Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Idle.

sary fupplies?-My connection with the West Indies is of a general mercantile nature, relatively with this country, and with Canada.

What is the extent and nature of the supply which Canada does afford, or is capable of affording to the West Indies ?—Canada is capable of supplying staves in any quantity, both for wet and dry casks, not including sugar hogsheads. It is capable of supplying every species of naval timber; it is capable of furnishing ships for the trade, and a very large supply, I conceive, of wheat and flour. The export of wheat this year will be very considerable.

Does Canada produce any of the red or pitch pine?- In very small quantities; I conceive the Canada staves are much superior to the American, and will, in any part of their use or application, have the advantage over the American. There are three defects in the staves as at present imported from Canada; the firft is, the improper selection of timber; the second is, the improper management of that timber in respect of the separation of the sap, which causes the worm-holes; and the third defect is, in the mechanical converfion of it, in not squaring their timber according to the fibres of the wood. Might not those defects be remedied?—With the greatest ease in the world..

Is the produce of corn in Canada increasing?-I conceive very much so, in consequence of the clearing of the lands, its increasing wealth, and the measures adopted by government for the encouragement of that colony in the articles of its export.

Have you any knowledge of the extent of the capacity of Canada to furnish boards, scantling, and other timber, suited to the consumption of the West India colonies?-I have reason to think that it could make very large and increasing supplies in proportion to the increase of population, and the other means of the colony.

Have you any knowledge of the present state of the population of Canada-Not sufficient to satisfy the committee.

Have you engagements to furnish from the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, any quantity, and to what extent of scantling or other timber, applicable to the building of ships or houses? I have an engagement with government to furnish a very considerable quantity of mafts, bowsprits, and other naval timber, both to this country and to the colonies, from Canada solely; the mafts and bowsprits of Canada having been found very far superior to those of New Brunswick, or the United States.

Are not other markets besides the Weft Indian markets supplied with flour, corn, and lumber, from Canada?-Very considerable supplies, I know, have been derived from Canada to Portugal, and I presume Spain chiefly, of wheat and Indian corn, and to this market also.

Do you know of any means of promoting the consumption of the staple article of rum?-I know of no means, except the reduction of duties, and what I conceive the consequence, the diminution of smuggling; and this reduction of duty, I conceive, would not occasion any defalcation in the aggregate amount of the revenue.

Withdrew.

Luna, 20° die Julii, 1807.

HENRY SHIRLEY, Esquire, called in, and examined.

WHAT is your connection with the West Indies, and what are Mr. your means of affording information to the committee, with respect Shirley. to the British Weft India colonies?-I was in Jamaica three years during the American war, and seventeen years, from 1784 to 1801, as a planter.

What do you consider the causes of the present distressed situa one of the sugar planters-The low price of colonial produce, and the increase of the contingent expences.

To what causes do you attribute the depreciation of the market? -To neutral vessels being allowed to carry French and Spanish sugars to Europe; the heavy contingent expences arise naturally from a state of war.

What measures do you consider best calculated to afford relief to the home market?-Returning to the old colonial system of affording protection to the produce of the British plantations, by preventing the produce of foreign colonies being conveyed to the European markets.

Do any measures occur to you for increasing the home consumption of sugar?—I conceive that the heavy duties that have been laid on sugars have not only lessened the consumption, but have prevented the increase naturally to be expected from the increase of population, and the increase of wealth in the mother-country; at the same time, Jamaica has remitted to this country a much greater quantity of sugar than it used to do.

Do any measures occur to you for the assistance of the export trade?--I conceive none but a peace, or stopping the neutrals from carrying the sugars of our enemies to the European markets.

What do you consider to be the profit which a planter can derive from his capital, at the present prices?—I conceive that a sugar planter, who does not make more upon his plantation than 250 hogsheads, must, at the end of the year, be in debt to his merchant; a planter who makes upwards of 250 hogsheads, gets a profit in proportion to the quality of his sugars. On one property, comprising two sugar estates bought by me, and improved, which has cost me 170,000l. fterling, my profits last year were about 5,600/.

