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Considerations on colonial policy with relation to the renewal of the East India Company's charter online

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equipment of their shipping, canvas, cor-
dage, &c. have attained their present ex-
cellence from the inquiries, investigations,
experiments, and improvements, suggested
by the East India Company and their
servants. But while the naval department


of Government at home (actuated by short-
sighted and false principles of economy)
has overlooked the claims of this country
to the employment of her manufacturers ;
is it to be expected, that the residents in the
peninsula of India will be swayed by any
motives to a different policy in favour of
Great Britain? Unwise as we are in thus
devising, for temporary purposes, the
means of our own abasement, if not ruin,
at some future day ; let us look at the
crisis to which such mismanagement must
needs reduce our native country. It must
continue to sink lower and lower, till at
length India, once the cause of British
prosperity; will become the instrument of
its degradation.

We have, as yet, only contemplated ma-
nufactures of a minor class; it is now neces-
sary to call the attention of the public to
others not simply commercial, but such as
have been always considered of the first im-
portance to the well-being, and even the ex-
istence of Great Britain as an independent
power. It is hardly possible to conceive a
measure more impolitic, or more pregnant
with detriment and danger to this country,


than the building of ships in India on the
scale now adopted. This novel practice is
encouraged by every possible influence.
It is a plan, the evils of which are already
perceptibly felt; and if it be not restrained
by some specific regulations, it must super-
induce the most ruinous consequences.
It visits with distress not only those opu-
lent men who (relying on the maintenance
of the principles on which the Navigation-
Act is founded), have formed and kept up
large establishments ; but multitudes of in-
dustrious men, forming the numerous class
of shipwrights and artificers, trained to their
business, and depending for subsistence on
the maritime exertions of Great Britain.
On the river Thames, in the immediate

j . i . ! . r^ i) - j

vicinity of the metropolis, there are no less
than six of these great establishments, com-
petent to the building not only vessels
suited to the trade of the East India Com-
pany, but line of battle ships. These
dock-yards, in the space of a few years,
have supplied fifty sail of the line; whilst
the King's yards have been appropriated
to giving the navy those necessary repairs
which are constantly and inevitably requi-


site in time of war. The furnishing em-
ployment to about five thousand men, here-
tofore engaged in the dock-yards on the
Thames, has already become a matter of
such urgency, that several new frigates
have been put on the stocks by Govern-
ment, with a view of enabling these in-
dustrious and valuable men to support
themselves and families. The immediate
cause of all this misery, which may be
regarded but '* as the beginning of sor-
rows," is the strange policy of building
Indiamen at Bengal, and other places in
the East. Thus another branch of manu-
facture, and that of supreme importance, is
slipping out of our hands. Are people
jet, at this hour of the day, to learn that
labour is wealth ? Let us look for a mo-
ment at the bearing of this argument on
the conduct of the East India Company.
The Company itself enjoys, by the favour
of this nation, an exclusive privilege of
trading to India ; now is it not a matter
to be deplored, that the Company should
employ the natives of India in building
their ships, to the actual injury and posi-
tive loss of this nation, from which they


received their Charter. Mistaken as the
Company have been in this particular,
it is not very difficult to divine what will
take place, if an unrestrained commerce
shall be permitted : if British capital shall
be carried to India by British speculators,
we may expect a vast increase of dock-
yards in that country, and a proportional
increase of detriment to the artificers of

If it be supposed that India-built ships
may be hired upon more favourable
terms to the Company than vessels con-
structed at home : this is not the case ;
although the repairs of .ships built with
teak cannot cost a tithe of the charges
incurred by repairing those built in this

