TOPICS OF THE DAY.
MINISTERS appear to be very ill-informed as to the consequences of their Sugar-duty project, announced for introduction to the House of Commons on Monday. Mr. GOULBURN denies that any slave-grown sugar can be imported from Louisiana, be- cause more than halt' the sugar consumed in the United States being imported under a duty of 11s. 6d., the price is too high to allow its being brought to this country paying our ad- ditional duty. The Economist of last Saturday exposed the fallacy of Mr. Goutasuates argument. It explained, that by a re- gulation of the Customs department of the United States, " the exporter of any article produced in the Union, upon which article a duty is imposed when imported from another country, is entitled to receive duty-free, in any part of the Union, a similar quantity of that article which he has exported from any part of the Union." * On inquiry, we have reason to believe that the information of the Economist is correct. The present price of sugar in the Phila- delphia market (the Economist uses the greater market of New York for illustration, but we take Philadelphia because we happen to have ascertained the present price there) is 5s. below the price at Liverpool. The New Orleans merchant, therefore, by send- ing his sugar to Liverpool instead of Philadelphia, and importing into Philadelphia an equal quantity of sugar from Cuba or Brazil, would lose on the first transaction 5s. per cwt., and gain on the second lls. 6d., leaving a clear balance in his favour of 6s 6d. per cwt. To this double operation, too, the planter of Louisiana is invited by the difficulty of finding what is called "dead-weight" to make up the freights of his cotton-ships. The quantity of sugar an- nually produced by slave-labour in Louisiana is estimated at 50,000 tons ; and a considerable part of this might, under the Ministerial designation of free-labour sugar, find its way into our market, and be replaced in the American by an equal amount of Cuban and Brazilian slave-grown sugar. This is not mere speculative conjecture: we have learned in the course of our inquiries, that orders have ac- tually been despatched to the United States to purchase sugars on the footing here indicated, to be sent to England as soon as the new duties come into play.
Another fact, illustrative of the working of the Ministerial mea- sure, has been brought under our notice. Ships are at this mo- ment actually loading Brazil sugars at Liverpool for Bombay. The object of this shipment is to supply in the Bombay market the de- ficiency which it is expected will be created by the diversion of the sugar it has hitherto drawn from Java or Manilla to England.
Thus, the principal feature by which Sir ROBERT PEEL professes to distinguish the measure for altering the Sugar-duties, which he now introduces, from the Whig one which he opposed, is shown to be illusory. Lord JOIIN RUSSELL'S proposal, frankly to admit slave-grown at the same rate of duty with free-labour sugar, has at least the absence of Sir ROBERT'S false pretence, as well as simplicity and largeness, to recommend it; and if, as seems un- avoidable, Lord Jonsr is prepared to follow up the success of that proposal by recanting the suicidal policy of the Slave- trade Treaty system, it may deserve the character of wise. Mr. MACGREGOR LAIRD'S plan of dealing with the Sugar-duties—with its promise of abundant cheap sugar for the million, and its scheme of converting the Mother-country and her Tropical Colo- nies into a great Zollverein, and destroying slavery and the slave- trade by rendering them unprofitable—is a bold and plausible con- ception. Even the extremest suggestion of the Free-traders, to sweep away all duties except for purposes of revenue, if it dealt ruin to thousands might increase the comforts of millions. All other methods of dealing with the Sugar-duties have some- thing or other that might be said in their favour : Sir ROBERT PEEL'S is the only exception : of it nothing can be said, except that, shabby and shuffling in the mode of its introduction, it must prove delusive in its results.
