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tion. The East-India Company were called upon
at a General Meeting of the Public to lend their
assistance towards effecting a reduction of the
price of Sugar, by encouraging importations of it
from the East- Indies. A General Court of Pro-
prietors was held, on the 15th March 1792, for
the purpose of considering an application in-
tended to be made to His Majesty's Ministers or
to Parliament, for lowering the duties then pay-
able on East-India Sugar. Upon this occasion
a Report by the Committee of Warehouses, dated
the 29th February 1792, relative to the culture


and produce of Suffar in British India, was read. Sugar culture

r o HI India;

As further authentic information appeared still
indispensable, the Court of Directors ordered,
agreeably to a suggestion in this report, that
the Collectors of the Indian revenues should be
called upon *' to ascertain various particulars information

* _ _ * ^ called for.

relative to the existing state of the Sugar culti-
vation, its increase or decrease ; whether it la-
boured under any peculiar disadvantages which
could be removed by proper encouragement."

It had, however, been directed in the year 1789, sugar sent
that a quantity of Sugar and some other articles
should be sent for trial. In the year 1790 a quantity
of Benares Sugar, with samples of other Sugars
and of Tobacco in the leaf, the produce of Ben- also Tobacco,
gal and Behar, were transmitted to England. In
February 1791, Lieut. J. Paterson, of the Bengal

Establishment, addressed a memorial to the Court i^'^ut- Pater-
son contracts to

of Directors, statinj^ that Su2:ar could be culti- manufacture

® ® Sugar on the

vated in Bengal with many superior advantages, westindian
and at less expense than in the West- Indies ;
though after making his contracts, and returning
to India, he does not seem to have found the
facilities so great as he expected.

The result of the above orders was a series of Reports on Su-

gar culture in

valuable reports by the Collectors of Revenue India.
upon the culture of Sugar in India. Among
these, that of the political resident at Benares is
the most full and comprehensive in its views,
and it may be profitably referred to, even now,
for the improvement of the culture of Sugar


Reports on in India. With these were obtained a few essays

Sugar culture ">

in India; on the subject by scientific persons in India, — as

those drawn uj) by order of the Supreme Go-
vernment by Drs. Roxburgh and Buchanan Ha-
milton. Large quantities of Sugar were also iin-

Reports pub- ported, as is fully related in the " Papers respect-
ing the Culture aud Manufacture of Sugar in
British India." The result may be briefly summed
up, as is done in the above report of the Com-
mittee of Buying and Warehouses 11th Decem-

Quantitiesof bcr 1822 I " In the course of the thirty years

Sugar imported ^ '' •'

from India. which havc clapscd since the former proceed-
ings of the General Court of Proprietors rela-
tive to East-India Sugar took place, this article
has risen, by a regular gradation, to be an impor-
tant branch of the national commerce ; the quan-
tity of East-India Sugar imported in the year
ending the 5th of January 1821 having amounted
to about fourteen thousand tons, and in the year
ending the 5th of January 1822, to thirteen thou-
sand five hundred tons."

Effects of the The ffrcat extent of the Indian territories in

introduction of ~ • • i • l

East-India which Suffar may be grown, the quantities which

Sugar. ^ • 1 1 • 1 •

were imported, and the cheapness with which it
can be manufactured, had, no doubt, considera-
ble influence in reducing the price of Sugar, and
would perhaps have injured the commerce of the
West-Indies, had not this been prevented by the
great distance, high freights, and the very unrea-
sonable duties, amounting to £.37. 16s. 3d. per
cent, charged on this country on East-India Sugar.


At this time English metals were admitted free of increased de.
duty, and English manufactured Goods, Cottons gar.
even, entered India on paying only two and a-half
per cent. The continued demand for Sugar, of
which the consumption seemed to increase in pro-
portion to the extent of its production, had also its
influence in preventing any very great reduction
of price taking place.

