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4. Miscellaneous Articles. It would require several pages 10 detail all the articles that might be procured from this favorite Settlement, and to explain all the advantages which might be derived from them. The following deserve particular notice: 1. Hides and skins, which may be had in considerable quantities. 2. Whaleoil and whale-bone. 3. Dried fruits, equal to the consumption of all Europe. 4. Oranges. 5. Rice. 6. Barilla. 7. Saltpetre. 8. Tobacco. 9. Lead ore, with a large proportion of silver._10. Olives in the greatest abundance. 11. Honey and wax. 12. Tea. 13. Sugar; and 14. Cotton. Besides which, there are a variety of articles of inferior importance, as ivory, ostrich feathers, aloes, gum, wood, &c.
III. Political Advantages. In addition to these conimercial advantages, the colony at the Cape of Good Hope is justly considered, in a political point of view, as of infinite importance. It is accounted the barrier or master key of Asia ; the best of all military depôts for our troops going either to the East or West Indies, where they may be seasoned for hot climates ; a place where our naval and military forces may be maintained in a most central and convenient position, and yet at a reduced expense; a settlement that might be rendered impregnable against the attacks of any enemy; and on the whole as a colony, the most likely to be advantageous, and the least likely to be injurious, of any that has hitherto been incorporated with the British Empire.
Hints regarding the renewal of the Charter of the East
THERE are few questions, to determine which can be attended with greater difficulties, than what system ought to be adopted regarding the future trade between this country and the East Indies; and what plan ought to be formed for the proper management of the immense empire we have acquired in those distant regions. It is an unfortunate circumstance, therefore, that such discussions must be entered into at a moment when the attention of the Ministers, of Parliament, and of the public at large, must necessarily be distracted by so many other important objects; and that a contest should have commenced, at such a crisis as the present, between the metropolis on the one hand, and the rest of the commercial and manufacturing interests on the other, which is likely to be carried on with a considerable degree of violence, and even rancor. Have ing, on various occasions, been led to contemplate the principal particulars connected with our East India trade and possessions, I am thence induced to sketch out a few hints, which are submitted, with great deference, to the consideration of those who are interested in, or must decide on, these momentous objects.
The progress of the East India Company is one of the most extraordinary events recorded in history. That a few merchants in Great Britain, even though aided by the government of the country in regard to naval and military operations, should have become possessed of one of the greatest empires that ever was established, inhabited by above fifty millions of people, with immense revenues, a great military force, and with a trade of unequalled extent; and, on the whole, should manage such remote dominions, and such vast and complicated concerns, with ability and success, would appear impossible, were it not a fact established beyond doubt by the history of our own times. To break down such a stupendous and complicated fabric, therefore, is a measure which no prudent statesman would hazard, on the mere expectation of greater advantages than what are now derived from the present system. I thence consider the renewal of the charter of the East India Company, under certain restrictions, to be afterwards explained, absolutely necessary. It cannot be questioned, that a monopoly was advantageous, at the commencement of a commerce with so remote a country, imperfectly known, and an intercourse with which was attended with so many difficulties. Indeed, it cannot be doubted, that if it had not been for the establishment of a great company, we should not have been in possession, at the present moment, of a single foot of land in the East Indies. Some have exclaimed against such acquisitions, as prejudicial rather than advantageous to the public interest. That they have been the means of introducing great luxury and its concomitant evils, must be admitted; but if the question is, whether it has proved advantageous, with a reference to the acquisition of extensive commerce and political power; it may be sufficient to observe, that the anxious endeavours of our inveterate enemies to deprive us of those possessions, is a sufficient proof of their importance.
But now, since the East Indies has been so thoroughly explored, since we have acquired the peaceable possession of so large and valuable a portion of it, and since the English name is respected in every part of that remote hemisphere, the commerce of the East does not seem to require the same shackles; and that very monopoly, which was the means of obtaining those immense acquisitions, has thus laid the foundation of its own destruction.
I am therefore inclined to think, that A MEDIUM PLAN is the proper system to be adopted, of which the following is merely an outline:
1. That the Charter of the East India Company shall be renewed for the usual term of years, preserving, in general, the same powers and authorities which the directors of the East India Company enjoy at present, at least in regard to civil appointments.
It is well known, that many of our ablest statesmen have dreaded the political consequences which might result from giving the whole patronage of the East Indies to the ministers of the crown, The influence they would thus receive would be irresistible; and, on the whole, it seems to be the safest plan, in a constitutional point of view, to leave the civil patronage in the hands of the directors. Indeed many contend, that the Company cannot possibly govern the affairs of India, unless it has that army, which is paid from its revenues, likewise under its control : but there seems to be, at the same time, a great incongruity in having two descriptions of troops, under different systems, and commanded by officers who have received their commissions from different authorities, defending the same country; and such a system, certainly has a tendency to create jealousy and confusion.
2. That the city of London shall continue to be the great depôt for the commerce of the East, and that the direct trade to China shall belong exclusively to it.