This measure, assuming that its concocters intended it for a settlement of the Sugar-duties, will settle nothing. It will only render further changes necessary. It cannot materially increase • "In a recent Number we stated, that we supposed the reason which in- duced Mr. Goulburn to come to the conclusion that there would be no sugar imported from that quarter, [Louisiana,] though by treaty we could not deny them the right to do so, was, that the States not producing as much sugar as they consume, but importing about half of the quantity at a duty of I Is. 6d. per cwt., the duty operated as a protection to that amount to the home-grown sugar, and necessarily kept its price so high for home-consumption that it Could not come to this country and pay our duty of 34s. and 5 per cent, or 35r. 8d. per cwt. Such certainly would be the operation of such a duty ; but we find that there is a regulation by which the exporter of any article produced in the Union, upon which article a duty is imposed when imported from another country, is entitled to receive, duty free, in any port of the Union, a similar quantity of that article which he has exported from any part of the Union. This being the case, the import-duty on foreign sugar into the Union will not act in any way as an impediment to our receiving the slave-produce of Lou- isiana. The course will be thus—At present a considerable quantity of that sugar is shipped from New Orleans to New York ; that sugar now sent to New ,York may henceforth be shipped to Liverpool ; and the shipper, or his agents MI New York, will be entitled to receive into that port a corresponding quantity Of Havannah sugar free of duty, on the same principle that we are here allowed, under the Grinding-in-bond Act, to take into consumption any ctnantity of foreign wheat equal to that of English growth which we export. This opera- tion would be attended with little or no additional expense to the merchant ; and there will, therefore, be a supply available for this market of at least 50,000 tons of slave-labour sugar produced in Louisiana, which will be replaced, in .American consumption, by a like quantity of slave-labour sugar from Havannah and Brazil."—Economist, May 25. the supply or lower the price of sugar. The stimulus it will give to the production of slave-grown sugar will be counteracted by the diminished production it will occasion in the East India Company's territory and our Colonies. Foreign rices will rise, and meet the descending British scale not very far down. The only recipe for cheap sugar is cheap production ; and for this our Ministers make DO provision, although they easily might. The empire has abund- ance of fertile land and overflowing capital; and these, with the addition of sufficient labour, and the removal of restrictions upon Colonial industry, would soon give us plenty of cheap sugar. Let the Sugar Colonies import free labourers from whatever country they find them in, willing to emigrate ; allow them to manufacture their sugars of any degree of fineness they find most to their ad-. vantage ; open the distilleries to sugar as well as corn ; and we need never be apprehensive either of dear sugar or a deficient supply.
Viewed in every light, the proposed measure is discreditable to any Government, and especially to a Conservative Government. Its pettiness forbids the belief that it can be meant to be final. The solemn and mysterious saw of its propounders, that " monopolies cannot be maintained," points to the conclusion that it is not meant to be final. The other innovations in our system of commercial policy, which it will render unavoidable, will prevent its being final. It can only be meant as an interim measure—a step to some future, bolder, and more comprehensive change. The question suggested by this view of it is, Does it prepare fur that ulterior change? The only reason that can justify a succession of partial alterations in pre- ference to a single complete one, is that the first, by preparing for the rest, renders the transition safer. This cannot be said in favour of the Ministerial Sugar measure. It does not prepare the parties whose interests may be injuriously affected for the ulterior change. Though it doles out to the British consumer a scanty additional supply, it exposes the British producer abruptly to competition with the possessor of slave-labour as well as the capitalist who can command the cheap free labour of a dense population. The par- ties most intimately acquainted with the sugar-cultivation of our Eastern and Western dependencies agree that in both the imme- diate effect of the Ministerial measure will be to check production. This is not the way to prepare the producers for a further change. After such fashion, a man whose moveables should be "conveyed" from him gradually, by a process calculated to lay hold of all in the end, might " prepare " for—in the sense of making up his mind to expect—the loss of his whole property. Sir ROBERT PEEL has devised, or is fathering, a measure which will prolong without diminishing the pressure upon the class whose interests are placed in hazard—which will postpone the time when the parties who ex- pect to gain can be benefited—which will, at the best, for a need- less length of time keep everything unsettled.
The way in which Sir ROBERT PEEL is dealing with the import- ant question of the Sugar-duties, contrasts unfavourably with his mode of handling the Bank Charter question. Both measures are partial—both point to some wider final settlement ; but in the case of the Bank Sir ROBERT acts with the cautious decision of a man who knows what he is doing and what he intends, but in the Sugar question Ile acts with the irresolute precipitancy of a man all at sea. He has served a long apprenticeship to the business of the currency ; but his attention has been too recently directed to the sugar-trade to make him familiar with its numerous peculiarities. * This accounts in part for the inept nature of his present plan, though in part it can only be explained on the assumption of a lurking wish to "hold with the hounds and run with the hare."
Perhaps the best thing Sir ROBERT could do now to preserve his credit as a practical statesman, would be to withdraw his bungled measure, in order to produce a better one next session.
* Sir ROBERT PEEL'S imperfect acquaintance with the sugar-trade—always supposing him guiltless of double-dealing—is shown, not only in his over- looking the stimulus to the trade in slave-grown sugar which his measure would create, but in his assumption that a nominal differential duty of 10s. per cwt upon all qualities of sugars will he real. Had he consulted "the trade," they would have told him, that, owing to the superior quality of Java and Manilla sugars—owing to their containing more saccharine matter in lean bulk—the duty upon them would, in proportion, not exceed 5s. or 6s. per cwt.