But at the very time that these efforts were
making in India, the West-Indians were assisted
by the introduction of a new kind of Sugar-cane,
which far surpassed that originally introduced
from the Canaries, in size and in productiveness
of juice. This was the Otaheite cane, of which otaheiteSugar-
Capt. Bligh says, "some very fine Sugar-cane ed into the

1 I J. J. ■> r J.I, • • West-Indies

was brought to me, each oi the pieces was six
inches rpund." The French, about the year 1794, by the French,
introduced three new kinds of Sugar-cane into
Martinique, and into their other West-India co-
lonies. One from the island of Bourbon, another
from Otaheite, and a third from Batavia. The
Bourbon and Otaheite Canes were found to be
nearly of the same nature, both, being much
larger than the old West-India Cane; many of their
joints measuring nine inches in length, and six in of great size,
circumference. When trimmed and fit for grind-
ing, some of the canes weighed seven pounds,
being about two pounds heavier than the largest
picked canes of the old kind. They ripened quicker,
and were fit for cutting in ten months ; their juice rich in juice.
also granulated sooner, and threw up less scum



Otaheite Sugar-

Sugar estates
greatly increas-
ed in value.


in the boiling than that of the old canes.
They also resisted the injuries of excessive dry
weather, and the ravages of that destructive
insect, called the horer in the Sugar islands. So
that in one season, in a year, wherein the dry
weather and the borer were particularly fatal to
the other canes, a proprietor estimated the pro-
duce at 3,500 pounds of sugar from an acre. In
a subsequent season, however, 5,700 pounds an
acre are recorded as having been produced. Mac-
pherson, in his Annals of Commerce, says,
** After such proofs of their superiority, the new
canes, generally under the name of the Bourbon
canes, were soon spread over all the British
West-Indies, where they very quickly superseded
the old canes, and with such advantage to the
proprietors of sugar plantations, whom they have
inspired with the most splendid hopes, that the
introduction of them will undoubtedly constitute
an important aera in the history of the West-

It is a curious coincidence that the Otaheite

* A proprietor of the greatest respectability in the Island of
Tobago, writes on the 20th September 1797, " my properties
here, since we were restored to the British Government, have
become very valuable. I have for three years averaged five
hundred hogsheads of sugar, and a large proportion of rum,
and the Bourbon canes are so wonderful, that I expect from
six to seven hundred hogsheads next year, if I can make them.
This cane passes wonder, and renders the appearance of the
old canes unpleasant. I would not, as a planter, have credited
a report of what I have witnessed of it."


Cane should have been introduced into the West- Little attention

paid in India

Indies at the very time tliat vigorous efforts were to improved

. culture or ma-

making for establishing the Sugar trade of the nufactureof

East- Indies. It is remarkable also, that among
the numbers who at that time paid attention
to the subject, so few should have thought of im-
provements in the Culture of the Cane in India,
or even in the Manufacture of the Sugar, and still
fewer of the introduction of new kinds of Sugar-
cane from other countries. Some, however, ac-
quainted with the West-India method, forcibly
called attention to the unthrifty manufacture in
India, where, from delays in the processes, much
of the saccharine principle was destroyed, before
the juice was boiled down into Sugar. The Bour-
bon, or Otaheite Sugar-Cane, was at that time
probably little known, but Dr. Roxburgh was
well aware of the importance of this subject, as
at the beginning of the year 1796, he applied
to Government to write to the Supercargoes at
Canton for the seeds of all vegetables that yield
flax and hemp, or that produce substances em-
ployed in their stead, as well as for the various
sorts of Sugar-cane.

Among the plants received from China, to- chinaSugar-
wards the close of 1796, in consequence of this hi^mQmto^

' •,• I • 1 r c u' u Calcutta Bota-

requisition, was a kind oi ISugar-cane, which nic Garden,
Dr. Roxburgh considered a new species, and has
called Saccharum Sinense, or Chinese Sugar-
cane. Of this, he writes at the close of 1799,
that it '' has been cultivated with the utmost pos-


SiTextS^ sible success. Many hundred thousands have

buted.^'^*" been distributed over the country amongst the
cultivators of that article." It possessed the ad-
vantage of being so hard and solid as to resist
the forceps of the white ants and the teeth of the

Its advantages, jackal, two great enemies to the East- India Sugar
Plantations. It was found, however, too difficult
to express the juice with the common Bengal
Sugar-mill ; but Dr. Roxburgh was of opinion
that this might be obviated by introducing the
simple, and at the same time powerful mill of the
Coast of Coromandel. The cane he further de-
scribes as bearing drought much better than the
sorts in general cultivation, producing more-
over a profitable crop even to the third year;
while the common cane of India must be annu-

Report from allv rcuewcd. Accordiuff to the report of Mr.

