrawn hastily, or without due consideration. But, if from its present tendency to perpetuate a bad system, it can be turned into that of promoting an improvement; if, instead of perpetuating slavery, it can be made the price of gradual redemption; then it will have its foundation in humanity and sound policy, and on that ground may be expected to continue so long as the necessity for it exists. If we can substitute a system which will put more money into the pockets of the West Indians, whilst it leaves the revenue unimpaired, and will give to the people of England their sugar at a reduction of 3s. per cwt., I shall have made a proposal worthy of consideration. That this may be done, it is now my object to shew.

The present system, by holding out encouragement to the growth of sugar only, turns the industry of the planters unprofitably into that particular channel. According to J. Marryat, the whole of their profits can only be estimated at 3s. 5d. per cwt., or about one per cent. upon their capital; and according to the Antigua petition, the present price yields nothing. Yet this country pays them 6s. per cwt. by means of the bounty on exportation. The sum thus drawn from the pockets of the people, or a part of it at least, is thrown away, and uselessly expended, in encouraging the planters to raise an article which after all pays them little or nothing.

The present system forces sugar into the refineries, so long as we have anything to spare for exportation. If, however, the time of this prospective monopoly advantage should ever arrive, the trade of refining for exportation must be entirely extinguished; but this system, so long as it lasts, has been shown to be peculiarly impolitic, giving away 250,000l. per annum, not for the benefit of this country, but for that of foreign nations. And, whilst a bounty is paid on the production of an article by slave cultivation, it prevents that change from slavery to freedom, which has always been preceded by a

____________________
1
J. Cropper, Relief for West-Indian Distress, shewing the Inefficiency of Protecting Duties on East-India Sugar, Lond. 1823, pp. 28-33. James Cropper, a Liverpool East India trader and Quaker emancipationist, was from the duality of his position particularly liable to attack for interested motives, though there seems no reason whatever to doubt his sincerity.

-350-

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