William Henry Parr Greswell.

Outlines of British colonisation online

. (page 20 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 20 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

copy of our own policy in New South Wales (1788), and
Noumea would seem to be a poor French imitation of Sydney.
The recidivistes or habitual criminals can regain their civil
rights as far as New Caledonia is concerned ; but what really
purified, elevated, and finally redeemed the bad character of
our Australian penal settlements viz. the introduction of free
labour and the immigration of a wholesome agricultural ele-
ment is probably impossible in New Caledonia. New Cale-
donia is certainly most important as a military point close to
New Zealand and Australia, and this view has been stated by
a Frenchman named M. Pigeard. ' La position geographique,'
he observes, 'qui la met aux portes deplusieurs grandes colonies
anglaises et a petite distance du continent, lui donne une
serieuse importance politique, si Ton considere qu'avec la pos-
session d'iles a Test elle pourrait nous assurer une croisiere
sure et lucrative, en cas de guerre dans toute 1'Oceanie cen-
trale, en menageant a nos escadres des ports au vent et sous
le vent pour se ravitailler ; mais, si cette ile peut devenir un
point militaire, elle n'est pas moins destinee, selon nous, a
figurer comme colonie commerciale importante.'


The example of Tahiti, coupled with what was done by the
French in New Caledonia, induced the chief of the Fiji Islands
to apply to England; and in 1874 the group, discovered by
Tasman in 1643 an d visited by Cook in 1769, was taken
under British protection by Sir Hercules Robinson, then

The Islands of the South Pacific and Fiji 225

Governor of New South Wales. Fiji is about 1900 miles
distant from Sydney and 1200 miles from Auckland. The
Tongan or Friendly Islands lie 180 miles to the south-east,
and Samoa 500 miles to the north-east. New Caledonia is
700 miles to the westward. The number of islands has
been stated as between 200 and 250, but some are mere
rocks. The largest islands are Viti Levu, with an area of
4112 square miles; Vanua Levu, 2432 square miles ; Taviuni,
217 square miles: Kadavu, 124 square miles; Koro, 58
square miles. The area of the whole colony is calculated at
7435 square miles. 1

As in the West Indies, so in Fiji and the Pacific islands
the labour question is the chief one that engrosses the planters'
attention. Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides supply
the largest amount of what is known as Polynesian labour,
but it is irregular and limited. Coolies were first imported
from Calcutta in 1879, when 480 arrived. There are now
about 6000 Indian coolies in Fiji, the cost of introducing
them being a little over 21 for each individual over ten
years of age. The indenture is for five years after the date
of arrival, and their interests and well-being are provided for
by the Indian Immigration Ordinance, which regulates l time '
work and 'task' work. As in the West Indies, the Indian
coolie is found a better and cheaper labourer than the African
negro. In Natal, also, he is proved to be better than Zulus or
any branch of the great Bantu races ; so in the South Seas he
is superior to the native Fijian and Polynesian. The markets
of Fijian produce lie in the adjoining continent of Australia
and in New Zealand, just as the markets of West Indian pro-
duce are found in the adjoining territories of the United
States and Canada. The record of trade begins only in
1875, an d naturally it is not of very great volume. New
South Wales, Victoria, and New Zealand are the best pur-
chasers of Fijian products. As Mauritius provides sugar for
Africa, so Fiji gives sugar to Australia. The imports from
1 Colonial Office List, 1891.

226 British Colonisation

British possessions were, according to Sir Rawson W. Rawson,
no less than 87 per cent., her exports 79 per cent. There is
comparatively little trade done between Fiji and the United
Kingdom, her imports being only 9 per cent, and exports 7
per cent. Her imports from foreign countries amounted to
4 per cent, but the exports reached 13 per cent., chiefly to
Portugal and Germany. It is worthy of notice that the in-
crease of British tonnage between 1877-9 an d 1884-6 has
been threefold. The conclusion to be gathered from Fiji
trade is the same as that which can be gathered from the
example of other islands adjoining large tracts of country,
and it is this : that according to a natural law of attraction it
flows more and more in the direction of these tracts. Owing
to their natural position and natural surroundings, islands
situated in tropical waters must supply colder climes, where
population is large, with what they cannot or do not produce.

