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trasting the advanced condition of those countries in which Christianity is most pure, with those in which it is still encumbered and disfigured with the grossest corruptions; and, therefore, I desire strongly to see the simple yet sublime precepts of the Gospel supplanting the degrading and demoralizing superstitions of idolatry, in every portion of the habitable globe. I believe good political institututions and free commercial intercourse to be among the best pioneers in the cause of morality and true religion. Where the former are established, justice will hold her seat, and tranquillity and contentment be found; where the latter is permitted, knowledge will flow in from a thousand different directions, and through a thousand different channels, until its united streams só overspread the land, that those things only which are just, and true, and holy, can retain their place in general estimation : ånd, believing that both your labours and mine will each, in their respective spheres, conduce, under the blessing of God, to this great end, I rejoice at the occasion which has now presented itself for our acting together in so holy
MEETING OF THE MERCHANT COMPANY OF EDINBURGH.
TRADE TO INDIA.
On Monday, the 19th of October, a meeting of the Merchant Company was held.—Thomas Allan, Esq., Master of the Company, in the chair, and after the usual general business had been gone through, he called on Mr. Macfarlan to bring forward his motion on the subject of opening the trade to India.
Mr. J. F. Macfarlan then rose and spoke nearly as follows:- I had not originally intended to say any thing more on this subject than I formerly did, when I introduced the question to the Company's notice; but from what then took place, I understood it to be the general feeling that it ought to be more fully discussed, that the Company might be better able to come to a deliberate opinion respecting it. I do think it will hardly be disputed that restrictions on trade are injurious; or that where any such exist—or are proposed to be laid on-the burden of proof of the necessity must rest upon those who seek to impose or to continue restrictions freedom of commerce being universally admitted to be absolutely necessary to its prosperity. The East India Company has long enjoyed one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, monopolies that ever existed, and one which, unless it be for the benefit of the country, ought not to be continued. This brings us to the point at issue between the Company and the country. No one seeks to deprive them of their incorporating charter; it is only with respect to the exclusive privileges that any question exists. These were granted for certain periods and purposes, and it would be for Parliament to say whether they are to be continued. “And for this purpose it would be necessary for the Company to show that they are advantageous to the country : for the first charter granted by Queen Elizabeth, was under this condition—" that if it should appear that the grant, or continuance thereof, in whole, or in part, should not be profitable to the Sovereign or the realm, that, upon two years' notice it should cease, be void, and determine ; -and though those exact words did not run through all subsequent charters, still the same spirit pervaded the whole--that the exclusive privileges were only to be permanent if beneficial ; and were those privileges to be removed to-morrow, the Company would still remain a chartered incorporation. I will now advert, first, to the present state of the trade with India ; and secondly, to the propriety of removing the restrictions still existing. In 1813 great concessions were made, but limited by several restraints. No vessel was permitted to trade under 350 tons burthen-on account—as it was alleged, amongst other reasons, of their more respectable appearance. This was, however, done away in 1822, and in consequence, several vessels, one of them as low as 120 tons, have since sailed from Leith, making, as I understand, very fair
returns; and from the harmony which is now likely to prevail between Edinburgh and Leith, I hope, through our united exertions, that this trade will be pursued with spirit and success, in ships of all sizes, whereby the produce of the East will be brought to our own doors, taking in return the manufactures of our country, The next restriction to which I should allude, is the system of licenses of them I will say no more than merely quote the opinion of a committee of the House of Lords, which declares that they were productive of no public benefit, and subjected individuals to some expenses. The next restriction which I shall notice, is that which prohibits intercourse with the interior. The order by Mr. Lushington, preventing individuals on commercial business from travelling more than ten miles from a presidency is already before the public. I could have understood the meaning of this order, if it had been to restrain persons going about for seditious purposes, but when the object was purely commercial, I can only look upon it as throwing an obstacle in the way of trade, which necessarily must give rise to gluts in the market, and therefore be highly injurious to the merchant. The want of right of settlement and colonization in India has also been productive of very great evil even to ourselves, as could be established by referring to the low state of value in which articles of Indian produce are held. For instance, in the article of cotton wool, the annual consumption in Great Britain is 197 millions of pounds, of which America furnishes 151, Brazil 17, Egypt 6, the West Indies 9 millions of lbs., and the East Indies only about 12 millions of lbs., while in fact it ought, and it would with proper care