Does that estate make better sugar than the average of the British plantation sugar-Much better.

Is that estate managed at an expence greater, or smaller, than the average expence of estates in Jamaica?—I was at a considerable expence in the settlement of those estates, in order to prevent any expence on account of contingencies; I do not think there is an estate in Jamaica managed at so small an annual expence.

What is the average crop of the property you speak of?-The average crop is 600 hogsheads upon one of the above-mentioned sugar plantations, and 400 hogsheads on the other.

Has that estate any particular advantages over other estates, from its local situation ?-A very excellent soil, which enables me to do

Mr.
Shirley.

with 416 negroes what I cannot do at another estate with 750 ne. groes, and with heavier contingent expences.

At what periods have you observed any material changes in the profits of the estates you possess in the West Indies-The price of sugar was very low when I became a sugar planter in 1773; the markets became very favourable in consequence of the American war; we sold our rum to great advantage. After the peace in 1783, the markets were very low until 1789; they improved in 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792; in 1793, they became very high until 1799; ever fince that time the markets have lowered every year.

In the period of which you have spoken, independently of the prices at which produce has sold, have not the necessary contingencies of West India estates considerably increased?-The contingent expences of an estate I possessed in 1773, and the contingent expences of the same estate in 1804, are at least 115 per cent. higher than they were.

Can you form an estimate of the variations in the profits of your estate before mentioned, since you purchased it ?--I bought Hyde Hall in 1788; the estate did not come to its degree of perfection till 1795; the crops of 1795, 1796, 1797, and 1798, as far as I can estimate them, not having the papers now before me, gave me a return for my capital of 12 per cent. during those four years; but an inference must not be drawn from my estate applicable to other estates in Jamaica, for there are very few estates in Jamaica which make 600 hogsheads. It has been declining ever since. In 1801, 1°02, 1803, and 1804, it produced, on an average, a profit almost equal to 6 per cent. In 1805 it produced about 3 per cent.

Can you state what has been the profit in 1806 and 1807?—I have not the accounts.

Have they been greater or lefs?—They have been less, because the sugars have sold for less money.

How much per cent. do you suppose this estate produced from 1788 to 1794, while you were bringing it to perfection ?--I cannot tell, because I left the crops to my agent to improve the estate, and my agent had orders to lay out all the money the estate produced in improving it.

În 1773, you have stated, that the prices were very low, but became higher in consequence of the American war; do you suppose the same consequence would follow the breaking out of an American war, if it broke out now?—In the former war you protected us; in the present war you sacrifice us to the Americans.

What would be the situation of the planters in the British West Indies, if they were obliged to depend upon the British North American colonies alone for their supplies of lumber and provisions?-A trade between the British India colonies and the British North American Provinces, for supplies of provisions and lumber, cannot be said to exist at present. We receive at times some lumber from Halifax and New Brunswick, some corn and some horses from Canada, some white pine boards and planks, and some ranging timber, but no pitch pine, no oak staves for puncheons, and no cyprus shingles, an essential article, because, after several trials, we have found by experience, that slates, copper, and tiles, require too heavy

roofs for a country subject to hurricanes. We get some good fish Mr. from thence, but no pork, which is a great article of food for the Shirley. negroes. I have not sufficient knowledge of Canada to say, whe. ther, in that immense country, there are not pitch pine, lumber, and red oak staves, but it is a new trade, which must be created; and if, to encourage this trade, a monopoly is required of the British West India colonies, it must complete the ruin of the Jamaica planting interest.

To what uses are pitch pine applied in the West Indies, to which Scantling of the white pine, or spruce, could not be applied ---The information of my carpenters in Jamaica was, that white pines would do on the inside of the building, but not exposed to the

weather.