E.I. Com- " . .

pany's Sugar Touchct, the comuicrcial resident at Radnagrore,

Farm. .

and of Mr. R. Garden, Superintendent of the
Honourable Company's Sugar Plantation Farm
at Mirzapore Culna, it not only resists the rava-
ges of the white ant and jackal, but yields about
double the produce of the common Bengal Cane.
(v. " Report on the Sugar Trade," p. 258, and
Roxburgh's " Flora Indica," 1 p. 239).*

• Though anticipating events, it may be mentioned, that the
Otaheite Cane was only introduced lately into the Botanic
Garden at Calcutta by Captain Sleeman of the East-India Com-
pany's service, and thence into India. It has since spread
rapidly, seems highly esteemed, and the climate appears suit-
able to it all over India. A European house, however, em-


In examining the accounts of the Suffar-cane Principles to

Y , . , be attended to

Culture in India, several subjects of inquiry pre- in the culture

. . and manufac-

sent themselves as worthy of investigation, and ture of sugar.
respecting which, accurate experiments seem still
to be required. It is evident that every part of the
extensive plains of India is well suited to the cul-
tivation of Su^ar; but we do not know what
peculiarities of soil and climate are best suited to
produce the richest secretion of juice; nor which
cane is best suited to the different degrees of dry-
ness and moisture, heat or cold of the different
parts of India. The differences in these respects
it would be extremely desirable to have accurately
ascertained. In the culture also of the cane, many Culture;
peculiarities must have considerable influence in
the nature of the secretions, and consequently on
the quantity of Sugar that is produced, besides
what is dependent on difference of species. Such
as the more or less deep ploughing and planting,
as well as whether the latter be close or open, (so
as to exclude or admit air and light,) the copious
or scanty weeding, or the frequent irrigation. In
addition to this, any improvement in the unthrifty
mode of manufacturing it will ensure the produc- Manufacture;
tion of Sugar of as superior quality in every,

ployed in the culture and manufacture of Sugar, and in the
distilling of Rum, in the north-west of India, writes, that they
found the China Cane to be superior to that introduced from
the Isle of Bourbon, and now spread over India under the
name of the Otaheite Cane.


Culture and as we HOW know to be produced in some, parts of

Manufacture of ^ '■ *

Sugar in India, the Indian empire. Samples of East-India Sugar
sent to this country have been pronounced equal
to any from the West-Indies. But to ensure suc-
cess, as well as to make it profitable, it is necessary
to pay as much attention to the culture of the
cane, as to the manufacture of the Sugar.

Culture of Indigo in India.
Indigo, Indigo, which like Rice, Pepper, Cotton, and

Product of In- Sugar, is a natural product of India, and has


like them, been successfully introduced into other
countries, is still better calculated to prove, that
the success of the manufacture of a vegetable
product, and therefore the extent of its Com-
merce, depends as much upon skill, combined
with energy in the cultivators and manufactu-
rers, as upon suitableness of climate to its culture.
That Indigo is an original product of Hindostan,
known to an- is provcd by its name Indicum among ancient

cients, i i • m

authors, and hence it was, until very recent
times even, called Indico in European commerce.
That this was the substance which we now call
Indigo, is evident by the directions given by
Pliny for detecting spurious kinds, as he states,
that •* the proof hereof is by fire, for cast the
right indico upon live coles, it yieldeth a flame
of most excellent purple." It might be adduced
as an objection, that the substance alluded to is


sometimes called the stone indicon, but so even indigo.
in the present day is Catechu, also an Indian
and equally a vegetable product, called Terra

With regard to the commerce of Indigo, it is commerce of.
mentioned in the Periplus of Arrian, as exported
from Barbarike on the Indus, to Egypt. In the
seventeenth century, the consumption of Indigo
in Europe was so considerable, that the sale of
Woad was much diminished, and the use of
Indigo was prohibited in an imperial edict, pub- useofprohi-
lished in 1654, when it was denominated the
deviVs dye. The Nuremburgers, moreover, com-
pelled the dyers annually to swear that they
would never use Indigo.* In the '* Report of the
Proceedings of the East-India Company, in re-
gard to the Culture and Manufacture of Indi-
go," we learn that it formed a prominent article imported by

/» 1 • East India

of importation during the hrst century of their company.
commerce ; and we find in the earliest notices
respecting it, that like so many other Indian pro-
ducts, though intrinsically good, its value was
diminished by carelessness in preparation as well carelessly pre-
as in packing. It was then recommended that the Jacked.
sand and dirt which adhere to the outside should
be avoided, as frequent complaints had been
made, that the sand injured the mills in grind-
ing it.