and cultivation, supply almost the whole. The preference did not arise from our merchants being fonder of American than Indian produce, but because it was cultivated in a superior manner. The arbitrary power of deportation was another part of the Indian system very injurious to the improvement of the country. No man would invest 10,0001. or 20,0001., when he knew he might at one moment's notice be obliged to leave his affairs, perhaps to go to ruin. I do not say that the Government should not have the power of sending improper persons out of the country, but I hold that it ought only to be used when a verdict of a jury said the individual was guilty. As to the advantages of free trade, I will refer to a pamphlet lately published by a gentleman in defence of the Indian monopoly, who has with the greatest simplicity added as an appendix to his work, certain returns which prove the great advantages that have resulted from free trade. By these documents it appeared that the Company in 1814 exported 1162 yards of plain cottons, and in 1828, 306,000 ; while the private trader had exported in 1814, 212,246 yards, and in 1828, this trade increased to 22,940,349 yards, and of printed cottons, 12,327,379 yards. But the more remarkable article was that of cotton twist, for in 1814, only 8 lbs. were exported; but in 1828, the quantity was 4,558,185 lbs. by the private trader, and 90,040 by the Company. The export of iron and steel had increased from 4000 tons, by the private merchants, in 1814, to 19,924, in 1828 ; while the Company's exports had decreased from 7085 to 3984 tons. Besides, while the general official value of the exports of private traders had increased from 578,8891., in 1814, to 4,085,0001. in 1828, that of the Company was stated in the same document, at 117,0001. in 1814, and in 1828 at 1,126,0001. In the article of imports, on the other hand, (to say nothing at present of tea) of sugar in 1814, 40,000 cwt. were imported by the Company, and 3500 by the private trader ; while in 1828, 75,000 cwts. were imported by the Company, and 441,000 by the private trader. In indigo, also, the increase was great; the import had risen in 1828 to upwards of 2,000,000 lbs. by the Company, and 7,500,000 lbs. by the private traders. In 1828,
the quantity of coffee imported by the Company was 13,136 lbs., while there were 7,361,571 lbs. by the private trader; and to mention no more than cotton wool, in 1828, the quantity imported by the Company was 1,098,000 lbs. while 31,241,000 lbs. were imported by the private trader. The sum total of the imports of 1828 was 5,576,9051., (including tea), while that by the private trader was 5,643,6711. Thus showing an enormous increase in the extent of trade; and were I to go into particulars, it would be easy to show that that increase was altogether occasioned by private trade, that of the Company, with the exception of tea, having declined. I may therefore fairly ask, to which of the two-the Company or the private trader—the country is most indebted? And if these have been the results under restrictions, it is but reasonable to suppose, were those obstacles removed, and British capital and British industry to operate fully on the fertile soils of India, that the increase would go on progressively, especially when it is considered that a yery great taste everywhere prevails for English dress, manufactures, &c. As an instance of this, Bishop Heber mentions, that when he visited the King of Oude, he found the furniture of his palace at Lucknow, altogether English ; and from the growing desire for English manufactures, I have little doubt, in a few years, were the trade opened, that India itself would consume the greater portion of those goods for which at present we cannot find a market. In this way, too, great advantages would accrue to the native population by the employment thus given them. It is true the question of colonization is a knotty point, but the propriety of allowing merchants to settle is generally admitted. Bishop Heber states, that in Calcutta but one opinion exists on the subject. We have heard much of the wealth of India, and undoubtedly there is wealth there, but it is not circulated generally amongst the people as here, diffusing happiness and comfort along with it, but is confined to the highest classes—for the squalid wretchedness of the miserable ryots of which, we are told, would almost exceed belief. The question of colonization has, however, been settled by the Company itself, by liberty having been given to British subjects to hold lands in their own names for the cultivation of all kinds of produce. They have passed the Rubicon, and cannot recede: and I trust, through the introduction of British capital and intelligence, that the condition of the people will be improved. The benefits to be conferred are not merely upon seven millions, a number of which we have heard so much, but upon the seven times seven-nay, twice seven times seven millions--( Applause). On this branch of the subject a great deal more might be said, but I deem it unnecessary; and will now proceed to make a few remarks on the trade to China, which divides itself into two branches --the circuitous trade carried on between America, China, the islands of the Indian Archipelago, and Europe; the other the direct trade between China and this country. One of the circumstances which led, in the first instance, to the indirect intercourse was the fur trade, in which very large profits were made. To give one instance an American captain, with a small vessel, left New York with a cargo which did not cost him more than 1001. which he exchanged for furs, and with these he proceeded to China, exchanging them for the produce of that country, and returning to America, procured a fresh supply, again visited Colombia river, and purchased furs, which he disposed of in the same manner. This traffic he carried on for three years and a half, when he returned to New York with a fortune of 30,0001.