Would the British planter's market for rum be injured by a monopoly of their supply being granted to the British North American colonies?--It would make the planter still more dependent on the British merchants, who cannot be very indulgent in such times as these. They seem to pity our case, but they add to our miseries, by always deriving a profit from our distresses. The trade could not be carried on directly by the planter as it is at present; a middle man must be employed, and the middle men can only be the traders in Kingston, Montego Bay, and other out-ports; those traders are almost as distressed and as poor as the planters. There are no bankrupt laws at Jamaica; nothing more common than the nonpayment of an acceptance; the merchants are for ever suing one another. The merchants in North America could not truft them without the guarantee of a British merchant, and this would finally throw the lumber trade into their hands, as the Irish provision trade now is. We should lose the market we have at present for our rum, and by shipping it all to England, it would only pay the charges. Under the old colonial system, Jamaica increased in wealth; this increase of wealth produced an increase of culture; this brought to the British markets a greater quantity of sugar, rum, and coffee. Enormous duties have been laid on sugar, and the consumption has been so much injured, that it has not risen in proportion to the increased, population, and the increase of wealth in the mother country. The war prevents the re-exportation, and the price of colonial produce is become so low, that it draws the attention of parliament. We shall probably be reduced to the necessity of claying our sugars, which would greatly injure the British shipping, and the revenue. Our former prosperity attracted the attention of all traders and shipowners; nothing could satisfy them but the strictest monopoly ; and, if it is now wished to add to our miseries, by devoting the little we have left to the prosperity of the British American colonies, we must be undone. We have had this year, in the parish of Trelawney, in Jamaica, a severe drought; and if we had not had the immediate assistance of the United States, our slaves would have been greatly distressed, and would have been reduced to green food, which would have produced a great mortality in autumn.

How was Jamaica supplied with lumber and provisions between 1786 and 1793, when no Americans were allowed to trade there?— As far as my recollection goes, I bought my lumber in the usual way;

P

Mr.

lumber used to be brought by the Americans in small vessels, under Shirley. the free port act. I do not remember any interruption.

Mr.

In what manner are the American imports from the United States paid for by the British planters?-By colonial produce; namely, rum and molasses; by money, or bills of exchange. The difference is great between payments in rum, and payments in money; that is to say, the American will take much less for his lumber and provisions when paid for in money, than when paid for in rum. About eleven-twentieths are paid them in produce, and nine-twentieths in money or bills of exchange. This was the result of an enquiry by a committee of the House of Affembly in Jamaica, of which I was chairman.

Would the British planters, in your opinion, be relieved to any, and what extent, by being permitted to barter certain proportions of their coffee and sugar in payment for American supplies, equivalent to the cargoes imported?-They certainly would; the Americans would take some of our worst sugars; it would greatly reduce the exportation of money, and prevent the ruinous consequences of giving bills of exchange, which, in these calamitous times, are often dishonoured. What measures could be adopted in this country, with respect to the consumption of rum, which would be advantageous to the planters?-To encourage its consumption, by supplying the army and navy with rum instead of brandy, as it was done in old times; grog being naturally the favourite liquor of a seaman and a soldier.

If the subjects of the United States of America were excluded from the market, would not the British North Americans take the rum, with a view to sell it to them?--I should think that the rum would come here, and that here it would sell at so low a price, that they would be able to afford to send it to the United States.

Withdrew.

ROBERT MILLIGAN, Esq. called in, and examined.

WHAT is your connection with the West Indies, and what means Milligan, have you of being acquainted with the colonial trade?—I have been a West India merchant in London, for the last twenty-seven years, and for the twelve years immediately preceding that time, I was a merchant at Kingston in Jamaica.

In the case of a suspension of a direct intercourse with the United States of America, do you conceive there would be means of obviating the inconveniences likely to result to the British colonies, from the interruption of that intercourse?-If the intercourse should be interrupted by an American war, of which we have already had some experience, I should think that the island of Jamaica, of which alone I can speak, might certainly for a time be put to a considerable inconvenience; but if we are to judge from the experience we had, in the course of the American war, those difficulties would be in a great measure overcome by supplies drawn from other countries, and from captures, as was the case during that war. I was in the island from 1775 to 1779. After a short time, we did not experience any very material inconveniences from the want of lumber or provisions; and the price was never during that time extravagantly high; it was

« PreviousContinue »