« EdellinenJatka »
[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, Feb. 1832)
The vast and splendid colonial possessions of Great Britain, encircling the globe with their stations, and nourishing its commerce by their productions, are menaced with destruction. The government of the West India Colonies, embracing so many wealthy and important islands, consuming annually L.4,000,000 worth of British manufactures, having invested in them L.130,000,000 of British capital, employing 250,000 tons of British shipping, is silently slipping from our hands. Should the present system continue much longer, it is more than doubtful whether, in a few years, the British flag will wave on any of the Antilles. The empire of the Atlantic, and with it the wooden walls of England, the great bulwark of our freedom, will have passed to another people.
To show that these apprehensions are not exaggerated, we transcribe the following article from the Jamaica Courant of Nov. 1, 1831:
“The period has at length arrived, when the representatives of an oppressed and deeply injured people have met in council, to deliberate on the civil and political economy; and, like pilots in a storm, to consult on the means most advisable to conduct the tempest-tossed bark through the billows of an agitated ocean. Looking at the conduct of the mother country to her colonies, we dare hardly give expression to our feelings on the occasion. What have we in return from England for the immense duties received upon our produce—the vast benefits derived by her industrious artisans from the almost exclusive supply of British manufactures—the nursery afforded her for seamen, that form the bulwark of her national existence, besides the
wealth drawn from the wealth of the colony, to be spent in Britain by our absentee proprietors and mortgagees? Why, beggary, ruin, and disgrace, are the barter—we are left a prey to the discontented and insatiate herd of hydras in the mother country, and exposed to a hell of opposition from every corner of the nation. But such a state of things cannot long exist. The Amor Patriæ of the sons of Britain in the West is dissipated—is lost. England insulted and persecuted America, and lost eleven British states at a blow. True, her 74 and 96 gun-ships could not whisk around the New World as they can around her colonies in the West Indies, but she may secure the loss of one as certainly as she has effected the alienation of the other. America at present resembles the sleeping lion. You behold the beauty and symmetry of the animal, without a demonstration of its strength and power. She remains quiet, nurses her seamen, builds new vessels of war, and lays them up in dock-husbands her wealth, and secures the affection of a noble and generous people. The day is not distant when, feeling her influence and power, she will arise as it were from the womb of time, and spread confusion and terror around her. We would say to our members in Assembly—to those gentlemen who have been delegated by ourselves to rule the destinies of the colony, resist by fair and constitutional means any further innovation upon the rights and privileges of the people. Concession will follow concession, demand will be succeeded by demand. If we are to fall, let it not be by our own hands; let not the crime of political suicide attach itself to us. Let the Ministers of England have the glorious satisfaction of destroying our institutions and commerce, and rendering our island a magnificent pyramid of desolation and ruin. England holds her possessions in the East by a thread, and her colonies in the West by a threat.”
The case is the same in all the other West India colonies. In St Vincent's, Barbadoes, Demerara, and all the Leeward Islands, the discontent is extreme. Everywhere the colonial legislators are remonstrating in the most vehement manner against the rash innovations of the mother country, and deliberating on the means of escaping from so ruinous and ignorant a domination. Emissaries from them all have more than once visited America --with what design we do
not know ; and that ambitious state is not an inattentive observer of the fair prey which is thus falling into its hands. Master of the Gulf of Mexico, it is easy to foresee into whose grasp the dominion of the islands which lie in its bosom will ultimately fall, if the firm hand of Britain is once relaxed, and the wisdom which once ruled its councils is permanently laid aside. It is not more difficult to foresee who will rule these flourishing colonies, if England is either torn at home by internal dissensions, or governed by an uninformed democracy, attentive chiefly to selfish objects, and ignorant of their dependence on the colonial interest of its numerous offspring. And the moment chosen for agitating the empire, and shaking all its established interests by the destruction and remodelling of the constitution, is the very one when, from external causes, its remote portions were most threatened with destruction !