-(Hear). Our own countrymen were not insensible to the advantage of this traffic; and, accordingly, the North West Company entered into it with spirit. They obtained leave from the East India Company to carry furs to China, but were not permitted to take a return from that country. The consequence was, that the expense became so great, that they were compelled to abandon that mode of conducting their trade, which was, however, still carried on, but through the medium of the Americans. The manufactures which were destined to purchase the furs, were sent out from England, transhipped into American vessels, which proceeded to the Colombia River, and from thence to China, and in this way more beneficial returns were made than in the former. The new trade with South America was conducted in a similar way-manufactures being sent out to Buenos Ayres, and copper and silver obtained, with which vessels go to China, and the islands, and trade, bringing the produce of those distant parts to the European markets. The American trade itself is carried on in a similar way, and its progress is exceedingly instructive. In 1783, only two or three American vessels had made the voyage; but it has increased to such an extent, that upwards of two hundred ships have been absent at one time from the United States on this voyage; and from being allowed to go wherever they please, have become the chief carriers of Europe. Some idea may be formed of the extent of their trade, from a report made by Mr. Lownes to the House of Representatives, from which it appeared, that, while the exports from America did not exceed twelve mil of dollars, as much was brought to Europe as repaid the whole, the supply for America being obtained from the mere profits of the trade. Nor has this trade diminished, for, by the official documents laid before Parliament in June last, there appears to be a gradual increase, so that, while on an average of years about 1804, it amounted to 1,600,0001 ; on the average of the last six years it amounted to 3,145,0001. The East India Company's trade with China, however, had decreased. On the average of the last twelve years, the first half of that period was at 3,330,0001., while the last half was only 3,175,0001. Nor is it only the merchant, but the shipowner that suffers; and, as an example, I may mention the case of a Spanish house that wished to engage an English vessel on a voyage between Lisborî and China, the freight of which would have amounted to 13,5001. ; but the English house could not, from our injudicious restrictions, accept the freight, which was, however, readily taken by an American, then lying idle in the river. I will now ask, what the friends as well as the enemies of free trade will say to this? Here is an exs tensive branch of commerce in which the East India Company does not engage, (for if it did, it would be some consolation, as it would so far be advantageous to Britain,) and from which at the same time they prevent all other British subjects from engaging in ; thus at once injuring the merchant and ship-owner, without in the least degree benefiting themselves. On this point the report presented to the House of Commons in 1821, speaks so strongly and beautifully, that I beg leave to quote its language. If, then,' says that document, ' the American trade with China, no longer secondary and subordinate to that of the English Company, has indeed met it in successful rivalry, the wisdom as well as the equity of excluding British subjects from the competition becomes more and more questionable. In consequence of reports from both Houses of Parliament, a request was made by Government to allow British subjects to engage in this branch of trade, which reasonable request was refused. Now what are the objections that were made to it? The first was, the characters of our sailors, who were represented as so much worsé behaved than the Americans, as to endanger the trade altogether. This, however, was not made out to the satisfaction of either House, and may safely be set aside. The next objection was, as to the mode adopted by the Chinese of carrying on trade, it being confined to a single port, limited to one set of merchants, called The Hong,' and subject to various regulations. This appears rather a strange objection on the part of the India Company; for, if the principle be so injurious in that country, it cannot be better in this-the India Company itself being a somewhat similar establishment. This, in fact, however, affords no objection. Its trade is conducted easily and well. Another objection was, the smallness of the trade--that it was not worth ; though it is remarkable the Company itself made its greatest profits when its trade was confined to the islands. But the chief and real objection was, the fear that it would interfere with the direct China trade-a trade, the importance of which might be judged of both by the supply the East India Company itself took out in woollen manufactures, the great quantity of British goods taken thither by Americans, who find them better than dollars, and also by the fact of British manufactures finding their way to China through Russia, an overland journey of about five thousand miles, being disposed of at Kiateha to great advantage. As to the returns from China, their value are well known. Tea, for example, which is brought home in such quantities, and the increased consumption of which may be safely calculated upon--for the quantity introduced is not equal to that which would be consumed, if the price was lower. It is about 180 years since the India Company ordered from China, a cwt. of the best