The total number of inhabitants is 124,100, of which
1 1 1, ooo are natives, 9700 coolies and imported Polynesians,
and 3400 white people. Nearly half of all the inhabitants of
Fiji live on the largest island, Viti Levu, where the capita],
Suva, is situated. The islands are as a rule mountainous,
with a few isolated peaks reaching to the height of 3000 to 4000
feet, many of them being clearly of volcanic origin, with hot
springs in this respect, as in many others, reminding us of
the West Indies. The heat is moderated by the trade winds,
and hurricanes are not so violent and destructive as in the
West Indies. The flora of the Fiji Islands is very magnifi-
cent, but there is great poverty of fauna.

The most important industry of the islands is the growing
of the sugar-cane and the manufacture of raw sugar. There
is a species of wild sugar in the island known as dovu ; but
the variety grown is imported from Honolulu, and the best
districts are reported to be the drier parts of the islands.
Next to sugar in importance is the growing of bananas, cocoa-
nuts, tea, and tobacco. The cultivation of coffee is almost
entirely abandoned now in Fiji owing to the attacks of a little

The Islands of the South Pacific and Fiji 227

insect called the Acarus coffece, which destroyed the leaves.
Maize and oil-producing plants also grow well. Land can be
either bought or rented in Fiji, and well-cultivated ground
costs from >io to ^20 per acre. Virgin land can be bought
for i to 2 per acre. 1

1 For facts and figures see Appendix VIII.

References :

Fiji and the Fijians, by Williams and Calcraft, 1853.
The Mutineers of the 'Bounty J by Lady Belcher.
Myths and Songs from the Pacific, by Gill, 1876.
Two Years in Fiji, by Sitton Forbes, M.D., 1875.
My Consulate in Samoa, by Churchward, 1887.
Picturesque New Guinea, by T. W. Lindt, 1887.
New Guinea, by Charles Lyne, 1885.

'Agriculture in Fiji,' Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute,
vol. xxi.


LIKE many other parts of Asia, Ceylon has been subject in
turn to the three dominations of the Portuguese, Dutch, and
British. After finding their way to the East by way of the
Cape in 1497-8, under Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese held
the monopoly of the East for a hundred years. In 1505 they
began to form settlements on the west and south of the island.
The Portuguese held two opinions with regard to the main
features of an Oriental policy, represented by two great
authorities, Almeida and Albuquerque. Francisco d' Almeida,
the first Viceroy, who went out in 1505 in command of twenty-
two ships, and laid the foundations of Portuguese commerce in
Indian waters, argued that Portugal needed no large number of
forts and positions in the East, provided only one good harbour
was secured. He who was master of the sea, he observed,
was master of India. Albuquerque nourished a higher
ambition, and encouraged not merely the idea of a sea traffic
but also of a chain of forts and strong insular and continental
positions everywhere. The policy of Albuquerque prevailed,
and Portuguese dominion came to be represented in many
places by many strongholds. 3 But their Eastern empire was
too unwieldy as a whole to stand : the Portuguese rulers were
cruel and rapacious one of their own countrymen, Diogo
do Couto, observing that the governors of Portuguese India
who doubled the Cape of Good Hope lost all fear of God and
fear of the king.

1 Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, Hakluyt Series.


Ceylon and the Maldive Archipelago 229

In Ceylon the Portuguese found no difficulty in planting
their factories along the coast, and from this basis carried on a
succession of raids to the Kandian capital, burning everything,
and not sparing the king's palace. As a sign of submission,
they exacted an annual tribute of three elephants. The
Kandian king called in the aid of the Dutch, who easily
expelled the Portuguese and established themselves (1655).
At the beginning of this century the Portuguese name,
language, religion, and numerous missionary establishments
existed ; but in the growth of the island even these signs and
landmarks have been lost sight of and obliterated.

Nearly a hundred years ago (1803) Mr. Cordiner wrote:
' There is still a large body of inhabitants at Colombo and the
other settlements in Ceylon known by the name of Portuguese.
They probably amount to the number of 5000. They are,
however, completely degenerated, and exhibit complexions of
a blacker hue than any of the original natives. Yet they
retain a considerable portion of the pride of their ancestors :
wear the European dress ; profess the religion of the Church
of Rome; and think themselves far superior to the lower
classes of the Singhalese. They are, in fact, a spurious race of
all mixtures. Any black fellow who can procure a hat and
shoes, with a vest and breeches, and who has acquired some
little smattering of the Roman Catholic religion, can aspire to
the title of a Portuguese.'

