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aid for the wealthier classes, who, while they will not at present combat their selfishness so far as to send their children to Calcutta or Sydney, would readily avail themselves of good education if procurable on the spot.
One marked feature of the want of education, is the tendency of the children of wealthy natives to dissipate the fortunes left by their painstaking parents. The proximate reason of this result is the backwardness of those parents to do violence to their feelings, by bringing up their children with propriety and without a senseless over indulgence. This feature in native manners is especially hurtful, as it prevents the retention of those fortunes, the possession of which enables men to devote themselves from their youth to moral and mind-elevating pursuits, in opposition to the baser and more degrading tendencies of an exclusive attention to the accumulation of wealth. One or two generations of educated and wealthy Chinese would make a wondeiful change in the position of these colonies, and as soon as they can be induced to give up an exclusive attention to their own barbarous literature, in which youth has to wade through an almost impossible character to learn absolutely nothing, and adopt the modern systems of western Europe, we may expect to see the commencement of the change.
If the present revival of the old idea of obtaining Chinese labourers in the English West India Colonies ever be carried out, there will be a fair opportunity of observing the effect of European civilization on that people. In the enjoyment of a perfect personal independence, an exact and efficient administration of justice brought home to each man's door, every facility and encouragement to educate himself and his children, he will there have advantages which he has not yet met with in the Settlements of Europeans in Asia.
The Chinese, then, as well the Malacca born, as the native Chinese occupy a position in the social scale in the Straits decidedly inferior to the Europeans, but superior to all other classes of the native population. They follow the occupations of tillers of the soil and the handicrafts of towns, they are our only shoemakers and carpenters, bakers, blacksmiths &c, while in other trades, as tailors, barbers, bricklayers, fishermen, boatmen, porters, &c, Klings and Malays compete; requiring smaller wages these classes are able to compete" in price, but the Chinese are generally preferred by Europeans on account of their greater steadiness and pereeverance. As house servants with European families the Chinese are found to be particularly valuable. In a country where the native Malay is sunk in indolence and apathy, and where the servants from India, in addition to the disabilities attending their caste systems, are not found capable of performing the duties of an European household, unless employed in large numbers, the services of the Chinese are valuable. Accustomed from eaily youth to unremitting toil, and unfettered by prejudice, a Chinese servant, if taken young and properly trained, is the nearest approach to servants at home. One objection, and it is a most serious one, is however urged against their employment. It is asserted that they arc not trustworthy, that the longest service, marked by uniform kindness and consideration, is not proof against temptation, and the evils of secret societies, whoso influence is universal. In consequence, instances are known of the vilest treason and treachery; however this may be, it is certain that the advantages of their employment, under good management, more than counterbalance any evils to be anticipated from their treachery, as is seen by the general employment of Chinese house servants in Singapore and Malacca. In the Chinese we have the only example of what rilust to all English colonists be a perfect myth, the "servant of all work"; many of the lower classes of Europeans are served, and well served, by a single Chinese. The antecedents of Pinang with its long Indian connexion, do not encourage the employment of Chinese house servants in that island; hitherto Indian and Malay servants have been alone employed.
Another sphere of usefulness in which the Chinese arc exclusively employed is the collection of the excise revenues. The Chinese have always been the farmers of the revenue. They appear to be the only class of our native population who are familiar with the principles of regular collections, and who understand any system of fiscal regulations. The articles on the consumption of which the chief portion of the revenue is raised, are also peculiarly within the use of the Chinese, and this doubtless gives them a degree of speciality in dealing with the revenue which completely excludes competition from any other class of people. Without their assistance, Government would find considerable difficulty in collecting the excise revenue.
The details of the great European trade of these settlements are managed almost exclusively by Chinese. The character and goneral habits of an European gentleman quite preclude him from dealing directly with the native traders who visits our ports, and who bring the produce of their several countries lo exchange with articles of different climates found collected there. These traders— Malays, Bugghese, Chinese, Siamese, Cochin Chinese, Burmese &c, have their own modes of conducting business, founded on a status of civilization very far below European models, and which Europeans cannot condescend to adopt. Here the Chinese step in as a middle class and conduct the business, apparently on their own account, but in reality as a mere go between. But little superior in moral perception, the Chinese puts himself on a level with the native traders, lakes them to his shop, supplies them with sirih and other luxuries of a more questionable shape, and joins with them in their indulgences. Surrounding them with his numerous retainers, and studious to make their stay agreeable, he listens calmly for hours to senseless twaddle, the tiresome inanity of an exhausted temper, and succeeds in dealing with the native on terras far inferior to what could have been obtained from the European merchants. If the native could pnly elevate himself sufficiently to meet the European to deal directly, without the interference of a third party, whose profits of course must be a weight on all transactions, he would find it greatly to his advantage.