Disputes on the subject of freight have
subsisted for thirty years past, and have
occasioned many misunderstandings, and
much ill-will. The favourite ideas con-
cerning India-built vessels, and other ideas,
about to be noticed, have inspired un-
pleasant jealousies on one side, and have
prompted many complaints on the other.
That the freight paid to British ships will


not produce an interest of 51. per cent, on
the capital embarked,* has been made evi-
dent by the calculations of the Company's
own officers. The eagerness to obtain
commands, however, has produced, under
the shew of free and open competition, a
ruinous speculation. Commands may be
said to be actually purchased, under the
colour <)f reduced freight. There is a cir-
cumstance which is decidedly in favour of
the ships built in India (and equally de-
structive to the interests of the British
artificer, or British owner), and this is, that
the India-built vessels have the advantage
of an entire freight home, before a contract
for general freight is made. All these
things make against the mother country,
and are contrary to the principles of wise
colonial policy. It is not, however, in the
nature of things, that errors of this magni-
tude can subsist much longer, without
producing a convulsion. These manifold
trespasses on British rights, will lead to
consequences, which it is clearly the duty
of the Company and Government seriously
to weigh, with all the attention which the
subject demands. In contending for the


renewal of an exclusive Charter, and the
continuance of the India trade to the port
of London, it may be reasonably asked
of the Company, if they are to sacrifice
none of their prejudices to the interests of
this country ? If they are to divest them-
selves of the power with which the nation
entrusts them, by surrendering to the
Oriental residents such advantages as serve
to ripen their independence, and to make
them rivals to Great Britain ; it becomes
a duty to contend for our, country and
our countrymen against Asiatic interlopers,
although the changes in the Indian system
petitioned for, those blind suggestions of
sanguine ignorance, cannot be too strongly
deprecated. Impartiality and equity com-
pel the author to remonstrate with the
Company, and to demand for England her
just share in the advantages resulting from
the Indian trade. That India and Britain
should reciprocate in these benefits, is right
and proper ; but it is neither fair nor
politic that the " reciprocity should be all
on one side."

Are the merchants' yards to be shut up,
or reduced in their establishments, to suit


the erroneous policy of the India Company ;
when they have been admitted by the
Court of Directors to be so competent to
assist Government under all the exigencies
of the state ? Or can the British land-
holder hear, without emotions of appre-
hension and repugnance, that from the
abundance of teak in the forests of India,
his timber is to suffer a reduction in value ?
In the first place, the shipwrights in India
will defraud our own artificers of their
birthright ; employment, and the profits
arising from the combination of labour and
skill ; and, secondly, the raw material of
the Oriental colonies will be brought in
competition with that which is of home
growth. Thus both in manufacture and
produce the colonies will injure the mo-
ther country. This inversion of every prin-
ciple of sound policy must operate to the
discouragement of the growth of timber.
Can it be expected that noblemen and
gentlemen will pay so much attention as
heretofore to the inclosing and the pre-
servation of their woods ? This may pro-
duce, in the end, that very scarcity of
timber, which the patrons of India ship-


building, and teak importation, would per-
suade us already exists ; and this scarcity
may prove fatal to Great Britain at a pe-
riod when we shall no longer have the op-
tion of felling teak at our own pleasure.
It is not true that a scarcity exists at pre-
sent in any degree to the extent stated;
but the alarm has had the good effect of
giving a stimulus to the public mind, and
has excited fresh attention to the culti-
vation of timber. The arguments of Mr.
Evelyn, formerly Treasurer of Greenwich
Hospital (whose excellent work, entitled
Sylva, or a Discourse on Forest Trees,
first appeared in 1664), and the excellent
arrangements of Mr. Pepys, * his great
contemporary, Secretary to the Admiralty
in the reigns of Charles II. and James II.
have not failed of their effect. From that
time, planting has become more and more
general, and the growth of timber, both
for private and national use, has been pro-
moted in the woods of individuals, and in
the King's forests. Let us not close our
eyes to facts. Fifty sail of the line have

Pepyg died in 1703, and Evelyn in 1706.

been launched within three or four years,
and at this moment there are 90,000 loads
of timber in the King's yards, and as much
more contracted for ; and there is an abun-
dance in those of the merchants. And is
it for this asserted deficiency of timber,
that the natives of India are to wrest em-
ployment out of the hands of British
shipwrights, and that Indian capital is to
have a preference to that of Great Britain ?
Surely some plan may be devised to avert
the anticipated evil; and since a participa-
tion in those benefits that belong to British
subjects, is the point contested at present
between the Company and the out-ports, a
paramount duty falls upon the Legislature
to provide that the interests of this country
should be secured to its own people ; and
this as well for the reasons already given,
as for some others, which it remains to

