페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

must be, and must ever remain on a scale very contracted, compared to the population of the country; the demand being, in a great measure, confined to the small handful of Europeans, who are either in the service of the company, or living under their protection; to the degenerate posterity of the Portuguese colonists, to some of the Mahomedan inhabitants, and for jewels and trinkets of exquisite workmanship, to a very small number of the most opulent of the Hindoos.'

If this picture be correct, it seems to follow, that such a country as India, producing all the necessaries of life, and all the luxuries required by the simple habits and moderate desires of its inhabitants, is not very likely to furnish a demand for our commodities at all commensurate with the extravagant expectations very generally entertained ; and entertained tvo, on the authority of the greatest political economist of the age. It is asserted in the essay on the Wealth of Nations, (v. ii. p. 470,) that' the East Indies offer a market, both for the manufactures of Europe, and for the gold and silver, as well as for several other productions of America, greater and more extensive than both Europe and America put together.' And on another occasion the excess of exports in the reign of King William is represented as having been merely a drop of water in the immense ocean of Indian commerce.' To this hyperbole Mr. Macpherson opposes the following plain statement. On the 25th of November, 1789, the commanders and officers who returned in that year from India, represented to the directors that the markets in India were overstocked, and that they were distres. sed, almost to ruin, by the badness of their sales; and prayed for a remission of the duties payable to the company upon their investments. The truth of their allegations being attested by the governments of Bengal and Madras, their petition was complied with. On a reference to the accounts, it was found that the annual excess of exports above the usual average, by which this ruinous depression of the markets had been occasioned, was very little more than £20,000 ; a sum, surely, not likely to produce an overflow in a very extended commercial ocean.

It appears, then, that the market of India, far from being indefinitely vast, as it has been frequently represented, is, in point of fact, and from natural causes, very much circumscribed. It may, however, as we are assured by many, and even by Dr. Smith, be greatly extended, in due time, by the establishment of colonies. Soldiers, merchants and artizans, (the two former in considerable numbers, have been, at different times sent to India, but Great Britain has hitherto abstained from transporting thither a single cargo of landholders. If a due number of such persons were provided, and if they could obtain an adequate quantity of unoccupied land, or if they were permitted, after occupying soine populous district, to I 4

reduce modated

reduce the native inhabitants to slavery, or to displace those inhabitants, and to import negro slaves for the purpose of tillage, it is manifest that these colonists, like those in the West Indies, might become great consumers of British manufactures. But this project is liable to difficulties which, until it shall be farther matured, it is useless to discuss.

The export trade, however, is not singly sufficient to settle our ideas respecting the whole commerce. The Hindoos, though they do not want our manufactures, may probably be willing, and perhaps able, to buy from us a much larger amount of bullion than the company, whose activity is not excited by competition, has hitherto thought fit to supply. It is therefore necessary to inquire into their means of purchase.

The imports from India chiefly consist of

1st. Piece goods. These, in times of tranquillity, form an important article in our European trade, and the supply of them might probably be capable of being greatly increased. That supply, however, has hitherto always equalled, and usually exceeded the demand. In 1803, for instance, though the number of pieces offered for sale did not amount to a million, more than 270,000 remained unsold. The greatest sales yet known were those of 1800 and 1802, amounting, on a mean of the two, to rather more than a million and a half of pieces, (one moiety of which was furnished by the company, and the other by private merchants,) and yielding about two millions sterling.

2d. Indigo. This article, wbich is of great importance to our manufactures, was originally produced in India; thence introduced into the Spanish, French, and English settlements in America and the West Indies, in some of which the cultivation and manufactures were carried to the greatest perfection. The island of Ja. maica furnished large quantities of indigo, not excelled in quantity to that of Guatimala, till the year 1747, when a heavy tax, imposed by the British government, suddenly reduced the planters to ruin, and for ever extinguished the cultivation in that colony. Carolina, however, still afforded a considerable supply, though of very inferior quality; but when America became an independent and hostile country, the East India Company determined to revive, within their territory, a branch of industry which was no longer exposed to the competition of British colonists. The speculation began in 1779; was conducted with great spirit and skill, and after occasioning an expense to the company of about £80,000, was generously surrendered by them, as a secure source of profit, to their servants in India, and to the merchants under their protection. To ob. viate the difficulties to which infant establishments are always ex. posed froin an ipsufficient capital, these planters have been accom

modated by the company with loans, on the security of their

produce, to the extent of near a million sterling. The quantity of indigo produced in 1786 was 245,011 lbs.; in 1810 it amounted to 5,570,824 lbs. which sold for near two millions.

Sa. Silk. This, as the raw material of a British manufacture, has been studiously encouraged by the company, who have, at a great expense, caused the Italian mode of winding silk to be introduced amongst the natives of India. But it has been generally found to be a losing trade. On the average of ten years ending in 1785, the annual amount of the sales did not reach £350,000, and the annual loss exceeded £88,000.