In the markets of Europe, however, the East

* Bancroft ; Phil, of Permanent Colours, 1, p. 166.


Indigo, were again to be supplanted by the West-Indies.

in Mexico, On the discovery of Mexico, a dye like Indigo
was known to the Aztees, and, according to Hum-
boldt, a species of Indigo plant is seen among
the most ancient hieroglyphical paintings of that
country. But it was not from improvements
in the ancient culture there, that the East-India
Company were obliged to discontinue their im-
ports from India, but in consequence of the British

inWest-indies. colonists in the West-Iudies and the southern
parts of North America, giving their attention
to the culture and manufacture of Indigo, in such
large quantities and so successfully.

Cultivated by The culture and manufacture of Indigo had

Portuguese, also bccu introduced into St. Domingo by the
paiiiar s, Prench, who greatly improved the process, while
by the Portuguese it was carried into Brazil, and
by the Spaniards into Mexico. About the year
1747, most of the planters in the British West-
India possessions relinquished the cultivation,

BywhomGreat and Great Britain, with the rest of Europe, was

Europe suppii- supplied by the Spaniards and French, who manu-
factured the finest kinds of Indigo.

EffortsofEast- But, about 1779-80, the Court of Directors of

IndiaCompany. .

the East-India Company made extraordmary ef-
forts to increase the production of Indigo, and to
improve its quality, foreseeing that if they suc-
ceeded, the result would at once be highly advan-
tageous to India, and beneficial to this country.
A contract, at prices which were intended to
encourage the growth, was therefore entered into


with Mr. Prinsep * who at this time conceived that indigo in in.
India might supply Europe with Sugar and Cot-
ton, as well as Indigo: and for a supply of the
latter, they continued to make other engagements
of a similar kind until 1788. But, on reviewing imported into


the issue of all the sales prior to the year 1 786, it
was ascertained that the several parcels yielded a
remittance of only Is. 7d. 67 dec. for the current
rupee, which was a loss in the first instance of Losses sustain.
upwards of seventeen per cent., independent of
freight and charges, which may be reckoned at
full ten per cent. more. In 1786, several contrac-
tors delivered in Indigo, which was sold in Lon-
don, — of this, that supplied by Mr. J .P. Scott
was the only parcel which yielded a profit, and
this to the extent of lid. 01 dec. per pound.
Notwithstanding this, the losses upon the aggre-
gate of the above consignments were very consi-
derable; as that which stood the Company in

Cost and charges ^30,207

Produced only 21,596

so that there was a loss of £8,611, or equal to
twenty-eight per cent.

* Having been kindly allowed access to papers left by Mr.
Prinsep, I find that as early as 25th Jan. 1780, in a letter to
Lord North, he writes of his *' objects of introducing Indigo,
Sugar, and Tobacco into Great Britain from the East Indies ;"
and in another letter it is stated that he had, " with the utmost
trouble and expense, collected round him Europeans bred to
different arts and sciences, as well as the most intelligent mecha-
nics and planters of the East."



Means adopted TIiouj^li tlicse losses had been sustained, impor-

for improving *

Indigo in qua- tant Tcsults wcFC the consequence. Europeans ac-
quainted with West-India methods having pro-
ceeded to Bengal, considerable improvements
took place in the manufacture of Indigo. Some
transmitted by Mr. Boyce, even so early as 1787,
was pronounced by a competent judge in London
"equal to Spanish, 9s. 6d to 10s. 6d. the pound
the second sort." From the proved practicability,
therefore, of making superior kinds of Indigo,
and contrasting this with the inferior qualities of
that sent from Bengal, as well as the high
prices at which it was tendered, the Court came
to the determination that the Company should

Company dis- ccasc to purchasc foF at least three years. This,

continue pur- . i /v /•

chases for it was supposcd, would havc the effect of creatmg
competition among individuals, and would not
" fail to operate in bringing the article to its greatest
possible state of perfection ; " at the same time, the
lowest rate at which it was possible to be manu-
factured would be ascertained.