When we look at Java, our late acquisi-
tion, an island abounding with teak, it is
clear that ships may be built there in any
quantity. Under the direction of a fore-
man-shipwright and smith, with the help


of the artificers and labourers of the coun-
try, one of the finest ships in the Com-
pany's service, of 1200 tons burthen, was
built in its vicinity, at Penang. Similar
efforts will doubtless be made at an island
affording greater facilities, unless some
restrictions be devised, and some protec-
ting regulations in favour of British ships
and seamen take place, under the autho-
rity of the Legislature. In the marine yard
at Bombay, there is not a single European
workman ; and if the skill of the native
artificers may be estimated by the specimen
which they have given us in the Minden, of
74 guns, it is very evident that they cannot
fail to attain celebrity, encouraged and ap-
plauded as they have been by very high
characters, and allowed to supersede the
shipwrights of Great Britain, as though our
artificers had become ignorant of the science
to which they were bred ; or as though it
were more beneficial to this country to pay
Indian workmen, than to throw business
into the hands of our own people. A pro-
cedure this, which militates against every
principle of policy and patriotism.

Not many years ago, when Indiamen


had completed their number of voyages in
the Company's employments, they were
frequently sold for the country service ;
being then nearly the largest vessels in that
trade. The case is now altered. Those
noble structures, which were once ac-
counted the boast of Europe, have been
reared throughout India. Without that
grave deliberation, or that reference to fu-
ture consequences, which an innovation so
momentous obviously demanded ; dock-
yards and arsenals have been established
there, by those who are resident in that
country, through 'the permission of the
East India Company ; and a race of men,
remarkable for the want of mental energy
and physical strength, have been taught to
excel in a branch of mechanics which they
never could have carried to such a pitch
of perfection, without the impolitic tuition
of a class of people who should have re-
served to Europeans an art which has so
powerfully contributed to the subjugation
of the Asiatic provinces. At present,
individual ships are built there ; but whole
fleets may be furnished if required, and
hereafter may be disposed of to those

with whom Britons may one day have to
contend for their maritime rights, and the
empire of the sea.

How far such measures can be recon-
ciled with those which prudence would
dictate ; how far it may be thought proper
to continue, or to limit them will be, it is
hoped, the subjects of the most attentive
consideration ; and will not fall to the
decision of those whose predilections in
favour of Indian exertion and talent,
have excited and encouraged such sur-
prising and such alarming efforts. Least
of all, should the discussion of these points
be left to those governments in India which,
in decided opposition to British interests,
have indiscreetly afforded the means of
bringing us to a crisis so replete with

The question of building ships in India
is a measure which may furnish employ-
ment for the most vigorous intellects of
our first statesmen, who should coolly view
it in all its bearings, and contemplate its
ultimate issue. It is not yet too late to
attend to it. It will yet admit of some
wholesome modifications.


At all events, our naval resources here
should not suffer diminution, nor should
the means of rendering them useful to the
state be crippled. They are of vital im-
portance in all their ramifications. None
of them should be suffered to fall into
decay. They may all be put in requisition
on some great emergency. This is the era
of political changes. We must be pre-
pared against all hostile attempts. It will
be too late to set about renewing our
establishments at the moment when our
entire force mav be called into action.