The relative value of Chinese mental labour is exhibited by the fact that they outstrip and defy all competition from native classes in the money making modes of mental labour, while physically their obvious outward superiority is further borne out by the experience of persons employing them as labourers. The Government Surveyor at Singapore, a very competent authority, has furnished a table* of the relative-value of English and Chinese labour, from which the following facts are taken:—
Brickwork English 100—to Chinese 52
Earth work do 100—to do 57
Sawing timber.. do 100—to do 51
* See Jcuni. Ind. Arch. vol. vi. p. 430-37.
These proportions are founded on the supposition of the Englishman working in England and the Chinaman at Singapore, so that an allowance is to be made in favor of the laller for his work being in a climate not his own. The difference however of the climate of Singapore and the South of China, from whence our Chinese immigrants come, is not so great as to require a large allowance.
With regard to the relative value of Chinese and other native agricultural labour it is difficult to form any correct estimate. All Chinese are averse to receiving monthly pay for their labour, they prefer to be interested in the work to be done by them, and, if that cannot be accomplished, they then endeavour to work by contract: from the difficulty of superintending their work Chinese coolies on monthly wages get little mora than Klings. In calculating their work generally, as compared with Klings and Malays for field labour, it has been considered that a Chinese was worth 4 dollars, a Kling 3 dollars and a Malay 2 dollars a month.
The evident value of Chinese labour has long drawn the attention of the West India and Mauritius planters in the hope of obtaining a supply of emigrants from the overteeming population of China. In 1806 His Majesty's Ministers sent a commissioner to India and China for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain, with the aid of the East India Company, a supply of Chinese coolies for the Island of Trinidad. The question at that time was discussed in all its bearings. It was found that the Chinese could easily be induced to go to the West Indies, and would, in all probability, be a most valuable acquisition, but there was one difficulty which proved at that time insurmountable, viz the exclusive trading privileges of the East India Company. The Chinese of the lower orders, pressed by poverty, readily consent to leave for a time the burial places and halls of their ancestors, but it is essential that they should have a constant and easy means of return for themselves, and of sending, according to invariable custom, yearly remittances for the support of aged relatives at home. They also require supplies of articles not procurable beyond the Indian Archipelago. To keep up the necessary communication, and to afford the supplies requited, was considered as likely to be injurious to the interest of the Company and the project was in consequence abandoned. Of late years the plan has been revived, but the want of direct and constant communication between China and the West Indies is found to be a great bar, by inspiring the Chinese with fears and doubts as to the distance and the practicability of countries with which they have no direct communication. These difficulties do not exist as to certain portions of Western America, and on a late occasion, when inducement offered at California, large numbers at once flocked to the land of gold. There can be little doubt that the high rates of wages, and the suitable climate, of the West India Islands would attract vast numbers of Chinese labourers to their shores, and the perfect freedom and protection enjoyed throughout the English colonies, not only in the towns but in the most distant country districts, would afford such inducements to a free people as in a few years materially to alter the present under peopled and depressed condition of those islands. The unfortunate result of many of the late Chinese emigrant speculations must however tend to check uny further intercourse for the present. Hundreds of miserable creatures were crimped and kidnapped, and fraudulently sent on board European vessels ostensibly to sail to the Straits of Malacca* but when they got to sea they found their destination was America. Unprovided with suitable provisions, unaccompanied by any one capable of acting as an interpreter between them and their jailors, and subjected to ill treatment of all kinds, it is not to be wondered that the Chinese rebelled and following their natural instincts of freedom took possession of the ships. Had they done less than this, as a free people their services could not have been an acquisition in any land of liberty. It is a great mistake to suppose that the Chinese will continue to submit to injustice. Obedient and docile to a remarkable degree when treated with justice, no people of these countries shew a more determined opposition to any attempt at personal coercion. The treatment likely to be met with in the slave sugar growing colonies will debar them from going, and, if in the country, will prevent them from working. No class of Chinese, as far as we are acquainted with the race, will submit to slavery; unlike the natives of Africa, who become accustomed to the yoke and make no efforts to break their bonds, the Chinese will only work in slavery under positive force, and will avail themselves of the first opportunity to overcome that force.