To insure due attention being paid to all parts
of the process, and to afford the requisite facili-

instructions, tics for attaining success, instructions were sent

Specimens, and • .1 j /• c . 11

Reports, sent out conccmmg the mode of manufacture, as well

out to India. j* i- *• a1 e • l- i

as directions respecting the square forms m which
it was desirable that the Indigo should be sent
home. Specimens also of the good kinds which
it was desirable to rival, were sent to India, and
also the reports of the Dyers and Brokers on
the several samples which liad been successively


transmitted from India. Besides this, some of the Relief in du-


duties were remitted for the seasons of 1789 and
1790, and relief also afforded both as to tonnage
and freight. Advances were likewise made by the
Government to some manufacturers, and " as a fur-
ther aid, the Company made large advances of ^•*^*"*^®^ ^^
money secured on the Indigo, on a plan of re-
mittance to London, and this course w as followed
for many years."*

It is extremely interesting; and instructive to improved

'' ^ ^ , quality of In-

find these measures followed by rapid improve- digo.
ment in the quality of the Indigo. It is stated
in a letter of the Court of Directors of the 30th of
May 1792: "It affords us much pleasure tore-
mark that the article, as to quality, is still in-
creasing in reputation. It has already surpassed surpasses the
the American and French, and there is no doubt French, and

11 1 • 1 /• Spanish.

but, by perseverance and attention on the part oi
the planters, it will effectually rival the Spanish."
In fact, a parcel of five chests, belonging to
Messrs. Gilchrist and Charters, was declared to
be superior to Spanish, and was sold at a higher
rate ; while the buyers deemed it to be possessed
of every requisite that Could be wished. By the
accounts of the quantities of Indigo imported into
Great Britain, during ten years, ending in 1791,
it appeared, that in proportion as the imports

* Vide "Report of the Proceedings of the East- India Com-
pany in regard to the Culture and Manufacture of Indigo,"
p. V.

H 2


from Bengal increased, there was a diminution
French Indigo from Other parts. The consumption of French

supplanted by ^ *^_ '^

Bengal. Indigo in this country was even then nearly sup-

planted by that from Bengal, and it was a still
more favourable circumstance, that the cultiva-
tion in St. Domingo diminished nearly one- half
in the course of the seven years which preceded
1789, in consequence chiefly of the increased
cultivation of Coffee.

Large quanti. From the succcss of the culturc, it was pro-
ties imported

from India. sccutcd with uuduc vigour, as this in the year 1 795
caused an importation of 4,368,027 lbs., of which
the consignments from Bengal alone amounted to
•2,956,862lbs. From this immense quantity being
thrown into the market, and from four-fifths of it
being of a very inferior quality, a considerable

StSon^'if reduction in price ensued. These fluctuations

prices. continued to characterize the commerce in In-

digo, and this not only for the above reasons, but
also because the consumption of Indigo depends
upon the condition and progress of other manu-
factures. The reduction in price was at no time
more remarkable than between 1824-25 and
1829-30, having been lis. 5jd. a pound in the

Creat extent former, and 4s. 3|d. in the latter. But the trade

of commerce in ^

Indigo. increased gradually to a great extent, as no less

than 9,913,010 lbs. were imported in 1828, though
not more than 6,545,873 lbs. in the year 1837:
of these importations ninety-four per cent, was
supplied by India.

Few liistories of commercial products are more


instructive than that of Indigo, which we see an observations

^^ , on the previous

article of export in the earliest times, from the history.
country where the plant is indigenous. It formed
one of the principal articles imported by the
East-India Company in the first century of their
commerce, but was soon supplanted when Euro-
pean skill was applied to the culture of the plant,
and the manufacture of Indigo, in the West-Indies
and southern parts of North America. It was re-
stored again to the country of its birth, by the
very means by which it had been wrested thence,
that is, by the application of European skill and
energy, as well to the culture of the plant as to
the chemistry of the manufacture. Accurate in-
formation was also supplied, and specimens of the
quality of drug it was desirable to rival.

But all these would hardly have sufficed, had it indigo manu-

factory esta-

not been for the extensive purchases made by the wished by pur-

I'll chases of East

East-India Company, the losses which they sus- India Com-
tained, and the advances which they still con-

Online LibraryJ. Forbes (John Forbes) RoyleEssay on the productive resources of India [electronic resource] → online text (page 7 of 32)