This passage, written in 1803, is instructive, as it throws
light upon a somewhat kindred subject, viz., the nature of
Portuguese colonisation on the east coast of Africa, in the
vicinity of Delagoa Bay, Sofala, and the mouths of the
Zambesi, about which so much has recently been said in the
delimitation of boundaries between Great Britain and Portugal.
Such as the Portuguese colonists were in their mongrel and
debased character near Colombo in Ceylon, so were they for
generations along the east coast of Africa. The Portuguese
colonial life has been a feeble and retrograde factor, their
governors incompetent, their colonists black fellows with

230 British Colonisation

Portuguese names only, and their soldiers hired native mer-
cenaries. With regard to Ceylon, it could not have been
without a pang of national regret that the island was lost to
Portugal. The King of Portugal was so anxious of preserving
it that he inserted this clause in all his instructions : ' Let all
India be lost, so that Ceylon be saved.'

At the beginning of this century Ceylon was divided
betweeen Their High Mightinesses the States-General and the
King of Kandy. The Dutch held a belt of sea-coast running
all round the island, broad in some parts and narrow in others,
within which the latter was cooped up ' as in an enchanted
circle. 7 The Kandians had certain articles of commerce for
exchange or sale, such as areca nuts, ivory, and honey ; whilst
the Dutch had two indispensable articles for the Kandians,
e.g. fish and salt. On this basis trade was conducted, but the
Kandians naturally desired an establishment on the sea-coast.
When the island passed into the hands of the British in
1795-6, the number of Dutchmen amounted to about nine
hundred. In their habits and customs the Dutch of Ceylon
resembled the Dutch of Batavia, or of any other of their
Eastern settlements: described by one traveller as 'all rising
early to drink a cup of coffee and smoke a pipe ; all wearing
velvet clothing, eating freely, and sleeping after dinner ; and
all so averse to walking that it was a common saying that no
Europeans but Englishmen and dogs ever walked in Batavia.'
Travellers at the Cape of Good Hope and Natal will in some
of these characteristics detect a strong family resemblance
between the Dutch colonists of Ceylon and of South Africa,
especially in their preference for cups of coffee and their dis-
like to pedestrianism. In Ceylon the Dutch settler would
seem to have been poor and indigent, compelled, after the
surrender of the island to the British, to practise rigid
economy. The trade system of the Dutch had been one of
strict commercial monopoly. As long as pearls and nutmegs
bore a high price in Amsterdam, the Dutch cared nothing
whether fisheries were stopped, spice-trees were dug up, and

Ceylon and the Maldive Archipelago 23 1

all native arts checked. The prosperity of the island itself
and the good of the inhabitants were never considered. A
judicious land-tax levied fairly on the island might have been
found by the Dutch to be a most legitimate source of revenue,
such as in fact our own Governor Raffles found it to be in
Java, the Dutch possession temporarily occupied by ourselves
from 1808 to 1814. This land-tax in lieu of forced services,
forced delivery of goods, and a compulsory system generally, is
always more popular amongst subject native races, and better
calculated to stimulate their industries.

Such was the island which, after its feeble occupation by
Portuguese and Dutch, was destined to pass into the more
energetic hands of the British. Our growing empire in India
seemed to demand the speedy occupation of this fair island,
with its magnificent harbour of Trincomalee, lying close to its
shores. Our rule would not be safe with the Bay of Trin-
comalee in the hands of a foreign Power. The island com-
mands, by virtue of its position, the two coasts of Malabar and
Coromandel, and at the beginning of this century it was
considered * as the master-key to Hindustan ' in the event of
any disturbances in the Peninsula. It was also regarded as
the depot of the distant China trade, in case England's position
was in jeopardy in Canton. On the subject of the importance
of Trincomalee at the beginning of this century a writer in the
Quarterly Review has observed : * Had Trincomalee been in our
possession when the dreadful famine ravaged Madras during
Lord Macartney's government, and the fleet of Sir Edward
Hughes was compelled to flee for shelter to Bombay, whilst
the French frigates insulted the coast of Coromandel and
obstructed the provision-ships intended for its relief, Madras
might have escaped the horrible evils to which its unhappy
inhabitants were subjected.'