Having noticed the rivalry that subsists
between this country and India in those
objects of commerce which may be deemed
British manufactures ; and the unnatural
preference given to those goods now fabri-
cated in India, originally of British inven-
tion, and brought to their present perfection
by British labour and ingenuity ; it may
not be amiss to attempt the solution of so
strange a circumstance. It is certainly
the duty of the governing power at home
to encourage the colonists abroad ; but
this must never be done to the prejudice of
the native subjects of any country. But if

Government has been inattentive to this
principle, can it be expected that the
residents in the Peninsula and its depen-
dencies should much regard them ? Many
of those persons have quitted the British
islands in early life ; they have formed
new habits, and are become partial to the
people amongst whom they live ; they are
proud of the ingenuity manifested by the
natives, and regard it as a proof of their
own efficiency, and the fruit of their own
patronage ; the} 7 are not uninfluenced by
certain motives of economy ; and at last
they become rivals of their fellow-subjects,
and cultivate interests ultimately detri-
mental to the well-being, and destructive
of the mercantile prosperity of the land of
their nativity. On the return of such per-
sons to Great Britain, can we wonder that
they retain those habits which have thus
generated a second nature ? Can we won-
der, that in the capacity of opulent indi-
viduals, or, eventually, Directors of the
India Company, or members of the Legis-
lature, they should praise the adroitness
of the natives of India in the fabrication
of manufactures, the competency of the


country and its inhabitants to produce
them, and the cheapness of labour in our
Oriental provinces. This discussion, ope-
rating in a certain way on the human
mind, may be deemed metaphysical and
impertinent to the subject of these pages ;
but it is presumed that it has a practical
bearing on the whole of the argument.
The more of truth it may discover, the
more should it put the executive govern-
ment on its guard against the probable
consequences of these predilections, and
impel our statesmen to adopt such mea-
sures as may secure to this country all the
advantages derivable from the employment
of its artisans in their respective branches
of manual labour. It is granted that gen-
tlemen who have long resided in India
must have acquired much valuable general
information ; of this it is most proper that
the country should avail itself: but it must
ever take care to fence round its manufac-
turing interests with such barriers as may
resist the efforts of those, who, without any
criminal intention, and swayed merely by
habitual partialities, may be induced to
place them in circumstances of hazard.


- ^w

If ships are to be built throughout India,
and are to be entitled to British registers,
they will be numerous beyond all ex-
pectation ; the artificers of this country
must either emigrate or starve; and the
revenue will suffer most serious diminu-
tion. By way of elucidating this argu-
ment, let us examine the single article of
hemp. This, in its raw state, pays a duty
of 9^. per ton ; but it is obvious that in
consequence of the improvement and con-
sumption of Indian canvas and cordage,
whilst our home-manufacturers are in-
jured, the duties must be lessened, and the
deficiency must be made up by other taxes ;
at the same time, it is obvious that the re-
venue must suffer an additional loss in the
amount of those indirect taxes paid by
the labourers in all they consume. The
same reasoning applies to every other
case of manufactures encouraged in the
colonies, of whatsoever nature they may

One might be induced to cherish a hope,
that facts so self-evident as these could not
be overlooked by our statesmen ; but ex-
perience too plainly proves the contrary ;


as is most evident from what has been
already pointed out. The naval depart-
ment has but too industriously seconded
the endeavours of the Indian residents to
supply those articles manufactured in the
colonies, which ought to have been fur-
nished by Great Britain : dangerous and
most erroneous system, to be deplored by all
true patriots ; and to be amended, curbed,
or altered without loss of time, if it be not
grown too inveterate to be meddled with.
If the evils attending it cannot be removed,
at least care should be taken that they
may not be aggravated or increased. It
is easier, however, to prevent mischiefs of
this kind, than to suppress them.

The war has been urged as a plea for the
adoption of measures confessedly impolitic;
and it is held out that they are but of a
temporary nature. Arrangements of this
kind, however, are commonly more per-
manent than the generality suppose, or
some people will admit. When trade has
taken a determinate course, it is difficult to
shut up those channels which have been
formed. But the existence of war fur-
nishes a strong argument against the inno-

rations complained of: for how is it pos-
sible that those who are obliged to contri-
bute to its support, directly or indirectly,
can enter into competition with the colo-
nists, who may follow all sorts of trades
ad libitum, without being burthened by an
hundredth part of those imposts which the
inhabitants of the mother-country are
bound to pay. It has been computed
that they are obliged to part with half
their income to the state. Dr. Price esti-
mated their contributions at ios. in the
pound ; and however aggravated his cal-
culation once appeared, subsequent events
have proved it to be correct. When we
take the increase of population into the
account; the impolicy of those measures
which, by depriving thousands of employ-
incut, render it impossible for them to pay
taxes, is most evident ; and one cannot
but be astonished at the infatuation which
occasions a loss of 151. per cent, in the
payments of the bulk of the laborious
classes to the Exchequer. It may be granted
that certain articles of Indian manufacture
may be purchased at a lower rate than the
higher price of labour, occasioned by the