It may be presumed, from the very statement of the West India Question, that some great and overwhelming grievances are in operation to produce the widespread feeling of discontent which pervades these once flourishing colonies. The sugar islands are bound up, both in interest and affection, with the mother country ; bound to it by ties which, but for a course of rash and perilous interference with established interests, never could have been broken. They are not colonies, in the proper sense of the word ; that is to say, they are not places in which a large portion of the European inhabitants permanently settle—ubi lares et focos habent ; where they purchase estates on which they reside, and which they transmit as their home to their children. They are, on the contrary, places of temporary and fleeting occupation-considered only as objects of profit or subsistence ; and cultivated, for the most part, with the view of being abandoned before old age, and the remainder of life passed in the mother state. The great bulk of West India proprietors reside in Great Britain, and their extensive colonial estates, cultivated by means of overseers and slaves, transmit their produce in the shape of sugar remittances to this country. The British islands are the great market of colonial produce, exceeding to the colonies that of all the rest of the world : and any rupture with them would involve the colonies in extreme temporary embarrassments.
Of all this the colonists are perfectly aware : they see how dependent they are on the market, the protection, and the navy of Britain ; and yet they are coolly, but firmly, contemplating a separation from this country. Making every allowance for the vehemence of passion which is ripened in these tropical regions under the rays
of a vertical sun, it may safely be concluded that such a disposition could not have arisen, in opposition to such interests, without some great and overwhelming cause.
But if the separation of the West India islands from this country is perilous to them, it is far more so to the mother state. They take off annually above £4,000,000 worth of British exports, real value, or £5,500,000 official value. How is this vast and growing market to be preserved, if our sway over them is destroyed ? Will the Americans, those jealous commercial rivals, who have taken such pains of late years to exclude the British, and favour their own manufactures, allow us to retain a monopoly of the West Indian market ? Can it be preserved amidst the ill-humour and mutual exasperation, which an attempted or completed separation must produce ? The thing is obviously out of the question ; and England must make up its mind, if it will insist, by rash and absurd legislation, upon losing these flourishing colonies, to look elsewhere for so large a portion of its manufacturing exports.
Upon British shipping, and through it eventually upon the British dominion at sea, and the protection of the empire from foreign invasion, the consequences of the threatened separation promise to be still more serious. Experience has proved that there is no nursery for seamen, no feeder of commerce, like extensive colonial possessions. The colonies of North America, though only containing 1,300,000 inhabitants, maintain a trade with the mother country which takes off £2,300,000 a-year of British manufactures, and employs one-fifth of the whole shipping of Great Britain; while the trade with the United States of America, though it possesses a population of 12,000,000, only employs a seventh of the Canadian trade, or one thirty-fifth of the foreign commerce of Great Britain.* The trade to the West Indies, which now employs
* Boucher's Account of Canada, preface, p. 3.
250,000 tons of British shipping, may be expected to decline as the ships employed in the trade to the United State have done since they declared their independence. The right arm of the British navy will be lopped off the moment that the West India islands have either become independent, or passed under the dominion of a foreign power.
It is impossible it can ever be otherwise : and Lord Brougham has well demonstrated, in his “ Colonial Policy,” to what cause the vast difference between colonial and foreign trade is owing. Colonies are distant provinces of the empire ; the industry which an intercourse with them puts in motion at both ends feeds its own population, and the intercourse itself is exclusively maintained in domestic shipping. That which is carried on with an independent state, on the other hand, maintains domestic labour only at one end, and the greater part of it is usually carried on in foreign vessels. If England exports the muslins of Manchester to Jamaica, she is benefited both by the industry which raises the article in Lancashire, and the labour which pays for it in remittances of sugar from Jamaica or Barbadoes ; and the ships which carry on the intercourse are exclusively British, and navigated solely by British seamen. But if she exports the same article to Maryland or New York, she derives benefit only from the manufacturing industry in this country ; and, so far from seeeing her commerce increased by the transmission of it from one country to the other, she has the mortification of beholding the greater part of the intercourse carried on in the vessels of her formidable rival.
The consequence of a separation between England and her West India colonies, however serious to both, must in the end prove more hurtful to the parent than to the infant state. The old and the young are mutually dependent on each other : but the consequences of a rupture are likely to be more irreparable to a man of seventy than a youth of fifteen. The world with all its hopes and all its prospects is before the one; the weakness of age, the night of the grave, is closing upon the other. The West India islands will doubtless suffer immensely, in the first instance, from a rupture with this country; but the wounds will soon be healed by the vivifying powers of nature in those prolific regions, and the market for their produce which the