Some of the chief strategic and commercial reasons that
made Ceylon and the port of Trincomalee so valuable and
important a hundred years ago have wholly or partially dis-
appeared. The British foot is firmly planted in the adjoining

232 British Colonisation

peninsula, and neither Trincomalee nor Colombo is regarded
in the light of a last resource or a city of refuge. Our China
trade at Hong Kong lies now in a well-protected zone of British
influence, and our chief entrepots in Chinese waters can take
good care of themselves, and all branches of Eastern trade have
made marvellous progress along distinct and separate channels.
In a certain sense, therefore, the relative importance of Ceylon
as a strategic position is much less than it was a -hundred
years ago.

Nevertheless, the island has a rare vantage-ground. It lies
in the fair-way of ocean traffic, and is the meeting-place of all
nations. Although it is but ' a silver streak ' that divides the
island from India, this streak at some future time may have an
immense and almost incalculable value. Should British rule
be imperilled in the peninsula in some future war of nations,
the island of Ceylon might be for the British an impregnable
stronghold and a priceless basis. For no enemy of England
could regard the conquest of the Indian peninsula complete
unless he conquered as well the island at its foot.

Coming to recent times, it may truly be said that the
prosperity of Ceylon has within the last fifty years hung upon
the development of two leading products coffee and tea.
There has been an era of great coffee-plantations in past years,
and now the era of tea-plantations is before us. To describe
the history of these two remarkable industries is to tell nearly
the whole tale of Ceylon progress. With regard to coffee, it
may be truly stated that for thirty years from 1837 to 1867
the whole energy of the planters was devoted to its cultiva-
tion. To a certain extent the berry had been grown under
Dutch rule, and in 1825 Sir Edward Barnes, the Governor of
Ceylon, formed a coffee-plantation near Kandy. Sugar, cotton,
nutmegs, cinnamon, tobacco, cocoa-nuts, were all planted in
the island ; but little by little attention came to be concen-
trated almost wholly upon coffee. About this time the abolition
of slavery in the West Indies and the reduction of import
duties upon coffee into the United Kingdom stimulated coffee-

Ceylon and the Maldive Archipelago 233

planting in Ceylon. The profits that ensued were at that
time fabulous and unprecedented, and an extraordinary rush
was made by every class of society upon coffee-planting in

Mr. Loudoun Shand has described this rush and the con-
sequences ensuing upon it : ' Soldiers, sailors, clergymen, civil
servants plunged into coffee-planting with every penny they
had or could borrow ; and accompanied, as all such fevers are,
by injudicious selections and extravagant mismanagement,
who could wonder that a heavy fall in the price of coffee in
Europe, and a consequent cessation of credit to plant and
cultivate estates, produced a crisis which checked and
threatened to stifle the coffee enterprise of Ceylon ? But as in
the case of Indian tea, so from the coffee crisis in Ceylon there
emerged a body of men poorer, perhaps, but wiser; and now,
founded upon experience taught by misfortune, the enterprise
steadily grew, though subject, of course, to all the vicissitudes
incidental to tropical agriculture; and in 1870 and the two
preceding years the average annual value of the coffee was
roundly ^4,000,000.' J

Ceylon prosperity was at its height about 1866-1872. During
the governorship of Sir Hercules Robinson (1865-1871) no
less than 227,000 acres of Crown lands were sold to the
planters. Before this, and during the years 1861 to 1865, there
had come into the market 156,000 acres, and upon this, for
the most part virgin soil, British energy and capital had been
flung with an unstinting hand. The cost of clearing a single
acre of forest is estimated at ;io, and some idea of the
planters' investments may be gained. The sale of Crown lands
was a wise measure and productive of great results, although
some have thought that, under the circumstances, it would
have been better if the land had been leased instead of

The year of greatest export of coffee was from 1874 to
1875, when nearly 1,000,000 cwt. of coffee was shipped
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Instittite, vol. xix.

234 British Colonisation

from the island. From this year must be dated the sudden
and rapid decline of the industry. In 1886-7 on ^y 150,000
cwt. was sold in the London market. In 1891, for nine months
of the year, i.e. from January to September 21, the export was
only 63,109 cwt. 1 The cause of this decline was a parasitic
growth on the leaf of the coffee-bush known as the Hemileia
vastatrix. This disease first showed itself in a place called
Madulsima, in the Uva district. At first the planters thought
little of it, as the natural vigour of the coffee-shrub seemed
long able to resist it, and a great deal was done to strengthen
the plant by artificial means. Under the impression that an
imported shrub would best be able to withstand the attack
(just as the imported American vine resists better in France
the ravages of the Phylloxera), the Liberian was substituted on
some estates for the native shrub. Unfortunately, the imported
shrub succumbed quicker than the others, and in ten years
the once fertile and prosperous area of coffee-plantations pre-
sented a forlorn and desolate appearance. It was evident that
a crisis had come and gone in the history of Ceylon, and the
planter's ruin was complete.