tea that could be had, and now the quantity brought home amounts to above 30,000,000 of lbs. annually; and the Americans who began the trade much later, bring away 12,000,000 of lbs. per annum. The importance of this trade is therefore self evident, and the grand objection to it is the alleged necessity of the China trade to the Company, to enable them to carry on the Government of India. I have no wish whatever to interfere with the government of India. It is a matter of the most perfect indifference to trade in whose hands the Government is, provided it is a good Government, that there is security of property and freedom of commercial intercourse, which may be as well affected under the Government of the Company as under the Government of the Crown. But, with respect to the objection, we must bear in mind, that the very same language was held respecting the opening of the trade in 1813 as now, and the result has been quite the reverse of the prediction. The territories of the Company have been extended very greatly ; and the Government itself even more secure. Besides, there is no connection, in the abstract, between successful commerce and territorial power ; this is distinctly made out by the annals of the Company, which was more successful in trade before it obtained the sovereignty of India, and which now carries on so profitable a commerce with China, without possessing any territorial dominion there. The connection between them is only created by the necessity of realizing the dividends upon the Company's stock, amounting to about 600,000l. per annum ; and, by referring to the official documents, we find that an average of profit has been realised for the last two years of upwards of two millions sterling, the tea being purchased at an average cost of about ls. 4d. per lb. and sold at an average of 2s. 11d., declining, however, of late years to about 2s. 5d., while the same teas are sold in Hamburgh at an average price, not amounting to the prime cost to the Company in China. To the cost price in China is, however, added the expence of the establishments of the Company; but be that as it may, however, the effect is to impose a very heavy tax of more than tivo millions annually upon the public ; and I shall take the liberty of applying to it the language of a noble lord (Melville,) to whom this country, has been, in a particular manner, indebted, and to whom, I trust, it will yet be laid under deeper obligations. If,' says his Lordship, in a letter to the Directors of the India Company, respecting the trade to India, the Company carry on their trade more extensively, and with less activity and industry than private individuals, it is unjust to the country, as well as to the inhabitants of British India, that the exclusive monopoly should be continued;
and in such a state of things the trade is more likely to be advantageous to the individuals in their hands than in those of the Company. In addition to this, the Company has the privilege of paying their dividends out of their territorial revenues, when there is any deficiency from commerce, and the revenues of India are ample, being no less than from twenty-two to twenty-three millions sterling. Respecting this point, I beg to refer to the statements of the late Marquis Hastings, who, in a small volume, remarkable for its perspicuity, modesty, and elegance, says, that, ' After revolving every circumstance with the coolest caution, I cannot find any reason why, subsequently to the present year, an annual surplus of four millions sterling should not be confidently reckoned upon. This shows what may be done by careful management; bat should the Company be unable to accomplish this out of such means, and any change be necessary, what evil would result? The Company is already entirely under the direction of the Board of Control. They cannot appoint officers, or give directions, without their consent. I am far from saying the Company has done no good: they have done much good. Property is more secure, and justice better administered, than under the Mohammedan Government. They have abolished human sacrifices, the murder of female infants, and the burying alive of widows,--humanity thanks them for this ; and had they proceeded a single step farther, and abolished suttees, they would bave been well entitled to the approbation and gratitude of their country; and, as far as I can learn, this was perfectly in their power; for the practices prevail most in those districts of India that have been longest under our government. That the Company has power to put a stop to this inhuman practice, I need only refer to the report of the magistrates and chief of police of Bengal. The same might be said of the superstitions of Juggernaut, and if the effect of a change to the mild and beneficent sway of our gracious Monarch should be to elevate the nations of India from the demoralizing effeets of their degrading idolatory, to that of the pure morality of the Christian religion from a state of poverty and wretchedness to a state of wealth and happiness-the Indian would then be led to esteem us not merely in the light of mighty conquerors, but as their greatest benefactors and best friends. As to this question, however, it may be left with perfect safety in the hands of the present Government, which, with the will to do good, has the ability and power to perform it. It is for us merely to direct our efforts to remove rem strictions and to petition Parliament; and I doubt not, if the country unite in so doing, we shall obtain a true commercial emancipation.-(Great cheering.) Mr. Macfarlan concluded with moving a series of resolutions.
Mr. Spittal, in seconding the resolutions, expressed his surprise at not seeing any of his Leith friends present.
Mr. J. GRÀIG-This is a fast-day in Leith.