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ART. IX. The West India Common-place Book, compiled from Parliamentary and Official Documents; showing the Interest of Great Britain in the Sugar Colonies, &c. &c. By Sir William Young, Bart. F. R. S. M. P. 4to. pp. 280.
A Letter to W. Manning Esq. M. P. on the Causes of the Rapid and Progressive Depreciation of West India Property. By Charles Bosanquet Esq. 8vo. pp. 54. Richardsons. don, 1807.
Thoughts on the Value to Great Britain of Commerce in general, and
pp. 83. Richardsons.
An Inquiry into the State of the British West Indies. By Joseph Lowe Esq. 8vo. pp. 180. Baldwin. London, 1807.
HESE works, together with the reports of the Committees of the House of Commons on the Distilleries and the West India trade, contain every thing that has been laid before the public upon the present alarming and unprecedented situation of colonial affairs. The compilation of Sir William Young, too, exhibits the greater part of the general information connected with this subject. We have therefore brought these publications together in a single article, as furnishing the best opportu tunity of examining the very important question to which they all refer. This appears the more necessary, that none of those ingenious writers, nor indeed the Committees of the House of Commons themselves, have elucidated the subject in a satisfactory manner. While they all agree as to the amount of the evil, none of them have, in our apprehension, either pointed out the cause of it, or suggested any practicable remedy; and our presumption in attempting to supply this defect, will probably be thought the less of, when it is considered, that the persons to whom we allude belong all to the West India body, with the single exception of Mr Lowe, who professing to investigate the subject himself, follows the statements and adopts the opinion of the others, exclusively and implicitly.
The work of Sir William Young is a valuable collection of authentic details upon West Indian affairs, made for his own use during a constant attendance to those subjects in Parliament for twenty-two years. It is, in fact, as the title states, his Common place book; and we heartily wish that every person, whose in
VOL. XI. NO. 21.
dustry has put him in possession of such a repository, would follow the laudable example of publishing it, although he may not have time or inclination to work it up into theories.
He begins with details upon the progress and actual state of the African slave trade, exhibiting the numbers carried over in different years since the question of abolition was first agitated, and the proportions of that detestable traffic, which were put an end to by the wise measures of 1806. He gives it, too, as his serious advice to the planters, to prepare for its total abolition in a very short time,-a prediction happily fulfilled soon after the publication of his book. The progressive culture of the islands is the next object of attention. Without pretending to enter into the details, we shall notice their results, as peculiarly connected with the question which we are immediately to discuss. It appears that the produce of Jamaica has been increasing ever since 1787, but with peculiar rapidity since 1798; that the sugar exported from thence in 1804 and 1805, was above one half more than the quantity exported in 1793 and 1794, and the coffee six times as much; that Barbadoes continued on the decline, exporting about a fourth less than it had done in 1787; that Antigua and the other Leeward Islands had also decreased, except St Kitts, which remained nearly stationary; that all the other islands had increased their cultivation; and that the total export of sugar from the British islands (including Tobago), had, from 1787 to 1803, augmented by one half,-that of coffee six fold. The value of the West India trade, as a source of naval power, has of course been increasing, and nearly in the same degree. In 1787, it employed about 130,000 tons; in 1804, above 180,000, navigated by 14,000 seamen. After going through multifarious details of the imports from the West Indies, we find that, in fourteen years ending 1804, their value had increased nine millions Sterling, and the revenue from them had augmentby about three and a half millions, including, however, the conquered colonies; and that, exclusive of these, the imports from the West Indies were about a fourth of the whole imports of Great Britain. The exports to the islands have increased in the same proportion; and our author details this part of his subject with similar minuteness.
The intercourse between America and the West Indies, and the general subject of the colonial monopoly, next occupies his attention. He proves, to our entire satisfaction, that the islands cannot possibly exist without that intercourse, and that the monopoly, at least during war, should be considerably relaxed; but these points require a more ample discussion than we can allot to them here. The details into which he enters, are
equally illustrative of the fallacy that has marked the arguments of the shipping faction, both as to their own interests and those of the country. They lead us to one general inference, that those persons have mistaken the effects of the war, for the consequences of a policy wisely calculated to diminish its evils; and have been enraged merely because the existence of the sugar colonies was not sacrificed to a project which never could have succeeded, for retaining an accidental monopoly peculiar to one period of the present contest. The distresses of the planters form a large portion both of these and the other details contained in this volume. As it is a subject upon which all the works now before us are agreed, we shall reserve a general description of it for the remaining part of the article. Sir William closes his compilation with a number of useful details and suggestions relating to the military defence of the islands.