From this wreck of the coffee industry a new one was
destined shortly to arise. Between the withered rows of
coffee-shrubs, by way of a precarious venture, the tea-shrub was
planted, ' the green monitor of hope in the ranks of despair.'
The plant itself ( Camellia Theifera} was not indigenous to the
island, its native place being in the mountainous parts of
Assam, and near the frontiers of China. 2 But as the Chinese
had long acclimatised this Assam product, and the Indian
planters had already succeeded with it, there was no reason
why the Ceylon planters should not make an experiment.
Moreover, the Planters' Association had already (1866)
appointed a commissioner to visit and report upon the tea-
plantations in India. One of the earliest experiments was

1 Returns in Ceylon Observer.

2 Statement by Mr. D. Morris, Proceedings of the Royal Colonial
Institute, vol. xix.

Ceylon and the Maldive Archipelago 235

made by Mr. James Taylor, the manager of the Loolcondura
estate, who may almost be termed the pioneer of the new
industry. At first it was thought that tea could be grown at
high elevations only, but about 1876 it was proved that the
lowlands of Ceylon were equally well adapted to the industry.
Tea-planting began in earnest, and over all the surface of
Ceylon, from the sea-level to a height of 6000 feet, plantations
have been laid out.

This new industry has advanced by leaps and bounds, and
constitutes one of the marvels of the age. It is an industry,
however, which requires the greatest skill and science, as well
as an unwearying attention to details. In Ceylon the tea-bush
' flushes ' all the year round in suitable weather, a period of
ten or fifteen days elapsing between the ' flushes.' The leaves
have to be picked with care, and the shrub carefully watched
lest the wood become thickened and the obnoxious ' crows'-
nests ' multiply upon its branches. When a tea-shrub bunches
its efficacy becomes impaired. The leaf is useful in three
stages in its youth, maturity, and old age. First there is the
delicate * Pekoe,' or the young leaf before it is unfurled ; next
the 'Souchong,' or the leaf in its maturity; and lastly the
* Congou,' or the old and coarsest leaf, which is of a brittle
nature and difficult to roll.

In the factory itself the planter has to be as watchful as in
the field. To dry the fresh-plucked leaves in the right way,
to break and crush their tissues by the pressure of rolling-
machines, and to pass the heaps through a process of natural
fermentation, are all delicate operations. The leaf that is
plucked on a Monday morning should give a refreshing
beverage on Wednesday, and from week to week and from
month to month the operations of the Ceylon tea-planter are
incessant. Some would say that the shrub has not enough
cold weather, and consequently a rest, in Ceylon, and that from
this circumstance it may become deteriorated ; but hitherto no
diminution of natural vigour has shown itself. To China, and
even India, Ceylon is now a formidable rival, and she threatens

236 British Colonisation

to monopolise the trade. There are from 200 to 250 estates
in cultivation, yielding between seventy and eighty million
pounds' weight of tea, worth close upon ^3, 000,000 annually.
The best market is the United Kingdom, where it is calculated
that the consumption averages yearly four or five pounds a
head. This is exceeded by the Australian colonist, who
drinks seven pounds a head. Besides Australia, a growing
market for tea is found in Canada and the United States,
where the article is admitted duty free. Should Americans
become tea-drinkers, the fortunes, surely, of Ceylon planters
are assured, as the Pacific routes especially that by way of
the Canadian Pacific Railway become better known and

The great fear of the Ceylon planters is over-production.
In 1876 the export of tea was 282 Ibs. ; in 1887-8 it was
13,500,000 Ibs; in 1890-1 it exceeded 40,000,000 Ibs. ; in
1891-2 it was close on 70^000,000 Ibs ; and in 1892-3 it is cal-
culated at 78,000,000 Ibs.


In connection with Ceylon, the Maldive Islands, a Ceylon
dependency, must be mentioned. Pyrard de Laval, the
French explorer, who was wrecked on the group in 1602, has
left a very good account of them, which Captain Christopher,
employed on the survey of the islands in 1834-5, and Mr.
Bell in 1880, have in the main substantiated, thus proving
the immobile nature of Eastern civilisation. This group of
islands, lying in the Indian Ocean, has provided its visitors

Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 20 of 31)