taxes which Government receives, will per-
mit this country to charge; but it is to be
considered that by throwing multitudes
out of employment, the country is so far
from gaining by all this, that it is demon-
strably a loser : and at the same time it
ought to be remembered, that the money
lost to the mother-country is gained by the
colonies, who are thus in a more alarming
degree enabled to rival that state whose
support should be the joint object of all its
subjects at home and abroad

It is also matter worthy of consideration,
that in every beneficial undertaking in this
country, Government becomes, as it were,
a partner without risk, sharing in the pro-
portion of 10/. per cent, on the profits ;
whence an immense sum accrues to the
revenue ; still further increased, when the
accumulation of money descends from the
original merchant to his representatives,
direct, collateral, or more remote. The
amount of the legacy-duty is prodigiously
great. But before this final distribution
of acquired property takes place, we must
form an estimate of the sums resulting to
the state from the legal securities required

for the use of large portions of this money,
in the form of bonds, leases, and agreements
of various sorts, which are all legalized
and rendered obligatory by stamps of va-
rious sorts, which pay a duty ad valorem,
Can such substantial benefits as these be
given up without due consideration ? Will
the revenue be increased by rashly transfer-
ring the employment of our manufactories
to the natives of India ?

If the object be economy ; and we are
merely to look at the primary cost of ma-
nufactured articles ; let us pursue this ar-
gument a little farther, and let us see to
what conclusions it will lead us. If it be
right that India is to supply us with ship-
ping at a cheap rate ; by the same rule
Russia may furnish us with canvas, cord-
age, leather, and soap ; Germany may send
us linens ; Italy and France may fill our
markets with wrought silks ; and Spain, in-
stead of supplying us with wool, may have
the wisdom to put its looms in motion,
and send us broad-cloths. We know from
sad experience the perfection to which
France has brought her woollen manufac-
tures, and the brilliance and excellence of

her dyes ; and we have already suffered

from her exertions in that traffic which was

once called the Staple of England, by
means of which she shut us out from that
mine of wealth the Levant and Turkey
trade. If it be right to import manufac*
tured articles of prime importance from
India, it must be equally so to import
them from the countries here enumerated,
and other nations on the continent of Eu*
rope. If cheapness is to be counted the
first object, we can freight foreign vessels
with foreign goods at a lower rate than we
can lade British bottoms ; and if so, what
will become of the nursery for our seamen ?
All those great points now at issue between
us and the Scourge of the civilized world
must be given up; the object of the pre-
sent war must be conceded to our unre-
lenting enemy ; the continental system of
Bonaparte, as far as we are concerned,
must be assumed for good policy ; the sun
of British prosperity must set for ever; our
wooden walls must rot in our ports ; and
we shall soon become so poor as to require
no importation of any sort, and so sunk in
an utter prostration of national energy, as


to furnish no exports whatever. It cannot
surely be necessary to add a syllable more
on this part of the argument.

However attached any man may be to
the interests of the East India Company,
however zealous in support of their inde-
pendence; however he may advocate the
renewal of their Charter, and the security
of their ancient immunities and privileges :
it must be his bounden duty to protest
against the prevailing errors of the times,
which cannot fail, if persisted in, to endan-
ger the prosperity of the Company, and to
lead to the disorganization of those colo-
nies which have been the envy of other
nations, and the source of immense advan-
tage to Great Britain.

Respecting the operation of those causes
which may lead to the eventual indepen-
dence of our Indian colonies, it may be

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Online LibraryEast India CompanyConsiderations on colonial policy with relation to the renewal of the East India Company's charter → online text (page 4 of 5)