Having expressed our sense of the importance of this collection, we must in fairness mention one defect from which its value suffers a considerable diminution. We do not allude to the style, which is indeed as bad as possible, and frequently almost too obscure to be unravelled; but to inaccuracies, we are willing to hope, in the typography, which, unfortunately, have crept into several of the sums, and beget a natural suspicion of the rest. For example, in p. 10, we find 15 stated as five per cent. upon 260; in p. 124 and 145, 1803 is printed instead of 1783; and the same blunder occurring twice in p. 129, and, immediately after, 1804 being printed for 1784, such a confusion is produced as would extremely puzzle one who read the history of the American intercourse there for the first time. In p. 56 we have 1782, 3, and 4, instead of 1802, 3, and 4. In summing up the fourth column of the table, p. 28, there is an error of 40,000; in summing the fifth column, an error of 3000; and in summing the sixth there is a mistake of a cypher. It is most probable that these blunders, and many others of the same kind, are owing to the press having been corrected in the author's absence; but they are extremely unpleasant, and leave us always in a considerable degree of doubt as to the figures which we have no opportunity of checking. It is perhaps owing to some more radical mistake, that we frequently find different sums set down when the same table or calculation is obviously referred to, as in p. 36 and 38, where the same sum is given at 183,934 and 184,034.; and in p. 38 and 87, where the same sum is given at 15,596 and 19,797, besides other discrepancics in the same three pages. We have had occasion to note this and several other apparent errors of a similar description, because we found them preventing us from making use of our author's tables; and -it is difficult to avoid apprehending that we should have been equally
equally unlucky if we had tried him more frequently. Of consequence, the value of the work suffers a material diminution, after it has been found an unsafe guide in these instances. Its utility would also have been greatly increased, if averages had been given more frequently; and it is peculiarly unfortunate that this should have been so much neglected in quoting the year 1805, (the last for which Sir William had full returns), as that season was notoriously a very unfavourable one. Lastly, he should have tried, as far as possible, in giving comparative statements, to chuse the returns for the same year or series of years ;. and this not merely when those statements are placed together for the sake of comparison, but also when they come in at different parts of a set of details obviously connected together. We presume most of these defects are capable of correction in a
The object of Mr Bosanquet's first pamphlet was, to describe the distressed state of the West Indian colonies, and to point out its causes. But the case which he had made out, seemed not likely to excite sufficiently the sympathy or the apprehensions of people in this country, among whom he perceived a growing tendency to undervalue the importance of the colonies altogether. In order to correct such prejudices as these, he wrote his second pamphlet ; in which a great deal of very just observation, by no means new, is delivered with the air of original difcovery, and a confiderable portion of the most fanciful theory is laid down as dogmatically as if it were matter of demonftration, and with as much preten fion to novelty as if it did not reft upon exploded errors. Both of thefe tracts are indeed eminently liable to this criticism; but the first contains a much larger proportion of detail and of reafoning on the practical parts of the fubject. Thefe are valuable, because the author is a profeffional man. His fpeculations on political economy, we are unable to admire; although he announces them by faying, that he has fhut his books,' and is only to give us the workings of his own mind;' for, in truth, he does not appear to have read and thought enough to justify fo adventurous a proceeding.
The benefits of our commerce, according to Mr Bofanquet, are threefold. It increafes population by finding new employment for the people; it raifes up feamen for the navy; and it alfords wealth to the country, both by furnishing fubfiftence to individuals, and revenue to the state. So admirably do despisers of other men's books claflify their own ideas! Again-a greater population than the land can maintain is neceffary to Great Britain, in order that her revenue may be kept up. Manufactures are therefore requifite, in addition to agriculture; but manufacture is only
a fecond caufe; it has no intrinfic momentum; the primum mobile is confumption.' (Thoughts, p. 9.) This must be found by means of commerce, whofe province it is to discover, fupply and receive payment from foreign cuftomers;' and that commerce is the moft beneficial, which enables us to exchange our goods for raw produce, or articles in the firft ftate of manufacture. The golden rule with Mr Bofanquet is, that the more this country works, and the lefs its neighbours work upon the commodities mutually exchanged, the better it is for us. He fpeaks with unbecoming difrefpect of the balance of trade; for which, it fhould feem, he will have this notion of a balance of labour fubftituted. We fay unbecoming refpect;' for it is plain that he believes in all the errors of that theory. He denies that the cuftomhouse returns exhibit a fair account of the balance; but it is one of his reasons for praising a home trade, that it never can make a balance against us. So diftinct are the ideas, and fo confiftent the doctrines of men, who will strike out fyftems by the workings of their own. minds!' A branch of trade, according to our author, is also valuable in proportion as its returns are great upon a given investment of capital. Its permanence and fecurity likewife enters into the account; and as a nursery of feamen, it is important in proportion to the number of feamen whom it employs to transport a given bulk, and to the nautical experience which it creates in them. So original are the general pofitions discovered by the felf-taught economift! The ftyle which falls naturally upon the working mind may probably ftrike our readers as not much better, when we mention, that the goods fent to Buenos Ayres, are denominated 'investments to that bourn whence no traveller returns;' (Thoughts, p. 28.) by which a man, who had not shut his books, would be apt to understand a cargo of coffins and winding-fheets.
Having thus laid down the general qualities of an advantageous commerce, our author tries the value of the West India trade by thefe tefts; and as they were evidently invented with a view to the nature of that trade, it is the lefs wonderful if he finds it rank exceedingly high. The colonies take off our manufactures, and return us raw produce, which we either confume or work up ourselves. The trade with them is a home trade; both ends are British; and this view, though certainly not original, is one that has not fufficiently occupied fpeculative men: we therefore give Mr Bofanquet full credit for his able statement of it. The colony trade, moreover, employs more tonnage and feamen in proportion to its capital, than most other trades; and as fugar and cotton are next to neceffaries, our author infers, that the trade in them is of a stable nature. The prefent ftate of the Weft Indies, to be fure, is a little against the laft conclufion. This he afcribes, however,