British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

most valuable of our colonial possessions. It is notorious that, in the ceded islands before adverted to, though now, or lately, in a state of high prosperity, almost every private capital, that was at first embarked in their cultivation, was lost to the adventurers. So extensive was the ruin that the very easy purchase-money of lands reserved to the Government, though forming the first lien upon them, remained for the most part unpaid; and Mr. Edwards questions whether a shilling of the nominal sales ever found its way into the treasury.

This is, in truth, from known causes, the ordinary case with new colonies. It has been proverbial that the first settlers generally fail, though their successors rise on their ruins: and if such is the fate of adventurers in the fertile, well known, and well defended field of our own sugar colonies, where they have few or no public establishments to maintain, it would surely be unjust to regard the losses of the Sierra Leone Company, under the peculiar circumstances which have been noticed, as a proof that colonization in Africa can never be carried on to advantage.

Your Committee however would again remark, that supposing such an opinion to be well founded, it has no relevancy to the objects of the African Institution; for we mean not to colonize in Africa, or to trade there on our own account, but only to assist and give a right direction to the enterprise of others, and to excite the industry of the natives of that continent. . . .


50
REPORT FROM A SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, 26 June 18161

. . . But even allowing that it may be many years before trade and cultivation can advance in a great degree, and an adequate pecuniary return can be made to the mother country for the expense which she has incurred, yet this does not essentially affect the far nobler purpose for which this colony was founded, namely, the endeavour to ameliorate the condition of this hitherto ill-fated portion of the globe. It certainly has had the effect of diminishing in a very great degree the slave trade in its neighbourhood. . . .

It would have been in vain to make any attempt to improve the condition of Africa, without having first established a colony of some strength, founded upon equitable principles, from whence as a focus, all our efforts may be directed; and however Sierra Leone may have fallen short of the sanguine expectations which had been formed of its success, there is every fair probability that Africa will ultimately derive much good from this settlement, not rapidly indeed, nor perhaps

____________________
1
Parl. Papers, 1816 (506), vol. vii B, pp. 125-6. The Chairman of this Committee was Earl Compton.

-464-

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