The commerce from London to the East involves concerns of such immense magnitude, in which so vast a capital is invested, and in which the interest of so many persons is so deeply implicated, that it must be cautiously dealt with ; and, in particular, the system of carrying on the direct trade to China ought not to be tampered with, when we consider the peculiar nature of so jealous a government. This is a point which will probably be much contested; but it would be hazardous to attempt any great alteration, in a commerce of such magnitude as that of China, which, under the present system, is found to be advantageous. It is proper also to observe, that if the merchants connected with the out-ports, established depôts of goods in the Prince of Wales's Island, &c. the Chinese would come to these depôts to purchase them, by means of which, a more advantageous commerce might be carried on, than if British manufactures were subjected to Chinese jealousy and taxations.
3. That for carrying on a commerce with every other part of the East Indies, a board shall be established for licensing traders to India from any of the out-ports, under such restrictions as may be iudged necessary.
I am fully convinced, from all the information which it has been possible for me to obtain, that to grant to our out-ports the liberty of trading to the East, (China alone excepted, unless through the medium of the Chinese themselves,) is an advisable measure, and likely to be productive of beneficial consequences to our commercial and manufacturing interests. At a time like the present, when
we are excluded from so many of our old markets, it is absolutely necessary to endeavour to discover new ones. The demand for our manufactures in the East may not, for some time, be so great as mány are so sanguine as to imagine; but the spirited enterprise of private adventurers must soon surpass the dull dealings of a monopolist, acting through the medium of servants uninterested in the sale of the articles to be disposed of.
But, at the same time, I should think it extremely hazardous, until the experiment has been fairly tried, to allow an unrestrained compierce. The quantity of goods that would be sent, if the trade were unlimited, would so reduce the price as to ruin the adventur
It would be essential, therefore, at first, to fix the rate of tonnage to be allowed the different ports, on liberal principles, and to sell the licence to those who would give the highest price for the liberty thus obtained. The trade to be under the control of a board, specially constituted for the purpose, the members of which, to prevent any constitutional jealousy, ought not to sit in either House of Parliament.
4. That the public shall guarantee to the East India Company, the dividends which the stockholders now receive.
This I consider to be an essential part of the plan. When the services of the East India Company are duly appreciated, the propriety of guaranteeing to the stockholders the amount of their
present dividend, can hardly be doubted; and the money that would be obtained by the sale of licences, in the manner above-mentioned, would furnish an ample fund for that purpose.
Such are the general and leading principles on which, I am humbly of opinion, that the present great question might in some degree be decided. It is a species of compromise, of which neither party probably would at first approve, but which therefore is the more likely to be acceptable to the impartial part of the community. It lays a foundation for changing a system which it would be dangerous at once to overturn. A gradual and prudent alteration of that system, may be the means of doing much public good : whereas, a change, RADICAL AND RAPID, might be the source of much public mischief.
Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, Jan. 15, 1813.
No. III. To the Committee of Merchants interested in the Ware
housing or Bonding System. GENTLEMEN, I REGRET much, to find that any difference should have taken place between the government and so respectable a number of the commercial interest as those who have authorised you to act for them; and I sincerely wish that some means could be thought of, not only to adjust the difference that now exists, but also to prevent the recurrence of any similar event in future. As you have expressed a desire to receive communications on this important subject, (in which, from the concern I had in its original formation, I necessarily feel myself interested,) I shall endeavour briefly to state what has occurred to me regarding it.
The warehousing or bonding system, I have ever considered to be bighly beneficial both to commerce and to the revenue. To commerce, because, previously to that plan being adopted, merchants importing goods from abroad were put to much inconvenience, by advancing to government the duties to which such goods were liable at the moment of importation, consequently long before the articles themselves were generally sold. This was attended with the following disadvantages to the merchant : 1. he was under the necessity either of borrowing money to pay those duties, or of confining his trade within narrower bounds, in order that he might be enabled to pay such demands out of his own capital; 2. he evidently lost the interest of the money he thus paid, unless he raised the price proportionably, which was not always practicable; and, 3, when the duties were very heavy, and money was difficult to borrow, he was often under the necessity of selling a part of his goods at an inferior price, in order to clear off the demands of the custom-house. Whilst the condition of the merchant was thus improved, the revenue was likewise benefitted; as, under the new system, there was no payment of drawbacks (or re-payment of the custom-house duties which were advanced under the former system), by means of which the exchequer was often defrauded.
It is contended, however, that an early payment of the duties on bonded goods is a material advantage, which onght not to be given up beyond a moderate period; and it is certainly natural for government, to endeavour to avail itself of any resource that will furnish the means of defraying the heavy expenses to which the country is still liable, without additional loans or taxes. But if, by enforcing this earlier payment, the merchant is either deterred from importing goods, or is altogether ruined, it is evidently killing the hen that lays the golden eggs. An advantage may be gained for the moment; but it will never occur again, at least to any extent. At the commenceinent of the new system, and in the midst of an expensive war, an earlier payment might be some object; but now, when a train of supply is progressively coming forward, the annual demand for goods consumable at home, (for which alone duties can