4th. Cotton. , This being the raw material of the staple manufacture of India, and at the same time a good remittance to China, has been at all times cultivated to a great

extent in Bengal, &c. but as it is also raised in Brazil, in the West Indies, and in the southern states of North America, the British market was, before the invention of Arkwright's machinery, so abundantly supplied, that the competition of India cotton was in a great measure precluded by the difference of freight. The Company, however, have lately established a permanent factory in the upper part of India, and another on the western coast, in the country lately ceded by the Peishura, with a view to secure the British manufacturers, by a steady supply of this important article, from the frequent fluctuations of price which it has experienced through the agency of rival speculators

5th. Sugar, au article of which Great Britain raises more than she consumes, and with which her markets are now most distress. ingly encumbered, because it has ceased to be a medium of exchange with foreign Europe, would not be worth enumerating, but that the quantities of it exported from Calcutta about the year 1790 proves the extreme attention of the Company to every source of profit. If, however, the growing population of Great Britain, which seems to have outrun its usual means of subsistence, should compel the government to perpetuate the use of sugar in the distilleries and breweries; or, by reducing the duty, to permit its more general consumption as an article of food; or if, from the same causes which extinguished the cultivation of indigo in the British West Indies, the cultivation of sugar in our islands should also sease, the prolific soil of India would probably furnish as much sugar as the home market would require.

After this examination of the elements which compose the India trade, it is only necessary to say a few words concerning the mode in which it is, and must be conducted.

• It ought to be known,' says Mr. Macpherson,' that there are tio great stores of goods in India, and that the manufactures do not, like

those

those of this country, prepare goods to be ready for the order of a purchaser; that they all are, or pretend to be extremely poor, that the employer must advance one third of the price when he orders the goods; another third when one half of them are delivered; and the last as soon as the order is completed. After all this loss of time and advance of money, the goods are to be put into other hands to receive the finishing touch, which occasions a further expense of time and money. In like manner, a part of the price of pepper and other articles of agricultural produce is usually advanced before the crop is gathered.'

It follows that no individual can, singly, carry on all the branches of such a trade; and this is not denied; but it has been said, that

if a nation is ripe for the East India trade, a certain portion of its capital will naturally divide itself amongst all the different branches of that trade. Some of its merchants will find it for their interest to reside in the East Indies, and to employ their capitals there in providing goods for the ships which are to be sent out by the merchants who reside in Europe.'-(V. ii. p. 472.) Be it so. A competition therefore would take place between the Company and the private merchants ; and, the former being previously divested of their monopoly and their territorial possessions, the competition will, thus far, take place upon equal terms.

What then will be the natural consequence?

– In this situation (says Dr. Smith, v. iii. p. 144.) the superior vigilance and attention of private adventurers would, in all probability, soon make them (the Company) weary of the trade.' But why? Is it not notorious that, in every other branch of commerce, an old establishment derives considerable advantage from the mere circumstance of its being long established ? Its duration is supposed to imply a power of resisting the accidental vicissitudes of fortune ; a weight of capital; well tried connections ; steady adherence to fixed maxims; punctuality of payment; and consequently, solid credit. Whether the vigilance and attention of the new adventurers would counterbalance these advantages is very dubious. The private merchants actually engaged in the India trade may be reasonably supposed to be vigilant and attentive ; yet it is proved, by the declaration of competent witnesses, and by the infallible testimony of the registered accounts of sales, that their investments are made at a much dearer rate in India, and their returns disposed of at a much cheaper price in London, than those of the Company : and the alleged cause of this is, that the Company's servants, to whom the country trade in India is abandoned, being familiar with the languages, the laws, and the habits of the natives, and acquainted with the characters of their agents in the distant provinces over whom also they possess a considerable controul, have obtained an influence in every market which individuals are unable to counteract. The private merchants, however,

actually actually enjoy many facilities, by trading under the protection of the Company, and consequently sharing the benefits of its privilege; whereas, when the trade shall be wholly laid open, the adventurers must engage in a competition, not only with the Company, but with each other. That their want of concert will triumph over the union of a great and wealthy corporate body, is a prediction which, surely, is neither justified by experience nor analogy; and it is founded in the present case, on a very disputable assumption, namely, that all the commercial superiority of the Company will be annihilated by the simple abrogation of its present legal privileges. But, in cases like the present, authority is sure to survive the power from which it was derived. The respect originally inspired by fear is continued from habit; and many years must elapse before the Hindoos, amongst whom every habit is sanctified by its permanence, and who submit with hereditary awe to the edicts which were obeyed by their fathers, will accustom themselves to look with an equal indifference on the agents of obscure strangers, and on those of the great Company.

Neither is this all. The question respecting the territorial revenues of the Company, a question involving far dearer interests than those of the India trade, still remains; and we cannot close our present article without noticing, though very shortly, the reasoning of our author on this part of his subject.

The justice and facility of transferring the foreign possessions and revenues of the Company the sovereign of the state are inferred in every page of the Essay on the Wealth of Nations, where the India trade is discussed, and Dr. Smith expressly af. firms (v. iii. p. 144.) that the monopoly ought certainly to determine; the forts and garrisons--to be taken into the hands of government, their value to be paid to the Company, and the trade to be laid open to all the subjects of the state.' Again he

Again he says, (v. iii. p. 462.) · The territorial acquisitions of the East India Company, the undoubted right of the crow, that is, of the state and people of Great Britain, might be rendered another source of revenue,

&c. Now, surely this undoubted right is somewhat shaken by the following solemn disclaimer made by the British ministry during the negociations for peace at the close of the year 1762.

• Respecting those territorial acquisitions which the English East India Company have made in Asia, every dispute relative thereto must be settled by that Company; the crown of England having no right to interfere in what is allowed to be the legal and exclusive property of a*body corporate, belonging to the English nation.'

If indeed it should be held that a species of legal property so sacred as to demand the renewal of war for its preservation, is of no

« 이전계속 »